The benefits of green tea have been preached for years, but the benefits of matcha have only recently become popular. What exactly is the difference between matcha and green tea, and why should you be drinking it?
Matcha has been in use for centuries, dating back to the Tang Dynasty in China, which spanned the 7th-10th centuries. The Chinese steamed green tea leaves into bricks, which allowed them to move and trade the tea more easily. Instead of simply steeping the leaves, they would grind up the bricks and then mix the powder with water. This process soon spread to Japan, where it became extremely popular. Green tea plants were even grown in special shaded conditions to maximize health benefits. The tea was associated with meditation and has been carefully grown in Japan since around 1100.
One of the biggest differences between matcha and green tea is the way it is grown. About a month before the tea leaves are harvested, they are covered with a cloth so they remain shaded. This causes an increase in chlorophyll and production of amino acids. The leaves turn a darker shade of green, which gives matcha its intense green color. The leaves are then picked, dried, and turned into a powder.
As opposed to regular green tea leaves, matcha is actually ingested and not just steeped in water. This allows us to get the full health benefits of the plant. When consuming matcha, we get 100% of the nutrients of the leaf, which contains 137 times more antioxidants than regular green tea. In nutritional content, one cup of matcha is the equivalent of about 10 cups of regular steeped green tea.
Matcha has a surprising number of positive health benefits.
Rich in Antioxidants
Matcha contains a kind of antioxidants called catechins and is especially high in a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), which is believed to have cancer-fighting properties. This catechin makes up 60% of the catechins in matcha, and studies have shown that matcha contains 100 times more EGCg than any other tea. Antioxidants are also responsible for fighting off the effects of UV radiation. One serving of matcha contains over 5 times as many antioxidants as any other foods, including raw fruits, green vegetables, or dark chocolate.
When matcha was first introduced in Japan, it was used by Zen Buddhist monks to enhance meditation. We know now that the calming properties of matcha come from the amino acid L-Theanine, which induces relaxation in the brain without causing drowsiness. L-Theanine also produces dopamine and serotonin, which enhance mood and improve memory and concentration.
The catechins in matcha also affect the body mass index. The EGCg in matcha also boosts metabolism during exercise.
Shading the green tea plants in the last few weeks of growth causes an increase in chlorophyll production, which helps matcha rid the body of chemical toxins.
Strengthen Immune System
The antioxidants in matcha support overall health, but quantities of potassium, vitamins A and C, protein, calcium, and iron help the body reach peak performance.
While matcha does contain a little more caffeine than green tea, it’s packed with great health benefits. It’s easy to prepare and can be combined with many different recipes so you’re able to find a way to enjoy and incorporate matcha into your daily routine.