From lattes to cupcakes, matcha green tea has made its way into a huge variety of treats, drinks and health foods. Loved for its vibrant green color and amazing health benefits, matcha is a favourite among foodies and nutritionists alike.
But why is matcha green tea so good for us? And how can you make the most of this delicious superfood?
What is Matcha Green Tea?
Consumed for more than a millennium in Japan, matcha green tea plays an important role in traditional tea ceremonies. Made from the nutrient-rich young leaves found at the tips of shade-grown Camellia Sinensis plants, matcha is steamed and stemmed before being stone-ground into a vibrant green powder.
To protect its delicate taste, color and antioxidant properties, the tea is then carefully stored away from light and oxygen until it is needed. The powder is traditionally used to make a tea, but nowadays you can find the powder in everything from lattes to frosting.
Why All the Hype?
The health benefits of matcha have been revered for hundreds of years, As far back as the eighth century, the Zen priest Eisai, who introduced the tea to Japan, claimed that matcha is “the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete”. In recent years matcha has made a comeback, with the health world celebrating the potent tea for its nutritional credentials.
So why all the fuss? Matcha boasts a whole range of vitamins and minerals, but it is most prized for offering impressive amounts of polyphenol compounds called catechins, a type of antioxidant. Not only that, but because matcha is made from stone-ground whole tea leaves, you get more antioxidants for your buck.
This means it’s a far more potent source of catechins than your average green tea, which is left to brew before the leaves are thrown away. In fact, one study found that thanks to this careful grinding process, matcha offers three times more catechins than other kinds of green tea – great news for matcha lovers – especially as the specific catechins found in the tea are linked to reductions in the risk of heart disease, viruses and certain types of cancer.
The Health Benefits of Matcha Green Tea
Fortifies the Immune System
Loaded with various antioxidants, including polyphenols and L-theanine, matcha can help boost the body’s immune system and provide protection against various antigens. One study found that thanks to the high amount of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) found in matcha, a regular cup of the green stuff may help neutralize the harmful effects of oxygen free radicals, reducing any inflammation that might weaken the immune system.
Matcha tea has been used for thousands of years as an aid to meditation practice. Japanese monks found that by drinking the tea before their practice, they could remain alert yet calm for the hours spent meditating. And now science can explain exactly why this is.
Researchers have found that the tea contains L-theanine, a rare amino acid that enhances relaxation by altering the way the brain functions. While L-theanine is found in all types of tea, matcha contains a far higher concentration, making it the perfect pick-me-up when you need extra focus.
Enhance Weight Loss
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that a regular cup of matcha tea might boost weight loss. The secret is in matcha tea’s high levels of EGCG, a type of catechin with thermogenic properties that promotes fat oxidation.
Researchers found that consuming green tea increased thermogenesis (the body’s rate of burning calories) from eight percent to 35-43 percent of daily energy expenditure
Matcha may contain caffeine, but it’s different from that found in regular coffee. Known as theophylline, this unique form of caffeine sustains energy levels without the subsequent crash. This slow release of energy helps regulate hormone levels and boosts adrenal functions.