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.
Matcha is green tea that has been specially grown and processed. Twenty days before harvest, the leaves are shaded from direct sunlight, which amps up the chlorophyll levels (and accounts for that Kermit green color) and increases the production of the amino acid L-Theanine, which is thought to promote relaxation even as the tea gives you a caffeine jolt. The leaves are hand-picked and laid out to dry. Once they are rid of their veins and stems, they’re stone-ground into what is finally matcha.
According to science, matcha is something of a miracle supplement. For one, it makes you feel good. One recent study examined the effects of the phytochemicals in green tea on mood and cognition. The combo of caffeine (present in most green teas) and L-theanine, an amino acid found in some teas, were found to “improve performance in attention-switching tasks and alertness, but to a lesser extent than caffeine alone,” partly because of how L-theanine chills you out.
A University of Miami study found that even a mild dose of green tea’s antimicrobial and antioxidant compounds erased almost two-thirds of pimples from people with mild to moderate acne when used twice daily for six weeks. To benefit, make a cup of green tea, let cool, and use as a face wash, or lay the tea bag directly on the skin to act as a compress for particularly bad pimples. For oily skin, mix peppermint tea with the green tea for an oil-blasting wash. Check out more teas that also work as acne home remedies.
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.