We all have our tried and true methods of getting through our daily grind. Coffee, black. Tea, two spoons of sugar, hold the milk. Sometimes, however, you need to spice things up, figuratively and literally. Instead of your next cup of Joe, try something a bit different in the form of matcha green tea. With a variety of benefits and uses, you’ll be sure to find your own special concoction to love. So before you buy, here are the seven things you should know about matcha green tea.
1. Matcha, what is it?
Matcha green tea is a finely ground powder made from a specially grown and processed green tea plant. What makes it different from the green tea you are most accustomed to is the method of farming and processing which is used to produce the finished product. In order to produce matcha, the green tea plants are shade-grown for three weeks before their harvest, then the stems and veins are removed in processing. During shaded growth, the plant produces more theanine and caffeine than in a normal green tea, which contributes to the psychological and physical benefits of the product, but more on that later.
2. Matcha, a History
Though it may be the IT drink of the moment, matcha has been around for centuries, literally. It is thought that the development and cultivation of green tea began sometime in the Tang Dynasty, which was between the 7th-10th century. From then, the processes of utilizing green tea evolved until the grinding of steamed green tea was popularized in the Song Dynasty between the 10th-13th century. The process of preparing beverages by whipping tea powder, from the steam-prepared dried leaves, together with hot water did not emerge until the latter part of the 12th century. This method of preparation and consumption was made into a ritual by Zen Buddhists who created the shade grown process in order to maximize the therapeutic benefits of green tea. Highly revered, matcha was then known as a “ceremonial” tea that would bring about a centered and focused mind to all those who consumed it.
3. The Benefits
We have all heard of the health benefits of drinking steeped green tea, and with the more potent source of matcha, these benefits are significantly heightened. In addition to being rich in antioxidants, which are tied to protection against heart disease and cancer, matcha is known to have the benefits of increasing metabolism, enhancing calm, and improving cholesterol by lowering LDL (bad) and increasing HDL (good) levels. I mentioned earlier that matcha has an increased level of theanine than its steeped green tea counterpart. Theanine, along with the added benefit of caffeine, helps to boost memory and concentration, as well has bring a sense of calmness to the consumer, all benefits which first had Zen Buddhists avidly using matcha.
4. How to use Matcha
In our more modern times, matcha is known to have a variety of different uses. One of the most popular is to make a matcha green tea latte by whisking half a teaspoon of matcha powder with hot water, milk, and a sweetener to taste. However, matcha can be made by itself into a tea, mixed with other drinks, and it can even be used in your cooking. By dusting it onto your pancakes, baking it into breads, or even making it into ice cream, matcha adds a lovely green color and earthy flavor to all of your delectable creations.
5. How to Buy for Home Use
When looking to buy matcha for home use, there are only a couple things to take note. The first, is to choose rich, spring green matcha, which will not only have a smooth, full-bodied flavor, but will also be richer in antioxidants. Then second, is to try to only buy organic from Japan, again, this will only work to enhance the benefits and to decrease the risk of exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals found in many pesticides and fertilizers. Also, be wary of powdered mixtures in which the first ingredient is sugar. While it may taste delicious, you will not be receiving the same benefits as you would from matcha’s pure form. Some popular brands of organic, Japanese varieties of matcha are Taste of Kyoto, Dr. Mercola, and Encha, all of which can be bought from Amazon. However, most health food stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods will carry matcha products.
6. Where to Enjoy
For those of you frozen treat lovers, matcha LOVE in Costa Mesa has decadent drinks and ice cream made from the green tea powder, as well as matcha gift sets for sale. So whether you want to enjoy a treat there, or make one of your own, matcha LOVE will suit all of your matcha needs. Another great place to enjoy the green beverage is American Tea Room in Newport Beach. With matcha lattes, iced blends, and even a traditional ceremonial matcha, American Tea Room will be your new favorite spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy the serenity that matcha brings. www.matchalove.com www.americantearoom.com
7. A Word of Warning
While matcha is a very healthy indulgence, one concern to bear in mind is the possibility of lead contamination. Normally, when traditional green tea is steeped, about 90 percent of the lead stays in the leaf, which is discarded. However, with matcha, the whole leaf is consumed, therefore, more lead is ingested. One way to avoid contamination is to stick with matcha that is grown in Japan as opposed to in China, which has been known to have more lead in its tea products. It is also recommended to drink no more than one cup daily and to not serve it to young children. So while using matcha has loads of health benefits, it is important to your health as well, to take note of this fact.