Yup, those samurai. The samurai were cultured, fearsome warriors who ranked highly in ancient Japanese caste society. Their identity was built on Zen Buddhism, practicing the principles of discipline, ritual, and purification. The tea ceremony developed into an art form and cultural tradition as the samurai added hundreds of detailed steps in the practice. Specific instructions for how to sit and how to prepare Matcha green tea, the proper hand movements and even the proper design for a tea room were recorded in detail.
Green tea leaves are initially processed by soaking in an alcohol solution, which may be further concentrated to various levels; byproducts of the process are also packaged and used. Extracts may be sold in liquid, powder, capsule, or tablet form. Decaffeinated versions are also available. Green tea extract supplements are accessible over the counter in various forms.
Others credit various Buddhists in the 500s BC and subsequent centuries for the discovery of tea. Buddhists would travel between India and China spreading their religion, culture and ritual of tea. Buddhist monks grew, harvested and produced tea much like their Catholic counterparts in European monasteries did with grapes and wine. The monks’ habit of tea drinking for physical refreshment, to aid meditation and as a substitute for alcohol developed into a spiritual and social practice that spread across China.
Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, like helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and even encouraging weight loss. However, it’s important to note that much of this research isn’t from clinical trials that show green tea causes a benefit. Instead, it’s largely from population-based studies, where researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and compare their health outcomes to groups that don’t drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Matcha is even less studied than brewed green tea.
Just have a cup of hot green tea after some rigorous exercise and you will be ready for a few more sets in no time. Furthermore, it effectively counters muscular pain due to overexertion of muscles. Although green tea isn’t widely consumed due to the presence of energy drinks in the market, if you visit Japan and China, you will see that green tea is the premier beverage used by practitioners of martial arts and various other sports.
Use it as a natural food coloring in cake batter and icings, or make a less-sweet snickerdoodle by rolling the cookies in matcha-sugar. Infuse it into milk or coconut milk before you make ice cream, or incorporate it into a citrusy dry-rub for salmon or tuna. Sprinkle matcha over poached eggs to intensify their savoriness, or cream butter with matcha and granulated sugar, then spread it over toasted brioche. Or shake ½ teaspoon into a lemony, herbal cocktail.
It’s become such a fashionable beverage that, last summer, the New York Post ran a story about how Victoria’s Secret models were flocking to Cha Cha Matcha, a hipster spot fluent in the preparation of various matcha-based miracle potions. A search for where to get “matcha” in New York, New York on Yelp yielded some 1400 plus results. Even mass market coffee purveyors like Starbucks have made matcha their mantra, with a vast range of offerings to cash in on the craze.