Day 28: Honesty time — I took several days off. I went away for the long weekend, and I overindulged in Mexican food, wine tastings, and cherry ice cream. When I got home, I was nursing an exhausted body and a bad case of bloat. The solution? To drink my final cup of tea. After drinking it, I went to bed feeling refreshed and lighter, then woke up the next morning ready for a workout and a day back at work.
It depends not only on the processing method the tea producers use, but also on the cultivation practices the tea growers use. What time of year is the tea plucked? How is the plant pruned? What parts of the plant are plucked? Are the plants treated with chemicals or are they organically grown? What kind of heat is applied to the tea leaves to stop oxidation? How are the tea leaves shaped, rolled and dried? Are the leaves left whole or cut in smaller pieces?
The important thing to note here is that what we refer to as red tea in our shop and what is called red tea in China would be referred to as black tea in most other countries. The distinction in color depends on whether you are talking about the color of the leaves or the color of the brew. The color of the brew is typically a beautiful amber, red color thus leading to the name “red tea”. The color of the leaves though are typically dark black, thus leading to the name “black tea”. Thus the terms can be used interchangeably. Red tea is oxidized/fermented for about 6-10 hours until the leaves turn an amber/black color and then they are dried to stop the oxidation process.
Every day, countless people throw away valuable antioxidants and minerals. While seemingly unimaginable, that’s exactly what happens when you brew a cup of green tea because water can only extract a fraction of green teas benefits. The majority actually remains unused, trapped in the tea leaves. In reality, the only way to truly take advantage of green teas full potential is to consume the entire leaf. But that doesn’t mean you need to start eating tea leaves. The simplest solution is to just enjoy a bowl of matcha. Because matcha is straight, stoneground tea leaves, matcha provides you with green teas powerful arsenal of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids in a way no other green tea can.
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.
Several population-based clinical studies have shown that both green and black teas may help protect against cancer. Early clinical studies suggest that the polyphenols in tea, especially green tea, may play an important role in the prevention of cancer. Researchers also believe that polyphenols help kill cancerous cells and stop them from growing.
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.
Another big draw health benefit-wise is that matcha, like green tea, is loaded with antioxidants. A study, published in 2014, found the plant also had antimicrobial properties, particularly the four types of catechins (antioxidant properties flavonoids) it contains, against a few different types of microorganisms. Yet another study, published in Nature, proved that catechins inhibit the growth of a bacteria called Fusobacterium nucleatum — the bacteria that causes cavities and periodontal disease.
Japanese researchers published a study on green tea and its effect on the beta-amyloid protein plaques found in Alzheimer’s disease in the April 2008 issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry. The protein plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease increase brain cell damage and death due to oxidative stress. The researchers found that green tea catechins reduced the level of damaging free radicals in the brains of rats. The green tea rodents showed much less plaque-induced deficits in memory compared to rodents that didn’t receive green tea and those that were infused with beta-amyloid proteins. (8)
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.
Matcha is best enjoyed as soon as possible after its production. Since matcha is a ground tea, any exposure to oxygen will immediately start to degrade the color and flavor of tea. If stored sealed in a cool, dark place it can stay fresh for several weeks and up to a few months (unlike dried tea leaves which can last for up to a year or two). To ensure you’re getting a fresh matcha worth sipping, buy it from a reputable company that can tell you when and how the tea was processed and packaged. Ask your tea purveyor for directions on how to brew the best cup of that particular variety of matcha.
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.
Because matcha preparation uses ground tea leaves that cannot be removed after steeping, the caffeine content in a cup of matcha is much higher than that of a cup of tea prepared using tea bags or leaves. However, the exact caffeine content may vary depending on the ratio of water to matcha powder used. Matcha contains less than half the amount of caffeine per cup than in a similar-sized cup of coffee.
Matcha is a high-grade green tea ground into powdered form. The green tea powder is whisked into hot water, instead of steeped, to form a frothy drink. The meditative act of preparing, presenting, and sipping matcha is the backbone of the Japanese tea ceremony. While matcha’s origins are ceremonial, the green tea powder is widely popular around the world in beverages like tea lattes or boba tea, and as a cooking ingredient in everything from ice cream to salad dressing.
Apart from causing premature aging, free radicals are also responsible for causing certain types of cancer. The catechins present in green tea neutralize these free radicals, prevent the formation of carcinogens like nitrosamines and reduce the risk of cancer for people who regularly consume it. Green tea is now being clinically used and prescribed as a home remedy to aid in the prevention of cancer, particularly for those patients at high risk for cancer in the colon, rectum, pancreas, and intestines.