Matcha is a unique Japanese green tea powder made from Camellia Sinensis. Tea bushes are grown in a shade about 3-4 weeks prior to harvesting, resulting in a specific nutrient and flavor profile and vibrant color. Matcha contains only fresh pure leaf without any stalks or veins, ground into a fine powder. Although the leaves of other green teas have a high nutrient content as well, the total benefit depends on how much of those nutrients can be released into water. With matcha, you are ingesting whole leaf with all its nutrients.
WHAT IS MATCHA?
1. Shade Growing
Japanese matcha is made from special tea cultivars that give vibrant color and unique sweet flavor. Farming and processing of matcha are unique. Tea plants are shaded for at least 3 weeks prior to harvesting to raise the levels of L-theanine, chlorophyll and caffeine and to create a unique nutrient content.
3. Steaming and Cutting
Matcha is carefully steamed to preserve the nutrient content and flavor and dried. Unlike other green teas, the “rolling” step is skipped and leaves are de-veined and cleaned of all twigs and stems and cut into small 1-5mm flakes called “tencha”.
5. Careful Packaging
Matcha is packaged and heat sealed to prevent further oxidation. Unopened matcha should be kept in refrigerator. When opened, package should be kept away from odors, moisture, sunlight and heat and used within one to two months.
2. Hand Harvesting
Ceremonial grade matcha tea leaves are harvested by hand and immediately taken to a factory to be steamed and dried in a special oven. Ceremonial grade matcha is harvested in spring only, while culinary and latte grades usually come from summer and autumn harvests.
4. Stone Grinding
Tencha is ground into matcha by using traditional stone mills or ball and air pressure mills. Stone mills are the most consuming and used only for the highest quality matcha. They can only produce one small package of matcha per hour.
Although matcha was born in China, over the several hundred years Japanese mastered the production and gave matcha cultural and spiritual significance. Both powder and utensils for preparing matcha are considered an art. China is still producing matcha, but using a slightly different method than Japan. Chinese and Japanese matcha will have a different color, flavor and grain size, but both will offer higher nutrient content than regular green tea.
Koicha vs. Usucha
Matcha can be prepared in two ways – using more or less powder and more or less water. Koicha or “thick” tea is prepared with at least 3 scoops of matcha and not more than 40ml of water. It’s creamy, intense and very thick, and used mostly in tea ceremonies. Usucha or “thin tea”, is made with 2 scoops of matcha and approximately 70ml of water. This style is appropriate for everyday drinking.
Making koicha with lower grade matcha green tea powder will result in a very bitter undrinkable tea. Therefore, it’s very important to use ceremonial grade powder. Tea plants used for making koicha powder are usually older and specially selected to offer an exquisite drinking experience.
Usucha is made from a slightly powder made from leaves of younger tea plants. It has a lighter texture with a good balance of sweetness and bitterness.
You can make usucha with matcha green tea powder for koicha.
There are three main grades of matcha green tea powder – ceremonial, latte and culinary. Higher grades of ceremonial tea are appropriate for making koicha, and all of them are great for making usucha.
Grades are determined by the color, texture, quality and density, the delicacy of the powder, tea varietal, shading time, processing and grinding methods.
All these criteria help determine the grade of the green tea powder.
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Matcha Tea Health Benefits
Protects the liver
Liver is vital to health and plays a central role in flushing out toxins, metabolizing drugs and processing nutrients. Luckily, liver is one of the organs that can be easily nourished by choosing the right ingredients.
Studies showed that matcha may be helpful in treating nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. However, any green tea supplements containing high doses of EGCg should be avoided as they might create an opposite effect and cause serious liver damage. While extremely beneficial in lower doses, EGCg may pose a serious danger if taken as a supplement.
Boosts Brain Function
Consuming matcha may help support healthy cognitive function and reduce anxiety. L-theanine and caffeine in matcha are responsible for increasing focus and improving memory.
Researchers found that green tea consumption may be effective in improving cognitive function and reducing the progression of cognitive dysfunction. Matcha may be the best natural way to prevent neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
In another study on healthy adults, those who consumed matcha showed better performance in reaction time, memory, and attention when compared with a group given a placebo.
Helps Prevent Cancer
Polyphenols and other antioxidants in green tea may help protect cells against cancer. Matcha is packed with health-promoting compounds, including some that have been linked to cancer prevention in test-tube and animal studies. Recent researched opened an opportunity for matcha being used instead of common cancer treatments because it may be able to stop cancer cells from growing.
However, more research is needed for doctors to know if these compounds can help prevent or delay the disease and can they be used effectively as a treatment.
Matcha may support healthy weight-loss in a number of ways. By replacing sugary drinks with matcha you are significantly lowering sugar intake.
Matcha should not be taken as a weight-loss supplement, but may be helpful in achieving healthy weight-loss goals more efficiently. Some studies suggest that matcha may contribute to weight-loss and gaining lean muscle, if combined with regular exercising and healthy diet. Matcha might be the most beneficial to people with BMI higher than 25.
Aging is a concern of every person in the world. Not only does aging influence skin and appearance, it also influences our internal organs and controls our lifespan. Green tea might be linked with a longer lifespan of people in Asia.
Research showed that green tea is able to delay collagen aging, and that it may also be used as an anti-wrinkle agent in photoaged skin. Although more research is needed, available results are promising enough to consider tea as a part of an anti-aging regime.
May help protecting heart
Drinking tea might have a good impact on cardiovascular health. Cardiovascular health depends on many factors, from fitness level to diet. Matcha green tea might prove to be one of the best natural teas to provide consistent and multiple benefits in a safe way. One research in China showed that drinking green tea was associated with the reduced risk of heart disease. Caution is needed however, because overdose on matcha tea, or any tea in fact, is strongly discouraged.
Brain protective function
Matcha green tea might provide a brain protective function and help in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Both neuroprotective and neurorescue properties of EGCg have been researched in a study published in Nutritional Journal in 2016. Caffeine might be responsible for preventive role as well. Caffeine is also able to reduce pain and headaches and is often an ingredient in many pain-relief medicine.
A source of other vitamins and minerals
Matcha contains iron, zinc, calcium magnesium, beta-carotene, potassium, folic acid, vitamin C and other minerals and vitamins. It also contains fiber.