Green tea has been a staple drink in many Asian cultures for thousands of years. While traditional green tea has many benefits in its own right, matcha tea is much more nutritionally potent as it’s packed full of health-enhancing goodness.
Matcha undergoes a strict growing, harvesting and grinding process which differs from that of green tea. Very high-grade matcha is grown in near darkness, as the lack of light increases the chlorophyll and amino acid content which helps to create an incredibly high-quality, nutrient-rich matcha with no bitterness. The whole leaves are also ground up, which increases the antioxidant and vitamin content. It is often identified by having a natural vibrant green colour, umami flavour, fresh grassy smell, high ‘frothability’ and a creamy, velvety taste.
More than a morning brew, matcha has a rich history of ceremonial use and is an integral part of Japanese culture. A matcha tea ceremony host will lead participants through several rituals, and carefully prepare the tea by whisking it with a traditional Japanese bamboo utensil called a chasen. We take a look at five of the many health benefits of matcha green tea.
One of matcha's most famous health benefits is that it is anti-aging. It has one of the highest antioxidants levels of any substance known to man. Based on the ORAC scale, which is used to measure the amount of antioxidants of natural substances, matcha has an impressive rating 1300 units per gram. Compare this to the ORAC rating for blueberries which sits at just 91 per gram, and it’s easy to see how potent it is. Research by the University of Colorado found that matcha contains 137 more antioxidants than green tea.
Okinawa residents have an unusually long life expectancy, which is partly put down to their high matcha tea consumption.
Antioxidants help to fight free radical damage which in turn prevents oxidation, protects the skin from UV damage, improves skin elasticity and ultimately helps to slow down the aging process. Some people recommend using a matcha paste topically to help reduce redness and treat blemishes.
It is also suggested that matcha may assist in healthy, natural weight loss. It’s the superstar catechins which have been shown to enhance metabolism and increase the body’s natural rate of burning calories which is known as thermogenesis. A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who drank matcha green tea experienced an increase of thermogenesis from an average of 8-10% to a massive 35-43% of daily energy expenditure. Another study showed that the test group of people who exercised after drinking match experienced a 25% increase in the amount of fat they burned during their workout.
A study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who regularly consumed matcha tea experienced a reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels. If you're taking matcha to reduce cholesterol you may want to up your dose. The University of Maryland recommends that people drink two cups of high-quality, organic matcha per day which equates to around 240 to 320 mg of polyphenols a day.
Yes, green tea does have caffeine in it, but it has a very different effect on the body compared to that found in coffee and some other popular teas. After drinking matcha, the caffeine molecules attach themselves to the catechin molecules which helps them to release over a much slower time period. The steady release means that you won't get those coffee jitters, but instead receive a steady and pleasant pick-me-up.
Match also contains a unique amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine is nicknamed the ‘feel-good’ compound as it helps to promote clarity and calm, lower stress levels and improve mood by inducing alpha brain waves. Zen monks drink matcha to enhance focus so that they can meditate for longer periods of time, while Samurai warriors drink it to increase their strength and endurance.
Matcha also displays powerful detoxifying capabilities, partly because of its high chlorophyll content. Cholorpyhhll is the compound which gives plants their green colour. It enables the body to better flush out toxins including some heavy metals. Combine this with matcha’s high flavonoid count (including catechins) which helps to increase enzyme production to support the liver, and you have a very potent and natural detoxifier.
These are just a few of the many benefits of matcha green tea. In fact, this anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory substance has many more, including that it can help to reduce blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease and improve brain function. Incorporate a cup of matcha into your day and see how it improves your mood, vitality and wellbeing.