About 2 weeks before harvest, farmers build structures around the plants to shade them, leaving them almost in the dark. It’s thought that this makes the leaves softer, sweeter, and brighter. After harvest, the tea leaves are quickly steamed, then dried and put into heated ovens for 20 minutes or so. Workers then remove stems, twigs, and other unneeded parts and grind the leaves into powder.
Already nearly calorie free, matcha is a great addition to a weight loss program by tackling the problem from both sides. It boosts metabolism and burns fat. One recent study even suggested that matcha may help burn calories by four times. At the same time, matcha does not put any stress on the body. It doesn’t raise blood pressure or heart rate, making it a safe alternative to questionable quick fixes or pharmaceuticals ridden with side effects.
"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.
Unsweetened brewed green tea is a zero calorie beverage. The caffeine contained in a cup of tea can vary according to the length of infusing time and the amount of tea infused. In general, green tea contains a relatively small amount of caffeine (approximately 20-45 milligrams per 8 ounce cup), compared with black tea, which contains about 50 milligrams and coffee with 95 milligrams per cup.
To make green tea, the leaves are quickly steamed or heated to stop oxidation, the chemical process that causes browning. To make black tea, the leaves are crushed, torn, curled, or rolled and allowed to oxidize before being dried. This additional processing step degrades some of the flavonoids. As a result, black tea has slightly lower amounts of flavonoids than green tea.
Several varieties of green tea exist, which differ substantially based on the variety of C. sinensis used, growing conditions, horticultural methods, production processing, and time of harvest. Although there has been considerable research on the possible health effects of consuming green tea regularly, there is little evidence that drinking green tea has any effects on health.
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.