A thousand years ago, Zen Buddhist monks drank matcha tea to remain alert and calm during long hours of meditation. Today, the health-conscious elite can find it widely available in trendy New York City matcha bars, selling $10 Instagram-worthy perfectly swirly matcha lattes on marble countertops.
Although the Americanized sugary drink is a far deviation from the grassy flavored traditional tea used by monks, the consumption of matcha green tea does provide many health benefits and is a great alternative to other popular and less beneficial wellness beverages like coffee and sports drinks.
History of Matcha Tea
In the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the method of making tea by whipping the powder of dried tea leaves and hot water together in a bowl became popular. Preparation and consumption of powdered tea was formed into a ritual by Chan Zen Buddhists. The Chan monastic code, entitled Chanyuan Qinggui (Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery, 1103), describes in detail the etiquette for tea ceremonies. Although powdered tea has not been popular in China for some time, there is now a global resurgence.
Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves. The preparation starts several weeks before harvest and can last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, leaves are laid out flat to dry and then de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.
A 2003 University of Colorado study confirmed that drinking 1 cup of matcha green tea has 137 times the amount of antioxidant EGCG compared to a conventional cup of green tea. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) are believed to be a powerful anti-carcinogen.
The Okinawan people’s longevity has been partly attributed to regular consumption of Matcha Green Tea due to its ability to combat inflammation, oxidation and aging.
Lowers LDL “Bad” Cholesterol
A 2011 study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that administration of green tea beverages or extracts significantly lowered total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol concentrations.
A 1999 study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that green tea promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by the tea’s caffeine content. Another study demonstrated that exercising immediately after drinking matcha green tea resulted in 25% more fat burning during exercise.
Matcha green tea contains up to 5 times more L-theanine than conventional green tea. L-theanine is an amino acid with psychoactive properties, capable of inducing alpha wave activity in the brain – creating the feeling of a calm clear mental state.