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.
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.
Green tea, however, is considered to have originated in China. It is said that even today the word “tea” in China refers only to green tea, not to the general category of tea as it does in the West. China’s Yunnan province is considered to be the original home of the Camellia sinensis plant species. In fact, 260 of the world’s 380+ varieties of tea can be found in Yunnan.
The polyphenols in green tea, which include multiple subcategories of polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, can reduce the formation of free radicals in the body, protecting cells, molecules, and other structures from damage. One of the most active and powerful antioxidant polyphenols in green tea is epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been studied to treat a wide variety of diseases and may be one of the main reasons green tea has such powerful medicinal properties. Beyond EGCG, other polyphenol catechins in green tea include catechin, gallocatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, and epicatechin gallate.
In 2009, King’s College researchers found that epicatechin may protect brain cells through mechanisms unrelated to its antioxidant ability, as epicatechin is one of the few flavonoids that can cross the blood-brain barrier. The King’s College researchers reported that somehow epicatechin protects brain cells from the negative effects of beta-amyloid plaques, although the exact mechanism of how this works is still not entirely know. (9)
Matcha comes in several grades that aren’t officially regulated, but the most important distinction is between ceremonial and culinary grade matcha. Ceremonial grade is made from the youngest, most tender tea leaves and is smooth and fine in texture. Use it when you’re planning to drink pure, unadulterated matcha or a top-notch latte. Culinary matcha is a less expensive and made from comparatively older leaves. It is best for baking, cooking, or making blended drinks where the matcha flavor is not imperative. (“Premium” or “select” matcha is somewhere in between the two major grades, and you can find organic versions of matcha in each category.)
Green tea leaves are initially processed by soaking in an alcohol solution, which may be further concentrated to various levels; byproducts of the process are also packaged and used. Extracts may be sold in liquid, powder, capsule, or tablet form. Decaffeinated versions are also available. Green tea extract supplements are accessible over the counter in various forms.
Tea culture of Korea was actively suppressed by the Japanese during the Japanese forced occupation period (1910‒1945), and the subsequent Korean War (1950‒1953) made it even harder for the Korean tea tradition to survive. The restoration of the Korean way of tea began in the 1970s, around Dasolsa. Commercial production of green tea in South Korea only began in the 1970s,. By 2012 the industry was producing 20% as much tea as Taiwan and 3.5% as much as Japan. Green tea is not as popular as coffee or other types of Korean teas in modern South Korea. The annual consumption per capita of green tea in South Korea in 2016 was 0.16 kg (0.35 lb), compared to 3.9 kg (8.6 lb) coffee. Recently however, as the coffee market reached saturation point, South Korean tea production doubled during 2010‒2014, as did tea imports during 2009-2015, despite very high tariff rate (513.6% for green tea, compared to 40% for black tea, 8% for processed/roasted coffee, and 2% for raw coffee beans).
Even organically grown green teas have been shown to contain lead, which is absorbed by the plant from the environment, particularly tea grown in China. When traditional green tea is steeped, about 90% of the lead stays in the leaf, which is discarded. With matcha, since the whole leaf is consumed, you will ingest more lead. One independent group, ConsumerLab.com, which tested teas, estimates that a cup of matcha may contain as much as 30 times more lead than a cup of green tea. Therefore, they recommend drinking no more than one cup daily, and not serving it to children.
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While there are countless brands of matcha available that claim to be “premium top quality matcha” you’ll want to check their tests and certifications. Many of the matcha products available on the market are made from poor quality leaves and contaminated by lead. Our matcha is made from 100% USDA certified organic green tea leaves sourced from the finest tea plantations in Japan. We also have our matcha tested by a third-party lab for product quality and purity, so you can be sure you’re not ingesting harmful chemicals. We maintain the highest standard, and all our product test results are available to the public.
Rooibos tea is the best herbal tea in the world. I am an avid coffee and black tea drinker who has to give up the caffeine. I have never been an herbal tea fan so my search began for something that would satisfy my taste buds.This is it. Rooibos tea is flavorful, dark in color and is quite satisfying. It has substance and body, unlike most herbal teas I have tried. I went through the process of slowly reducing my caffeine intake over a period of 10 days so as not to suffer from withdrawals. I now am completely off the caffeine and enjoy brewing Rooibos tea in my coffee maker ( which I thoroughly cleansed with a water and vinegar solution.) I like the My Red Tea brand because it is a family oriented and socially conscious brand; 10% of their profits support education in our Rooibos farming communities. They made their first donation to a school for farm-workers in September 2016. They strive to use packaging and processes that have the least impact on the environment. They are very careful to pick suppliers who support their values and care just as much about our world and its inhabitants as they do.
Most importantly, EGCg and other catechins counteract the effects of free radicals from the likes of pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals, which can lead to cell and DNA damage. Since over 60% of the catechins in matcha are actually EGCg, a daily matcha regimen can help restore and preserve the body’s integral well-being and balance. Read more on our Change The Odds Page.
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.