Green tea also seems to boost physical performance, increase exercise endurance, and decrease reaction time, and there are many, many such studies showing these effects from caffeine, although other ingredients in green tea may aid this effect. Caffeine, and green tea’s, ability to mobilize fatty acids in fat tissue to make them more easily available for use as energy also seems to aid physical performance. In one study, caffeine was shown to significantly increase physical performance (exercise endurance and exertion). The antioxidants in green tea may also help prevent tissue damage during physical exertion as well.
Both nutritionists we spoke to agree that drinking tea when you wake up and before bed can help your system rev up and calm down, depending on which variety you choose. If you’re a tea fanatic, work in a few cups throughout the day: Unless you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can probably handle five to seven cups a day without any negative side effects, says Lagano.
Detox teas that combine caffeine with diuretics can trigger the loss of water weight. Just two cups of water weighs one pound on a scale, so shedding fluid can make you look and feel lighter–even if you haven't lost an ounce of body fat. Detox teas can also trigger a laxative effect, which causes your body to eliminate waste from your GI tract, another result that can make your stomach flatter, and allow you to feel lighter, even if your lean-to-fat ratio remains exactly the same. If this quick-fix effect gives you the confidence boost and motivation you need to start eating healthier and working out–the real keys to getting healthy and lean–terrific (assuming the teas are even safe to drink–see below). Just remember: If you go back to your former less-than-stellar eating or exercise habits, or stop drinking the tea, you can gain the weight right back just as quick as you dropped it.
One-1/2 teaspoon serving of matcha, no more than once daily, is certainly a valuable addition to any diet, says Zeitlin. Like with another substance currently having a moment, turmeric, you can get your dose by eating or drinking it, though Zeitlin says drinking it as a tea, how it was initially intended, provides all the benefits without the added calories.
One study that was published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry investigated the effects of catechins on eye diseases and found that consuming more catechins may help protect the eyes from oxidative damage and vision loss. Scientists involved in the study found evidence that catechins can pass from the digestive tract of rodents to the tissues of their eyes and reduce oxidative stress for up to 20 hours after ingestion. (11)
Matcha literally means "powdered tea." When you order traditional green tea, components from the leaves get infused into the hot water, then the leaves are discarded. With matcha, you’re drinking the actual leaves, which have been finely powdered and made into a solution, traditionally by mixing about a teaspoon of matcha powder with a third cup of hot water (heated to less than a boil), which is then whisked with a bamboo brush until it froths.
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.
In addition to actual tea, detox concoctions typically include additional herbs, which may be designed to curb appetite, rev metabolism, or boost weight loss in other ways. One example is senna, a plant with a natural laxative effect. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, the potential side effects of senna use may include abdominal pain and discomfort, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and diarrhea; excessive use can lead to potassium depletion and other electrolyte abnormalities, which can trigger muscle spasms and an abnormal heart rhythm. Another popular ingredient in weight loss teas is guarana, a plant that's often added to energy drinks. Its side effects are commonly related to its caffeine content, which may include nervousness, restlessness, stomach irritation, nausea, vomiting, headache, anxiety, agitation, ringing in the ears, and fast heart and breathing rates. Bottom line: Do your homework about exactly what's in a product before you put it in your body. Even "all-natural" substances can have potential side effects, especially if they're overused, combined with other supplements or medications that result in negative interactions, or if taken by those with pre-existing medical conditions.
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.
Because you’re consuming whole leaves in matcha, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea, about the amount in a cup of brewed coffee. Matcha aficionados say that compared to the caffeine buzz from coffee, matcha creates an “alert calm” due to a natural substance it contains called l-theanine, which induces relaxation without drowsiness. Still, I do believe it’s best to nix all forms of caffeine (including matcha) at least six hours before bedtime, to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Once on the toilet, I continued to be hit with these cramps as my body began to get cold. My hands and feet became clammy and I was shaking. I had goosebumps allover. I tried to use the restroom but my heart did this thing where I could feel it flutter. Everything around me got quiet, deafening, and all I could hear was my heartbeat. It was an out-of-body experience. I felt hollow, chilly, still, and petrified.
2. Lemon or ginger tea: This revitalizing tea is great for the morning because the light amount of caffeine will wake you up without wreaking havoc on your stomach. Plus, the health benefits of ginger include reducing inflammation and controlling blood sugar, so you can feel good drinking this soothing tea. (Twining’s Lemon & Ginger, $3; twiningsusa.com)
Because matcha is incorporated into water (whereas other green teas are steeped in water), you consume the entire leaf—and thereby the full effects of its antioxidants, vitamins, and caffeine. Fans say matcha provides a calmer, more sustained energy burst than coffee or espresso, and since it’s less astringent, it mingles more readily with fruit, yogurt, and herbs in wake-up drinks like smoothies and juices.
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.
From the 3rd century through the 6th century, green tea was mostly considered a “luxury item” before new techniques for drying and distributing green tea led to more mass production and availability among the public. According to the Teavivre, a tea company, during the time of the Song Dynasty in China (AD 960–1279), “tea drinking had become an integral part of the daily life of all Chinese, in a similar way to how afternoon tea became ingrained in the English culture. The use and production of so-called ‘tribute teas’ — those produced to be presented to the emperor and other high officials — became an important part of royal culture and a source of government taxation.” (16)
Green tea is processed and grown in a variety of ways, depending on the type of green tea desired. As a result of these methods, maximum amounts of polyphenols and volatile organic compounds are retained, affecting aroma and taste. The growing conditions can be broken down into two basic types − those grown in the sun and those grown under the shade. The green tea plants are grown in rows that are pruned to produce shoots in a regular manner, and in general are harvested three times per year. The first flush takes place in late April to early May. The second harvest usually takes place from June through July, and the third picking takes place in late July to early August. Sometimes, there will also be a fourth harvest. It is the first flush in the spring that brings the best-quality leaves, with higher prices to match.
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)
This is yet another powerful benefit of green tea. Astringent substances trigger contractions in muscles and tissues while toning up muscles and skin. Even if you do not wish to drink green tea, a simple, daily mouthwash with it can cause sufficient contraction in your gums to keep them firm and tight on the teeth, thus preventing loosening and loss of teeth. You can also wash your hair with green tea and feel it grow stronger and healthier every day.
Scientists have also discovered that the antioxidants flavonoids may also protect the brain from oxidative stress. The scientists extrapolated that a human would need to drink about three liters of liquid infused with 0.5 percent of the catechins to get similar effects. However, because humans ingest other antioxidants in the form of vitamins and plant polyphenols, it’s likely that a much lower quantity could be effective in protecting memory.
A study suggests that theanine found in matcha tea acts as a neurotransmitter. It exerts a calming effect on the brain without causing any drowsiness. This soothing effect helped the Buddhist monks in maintaining deep concentration during their meditation sessions and was the main reason behind its popularity. Another study has revealed the anti-stress effects of theanine present in this tea, which assists in reducing the physiological and psychological stress responses by inhibiting the neuron excitation. Matcha tea is also believed to boost memory and concentration.
Matcha typically has more caffeine content than green tea, similar caffeine to black tea, and less caffeine than brewed coffee. Because matcha is produced from shade-grown tea bushes, the tea leaves tend to retain more of their caffeine content. In addition, since you’re consuming the ground tea leaf when sipping matcha, you’re ingesting more caffeine content than you would from the extraction of steeped green or black tea leaves. Like all drinks cultivated from caffeinated plants, however, a specific level of caffeine per cup of matcha tea will depend on the how the matcha was processed and prepared. Be sure and read the packaging carefully or ask your tea supplier directly for the caffeine information specific to the matcha you are buying.
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.