INFORMATION ON ThE HEALTH BENEFITS OF MATCHA
Matcha : Origin and background information
Just like all true teas (including black, yellow, oolong, pu-erth and white) green tea comes from the evergreen, native to Southern China, shrub “Camellia Sinensis”.
Matcha green tea literally translated as ‘powdered tea’ (in Japanese ‘Cha’ means tea and ‘ma’ powder) was first introduced to Japan around 1191 A.D by the Buddhist monk Eisai, who also became the founder of Zen Buddhism. He brought green tea seeds from China and is believed to be the first person to grind and consume green tea leaves in powdered form. Matcha became and continues to be the focal point of tea ceremonies in Japan as it not only stimulates mental alertness, sustained energy, and presence of mind, but also a meditative state and a sense of calm.
Matcha is prepared by covering the tea plants with shade cloths before harvest to improve flavour and texture. The leaves are then hand-selected, steamed, dried and aged in cold storage. Following this, the dried tea plant leaves are stone-grounded into fine powder. This is then made into a solution by mixing the matcha powder with hot water.
Nutritional facts and potential Health benefits of Matcha
Matcha, also referred by as some as ‘green tea on steroids’, is a nutritional powerhouse, considered to be the next superfood with numerous health benefits. Listed below is an overview of its nutritional profile.
Source vitamins and minerals
Trace minerals, vitamin A, B-complex, C, E, and K
Rich in polyphenols
Matcha is rich polyphenols known as catechins. These are bioactive chemicals that act as powerful antioxidants. High antioxidant content has been associated with:
- Reduced risk of heart disease and cancer (some epidemiological and human studies have shown that green tea can be effective in decreasing the risk of stomach,esophageal, lung, rectal and urinary bladder cancer.)
- Better blood sugar regulation
- Blood pressure reduction
Protect against cell and DNA damage
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), one of the most abundant catechins found in green tea can help to counteract the effects of free radicals.
Matcha is calorie free. Research has shown that the polyphenol EGCG may also boost metabolism.
Energy boost, Improved learning, memory, and concentration
In addition to caffeine, matcha tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which promotes a state of relaxation by inducing alpha wave activity in the brain leading to a state of relaxed alertness or ‘mindful awareness’.
No wonder why matcha has been used as an aid to meditation practice in Japan for over one thousand years! Buddhist monks sitting and meditating for prolonged periods of time would drink matcha in order to remain calm yet alert.
Research has also shown that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine can help to improve cognitive performance including better concentration, improved memory and faster reaction time.
What’s more, L-theanine in matcha may help to counteract the nervous and restless energy associated with coffee consumption, making it a good substitute for coffee addicts. Studies have also found that it can help to reduce caffeine-induced side effects such as insomnia, headaches, and anxiety.
L-theanine in green tea may also lead to increased levels of brain serotonin, dopamine, and Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid (GABA) levels, and thus promote relaxation and improved mood.
The importance of high-quality matcha
When purchasing matcha ensure that the company offers information on how the tea was harvested, where it is from, who grew it and how it was processed.
Most matcha tea is grown in Japan, and the rest in China and Taiwan.
A few points to consider about the quality and safety of your matcha:
- In Japan there is possible radiation exposure from Furkushima, while in China there are concerns with industrial toxins.
- The best-growing regions in Japan are the Kyoto and Aichi Prefectures. Choose brands that are found to be free of radiation and chemical residue.
- Matcha tea from China may be high in lead, which is absorbed by the green tea plant from the environment and can build up on the surface of the leaves. Look for USDA certified organic matcha.
- When choosing matcha always ensure that the brand meets the quality assurance standards.
References and Further Reading
1. Hacker’s guide to tea – http://www.worldoftea.org/hackers-guide-to-tea/
2. A brief history of matcha – http://www.gotmatcha.com/a-brief-history-of-matcha/
3. What’s in your green tea?- http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/23/whats-in-your-green-tea/?_r=0
4. Things you should know about matcha – http://news.health.com/2015/03/27/what-is-matcha/
5. The history of matcha tea – https://www.zenmatchatea.com/the-history-of-matcha-tea/
6. Powerful brain and health benefits of matcha green tea – http://bebrainfit.com/matcha-green-tea-benefits/
8. Examining the interaction of L-theanine and anxiety –http://www.calmclinic.com/supplements-for-anxiety/l-theanine
9. The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood –http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18681988
10. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18006208
11. Theanine – https://examine.com/supplements/theanine/
12. Green tea and cancer in humans: A review of literature – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01635589809514697
13. About matcha – http://matchasource.com/about-matcha/
14. Green tea extract and L-theanine improve mental function – https://doctormurray.com/green-tea-extract-and-l-theanine-improve-mental-function/
15. Matcha: is this cult green tea really good for you? – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/food-and-drink/healthy-eating/matcha-is-this-cult-green-tea-really-that-good-for-you/
16. Tea catechins and polyphenols: health effects, metabolism, and antioxidant functions- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12587987
18. Discover matcha tea – http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART02050/Matcha-Tea.html