Ceremonial grade: Ceremonial grade is the highest quality matcha from the most carefully cultivated buds and leaves. Ceremonial grade is given the most attention to detail during processing to yield the freshest, most delicate tasting, and smoothest ground matcha. Ceremonial grade is meant to be enjoyed on its own, with no other sweeteners or additives, to really enjoy and appreciate the intended flavor.
On this episode of Consumed, host and Eater Drinks editor Kat Odell looks into the matcha production process — how it differs from that of more traditional steeped green tea, and how two of New York's noted matcha purveyors (Ippodo Tea Company and Matchabar) are working with the product today. Watch the video above for a lesson in powdered green tea; if your interest is piqued, check this map for the best places to drink matcha across the country, and these recipes for making iced matcha drinks at home, perfect for the summer.
"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.
In this traditional Japanese preparation, the powder is sifted through a fine mesh sieve and measured into a special bowl called a chawan. Hot water is added slowly while whisking briskly in a W pattern with a bamboo whisk called a chasen until smooth with a foamy froth on top. Matcha can have a slight astringent note and is usually served with a small sweet confection called a wagashi. Because of this complementary relationship with sweets and reputed green tea health benefits, it has become a favorite ingredient for chefs and confectioners.
2. Enables digestion: Red tea is caffeine-free and also free of tannins. This element is present in other teas and is known to cause digestive issues among many people. Red tea is a storehouse of antispasmodic elements, preventing diarrhea and gastric issues. It has no oxalic acid, this makes it suitable for those who are prone to developing kidney stones.
In fact, there is no hard evidence backing the claims made by tea companies that their detox teas actually purify human cells. However, high-quality teas can help support the body’s natural daily process of detoxification—just as much as other foods and drinks can hurt this system, says Laura Lagano, R.D., a New Jersey-based holistic nutritionist. (Discover more about the health benefits of teas such as chamomile, rosehip, or black tea.)
I've been a HUGE fan of matcha for two years now. I used to order matcha water from Starbucks when it used to be 87 cents. (But corporate caught on). If you're like me and Starbucks' $5 drink isn't working for you, but you still crave your matcha this is the closest thing you'll get as far as results go. I'll be honest though, through some investigation, I discovered that Starbucks put some sugar with their matcha. So no, it doesn't taste AS sweet. After a few times though and experimenting, I mix up my matcha with coconut milk and it's just as delicious. I'm also a HUGE caffeine addict. Matcha really, really does give you amazing steady energy throughout the whole day. I tell my friends it's like having all your cells slowly wake up one at a time and your whole body is revitalized. I know I sound like salesperson but that's honestly what it does for me. I used to have 7-8 cups of coffee a day. No exaggeration. I just graduated from grad school. But now I only need my one cup in the morning and it's matcha water for me for the rest of the day. Seriously, if you're looking for clean, no crash, HEALTHY, energy, try this ! You won't be disappointed. It also took me a while to figure out the serving size/ portions. I fill my 32 oz. canteen every morning and put 2-3 scoops and shake it up with ice. Some may like it lighter some may like it a little stronger but that's my regimen.
Green tea has many health benefits. “It contains many nutrients, including antioxidants and anti-cancer and brain-healthy compounds,” Smith reminds us. One thing is for sure: regardless of whether or not you’ll shed pounds with green tea, drink it anyway. “All teas contain many healthful nutrients; it’s one of the healthier choices for a beverage!” Smith says.
Green tea contains significant amounts of flavonoids, antioxidants that protect against heart disease by slowing the breakdown of LDL cholesterol, preventing blood clots, and improving blood vessel function. The benefits of green tea also include associations with lower cholesterol and lower rates of artery blockages. People who drink a cup or two a day have a 46 percent lower risk of developing narrowed arteries. Upping that to three cups a day lowers the risk of having a heart attack by 43 percent and of dying from a heart attack by 70 percent. It can even help prevent a second heart attack. In a study of 1,900 patients recovering from heart attacks at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, the death rate among patients who drank at least two cups of tea a day was 44 percent lower than among non-tea drinkers.
Unlike traditional green tea, matcha preparation involves covering the tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested. This triggers the growth of leaves with better flavor and texture, which are hand selected, steamed briefly to stop fermentation, then dried and aged in cold storage, which deepens the flavor. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder.
Grown under shade for three weeks prior to plucking, gyokuro is one of the most exclusive varieties of tea produced in Japan. The shading technique imparts a sweeter flavor, and produces a particularly rich color thanks to the higher amounts of chlorophyll in the shaded leaf. Gyokuro tea is associated with the Uji region, the first tea-growing region in Japan. It is often made using smaller-leaf cultivars of the tea plant.
The taste is of matcha is strong. Some people describe it as grass or spinach-like, and it has an umami taste. Because of this it may be sweetened to improve its palatability. One client was thrilled to tell me that he was drinking matcha, but instead of traditional matcha powder, he was drinking a powdered mix. The first ingredient was sugar, and it also contained powdered milk, so it was essentially like hot chocolate—but with cocoa swapped for matcha—something I wouldn’t recommend. Tea experts also warn that with matcha quality is key, and it comes at a cost. In other words, high quality, fresh, pure matcha is expensive. A low price tag can be a red flag for a poor quality product. I like Jade Leaf Organic Japanese Matcha Green Tea Powder ($19; amazon.com), because it's USDA certified organic, third party tested for contaminants, and from Japan.