Why is Matcha a Superfood?
While British breakfast tea and other types of black tea might be the most common tea to drink in the world, Japanese tea is slowly gaining popularity these days. The green tea that is produced in Japan is crisp, flavorful, and known for its many health benefits. But have you ever heard of matcha tea from Japan, the concentrated powder tea that is used in Japanese tea ceremonies? What exactly is the difference between matcha tea and regular green tea? And why is Matcha a superfood?
What is Matcha
The origins of matcha go all the way back to the time when there were no tea pots yet in China. Instead of using tea pots to steep their tea, they ground the tea leaves to a powder to make it easier for the flavor to infuse the water. China was very developed compared to Japan 1500 years ago, and thus the tradition of drinking tea was imported into Japan through China. While this method of tea making lost its popularity in China, in Japan they went on to cultivate the method. It was a Zen Buddhist monk named Eisai who developed the Japanese tea ceremony, which was initially a meditation ritual. For this ceremony, ground tea was used as this is the type of tea Eisai learned about in China. The tea ceremony is still enduring today, as is matcha tea which is regularly enjoyed in Japan with a meal or sweets.
Matcha tea is made of the leaves of Camellia Sinensis, just like other Japanese green teas. The difference is in the production and preparation process; the tea plants used for matcha are grown in the shade and the leaves and buds are only harvested during a short time in spring, the leaves and buds are then ground instead of rolled and dried, and the resulting powder is solved in water and drunk directly instead of steeped for a short period of time.
Health Benefits of Matcha
There are many health benefits for those who enjoy a regular cup of matcha tea. Here is an overview of some of the most important healthy properties of matcha:
- Source of antioxidants: matcha boasts high levels of antioxidants including flavonoids and vitamin C. Antioxidants help your body ward off diseases like heart disease and cancer.
- Lowers your cholesterol: having a cup of matcha tea several times per week can help in reducing bad cholesterol levels (LDL), which in turn will lower your chances for strokes and heart problems.
- Promotes liver health: because of high levels of polyphenolic antioxidants, ingesting matcha reduces your chance for liver disease.
- Helps with weight loss: matcha can actually boost your resting metabolism rate, so that even when you are not active you are burning more calories which in turn will help with shedding extra pounds.
- Improves your skin: thankfully, damage that has been done to your skin by UV light and pollution can be partially reversed by the antioxidants that matcha is chockfull of.
- Natural breath freshener: components in matcha freshen your breath in two ways, firstly it kills bacteria, and secondly it neutralizes sulfur compounds that cause bad breath. Drinking a cup of matcha has a similar effect as brushing your teeth in this way!
And this is not even all; matcha can also increase your emotional health!
Matcha for Mental Wellbeing
Matcha contains an amount of caffeine that is a bit larger than regular green tea and smaller than the average cup of coffee. Needless to say, matcha can give your energy levels and attention span a nice boost. But it is not only caffeine that is responsible for this effect, as the l-theanine and EGCG in matcha also help with concentration and memory performance. So if you need to concentrate on work or another task, a cup of matcha will serve you just as well as a cup of coffee.
L-theanine also has a calming effect on anxiety, and with a beneficial effect of matcha on serotonine and dopamine receptors in the brain it can have a good effect on relaxation and your overal mental wellbeing.
How to Use Matcha
Of course, the most common way to have matcha is to drink it as a tea. It is very simple to make tea out of matcha: put a small amount of powder in a cup, pour a small amount of hot water on it to solve the powder, and then pour until the cup is full. But you can also enjoy matcha in various other ways; sprinkle it on top of your smoothie or dessert (it goes great with whipped cream!), bake it into a cake, or mix it into some salt to use it when you are cooking. A small sprinkle of matcha even goes well with baked fish or meat!
Recipes Using Matcha
Would you like some inspiration on how to cook with matcha? Check out these amazing easy and healthy recipes!