Indigenous to the Western Cape of South Africa, rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a shrub with long, needle-shaped leaves that turn red upon fermentation. When you drive through the countryside north of Cape Town, you see rooibos everywhere. Rooibos is a traditional beverage of the native Khoi people of the Cape area, though it has become more popular in recent years due to word spreading about its high antioxidant value. Traditionally, the native people harvest the leaves, bruise them with hammers, ferment them and dry them. The result is a red, astringent tea that refreshes and does not cause jitters.
Prior to use, the matcha often is forced through a sieve in order to break up clumps. There are special sieves available for this purpose, which usually are stainless steel and combine a fine wire mesh sieve and a temporary storage container. A special wooden spatula is used to force the tea through the sieve, or a small, smooth stone may be placed on top of the sieve and the device shaken gently.
According to the National Cancer Institute, the polyphenols in tea have been shown to decrease tumor growth in both animal and laboratory studies. Researchers believe that it is the high level of polyphenols in tea that help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing, although the exact mechanism by which tea inhibits and prevents cancerous cells is uncertain.
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.
Culinary grade: Culinary grade matcha has a more robust, astringent flavor that can stand up to other ingredients its paired with. It may include ground leaves that still had some stems and veins attached, it may be a slightly duller green than ceremonial grade, and it may often include a mix of matcha powder from several sources. Culinary grade can still be whisked into tea and sipped; in fact, it’s a great matcha to mix with milk for lattes or spirits for cocktails. It’s also a bit less expensive so it’s more affordable to stock as a cooking ingredient.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Chat with us on Twitter by mentioning @goodhealth and @CynthiaSass. Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
But matcha didn’t skyrocket to celeb status on health merits alone. As we said back in 2011, wheatgrass is healthy, too, but we’re not seeing it in every other bakery and café. Matcha has flavor going for it—grassy, pleasantly vegetal, and slightly bitter—and a brilliant natural color that makes baked goods (like rainbow cookies) stand out from the crowd in busy bakeries (and on Instagram).
Like gyokuro, matcha is shaded before plucking. The plucked and processed leaf is called tencha. This product is then ground into a fine powder, which is matcha. Because the tea powder is very perishable, matcha is usually sold in small quantities. It is typically rather expensive. Matcha is the type of tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It is prepared by whisking the tea with hot water in a bowl, until the surface is frothy. If the water is too hot, the tea may become overly bitter.
Rooibos tea or red tea is an herbal beverage, with medicinal properties, that is acquired from the Aspalathus linearis bush plant found in South Africa. According to the South African Rooibos Council, rooibos is not a true tea, but an herb. The fermented tea is red in color. The health benefits of red rooibos tea are abundant. It is popular due to its great taste and unique color that comes along with health benefits.
About two to four grams of matcha is placed into the bowl, traditionally using a bamboo scoop called a chashaku, and then about 60-80 ml of hot (70–85 °C or 158–185 °F, not boiling,) water is added. The mixture is then whisked to a uniform consistency, using a bamboo whisk known as a chasen. There must be no lumps left in the liquid, and no ground tea should remain on the sides of the bowl. Because matcha may be bitter, it is traditionally served with a small wagashi sweet (intended to be consumed before drinking), but without added milk or sugar. It usually is considered that 40 g of matcha will provide for 20 bowls of usucha or 10 bowls of koicha:
Green tea can lower and help stabilize your blood sugar levels (glucose levels); in fact, studies show that green tea can even improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels. One study among Japanese individuals found that those who drank the most green tea had a very significantly lower risk of developing type II diabetes. Other studies have shown similar results.
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.
Matcha: This is the leftover powder of green tea, also called “Dust”. It makes a beautifully green-colored tea and forms a lot of foam (froth), but has a weaker aroma than the leafy varieties. This variety of green tea is very popular in traditional ceremonies and is sometimes also called Ceremonial Green Tea. It is far less bitter than the other three varieties, so when you sip it, it seems to hold a natural sweetness, particularly if you are familiar with the other varieties.
Matcha (抹茶, Japanese pronunciation pronounced [mat.tɕa], English /ˈmætʃə/[i]) is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is special in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and the stems and veins are removed in processing. During shaded growth, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine. The powdered form of matcha is consumed differently from tea leaves or tea bags, and is dissolved in a liquid, typically water or milk.
Ceremonial grade: This is the highest quality used mainly in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples. This is stone-ground into a powder by granite stone mills. It is high-quality and expensive (~$100–140 for 100g). The unschooled drinker is unlikely to notice a large difference between Ceremonial and Premium grade. Ceremonial is characterized by subtle tones of "umami".
Although research on the specific health benefits of matcha is limited, some studies suggest that regular consumption of green tea, in general, may help protect against certain health conditions. For instance, green tea appears to prevent age-related cognitive impairment, reduce LDL cholesterol, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other conditions such as prostate cancer.
In 1904, Benjamin Ginsberg ran a variety of experiments at Rondegat Farm, finally curing rooibos. He simulated the traditional Chinese method of making Keemun by fermenting the tea in barrels. The major hurdle in growing rooibos commercially was that farmers could not germinate the rooibos seeds. The seeds were hard to find and impossible to germinate commercially.
"Tea is a good source of compounds known as catechins and epicatechins, which are thought to be responsible for tea's beneficial health effects," says Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. These compounds belong to a group of plant chemicals called flavonoids. Research suggests that flavonoids help quell inflammation, and that in turn may reduce plaque buildup inside arteries. Green tea has slightly higher amounts of these chemicals than black tea. Both black and green teas also contain modest amounts of caffeine, ranging from about 20 to 45 milligrams per 8-ounce cup. That's roughly half the amount of caffeine in the same amount of coffee.
According to a report published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, “Tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water.” (2) What is green tea good for? According to dozens of studies, regularly drinking green tea may reduce your risk of developing heart disease or Alzheimer’s, help you maintain better bone mineral density, ward off eye diseases that affect vision in older age, prevent strokes, and even extend your life.
Caffeine: Everyone knows that caffeine is an external stimulant and raises blood pressure, and is actually toxic in nature (it may be fatal for some animals). Caffeine is also addictive and can have adverse effects on the liver and internal organs over the course of many years. That being said, it is the component of tea which makes it energizing and refreshing, which is why people are willing to risk it.
There are also several harmful effects of green tea over-consumption that are possible. These include consuming tainted supplements marked as green tea extract, high caffeine consumption, consuming aluminum, and the effects of tea polyphenols on iron bioavailability. Green tea extracts should not be taken by patients suffering from renal failure, liver disease, heart conditions or major cardiovascular problems without supervision from a doctor. People sensitive to caffeine should be careful of their intake. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should drink no more than one or two cups per day, as some research shows that more caffeine than this amount may interfere with normal heart rhythms.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's Health's contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers NHL team and the New York Yankees MLB team, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Cynthia is a three time New York Times best selling author, and her brand new book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Zen Buddhism and the Chinese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. In Japan it became an important item at Zen monasteries and from the fourteenth through to the sixteenth centuries was highly appreciated by members of the upper echelons of society. Although powdered tea has not been popular in China for some time, there is now a global resurgence in the consumption of Matcha tea, including in China.
The preparation of matcha is the focus of Japanese tea ceremonies, and it has long been associated with Zen. This is likely one reason it’s becoming so popular, as meditation is becoming more and more mainstream. Because I’m blown away by the research on the health and weight loss benefits of mindfulness meditation, I included an entire chapter about this practice in my new book Slim Down Now, and recorded a five-minute guided meditation video on my website (click on the word mindful, top right to view).
You can make African red tea much like other herbal teas, according to Teavana. Add a 1 1/2 teaspoons of loose African red tea to make an 8-ounce serving, using boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for roughly five to six minutes, longer if you wish for a stronger tasting tea. Letting the tea steep for longer will not cause the tea to become bitter. Indeed, traditionally, African red tea has been allowed to steep for several days. If you want to make chilled African red tea, you can place the hot tea in the fridge to let it cool. Alternatively, double the amount of tea used and then pour the hot tea over a glass filled with ice cubes.