Yup, those samurai. The samurai were cultured, fearsome warriors who ranked highly in ancient Japanese caste society. Their identity was built on Zen Buddhism, practicing the principles of discipline, ritual, and purification. The tea ceremony developed into an art form and cultural tradition as the samurai added hundreds of detailed steps in the practice. Specific instructions for how to sit and how to prepare Matcha green tea, the proper hand movements and even the proper design for a tea room were recorded in detail.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the health benefits of drinking tea, especially the benefits of green tea, considered by many to be the ultimate “anti-aging beverage.” In Okinawa, Japan — one of the world’s “Blue Zones” that’s associated with longevity —drinking green tea daily is considered “essential.” (1) A popular practice is sipping on a combination of steeped green tea leaves, jasmine flowers and a bit of turmeric throughout the day.
Green tea is claimed to have been popularized in Japan around 1190, when a Zen priest visiting and studying in China’s great Buddhist monasteries and temples returned to Japan with tea plant seeds and bushes. The young priest, called Eisai, used his experience growing and drinking tea in China to popularize the way of tea as a meditation ritual within his own community of Buddhist monks, eventually spreading the custom of tea drinking throughout the rest of Japan. To this day, China and Japan are the top two green tea producing and exporting countries in the world.
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.
About two to four grams of matcha is placed into the bowl, traditionally using a bamboo scoop called a chashaku, and then about 60-80 ml of hot (70–85 °C or 158–185 °F, not boiling,) water is added. The mixture is then whisked to a uniform consistency, using a bamboo whisk known as a chasen. There must be no lumps left in the liquid, and no ground tea should remain on the sides of the bowl. Because matcha may be bitter, it is traditionally served with a small wagashi sweet (intended to be consumed before drinking), but without added milk or sugar. It usually is considered that 40 g of matcha will provide for 20 bowls of usucha or 10 bowls of koicha:
To make red tea, combine 1 to 2 teaspoons of red tea leaves per cup of hot water, recommends the South African Rooibos Council. Steep the tea for 2 minutes or more, depending on how concentrated you want the flavor. To make iced red tea, use twice the amount of dry tea per cup of hot water and pour it over ice. Mix red tea with vanilla, fruit juice or other herbs for different flavor combinations.
Since some of the bioactive compounds in green tea are anti-viral and anti-bacterial, in much the same way as green tea can kill bacteria in your mouth, it can also inhibit bacteria and viruses in your bloodstream and throughout the rest of your body. Similarly, green tea may inhibit viral and bacterial infection via your nasal passages. All this means that green tea may help prevent colds and the flu, and furthermore seems to be able to alleviate the symptoms of colds and the flu once you are sick.
It’s important to note that I was not interested in, hoping for, or expecting any drastic changes to my appearance. I already lead a pretty healthy lifestyle: I drink 80 oz. of water a day, I work out at least 4-5 days a week, and I do my best to eat lean protein and lots of fruits and veggies. Like I said, I love food, but I’m usually good at keeping my cravings in moderation. I did not have a “goal weight,” and there were no numbers I was hoping to change (blood pressure, weight, heart rate, etc.). I cannot stress this enough: Acknowledge your own body, its needs, and its goals before you try any new regimen. A detox should fit into your life — you should not expect it to change your body overnight.
Furthermore, green tea also contains amino acids such as theanine, butyric acid, and lignin; xanthine alkaloids such as adenine, dimethylxanthine, theobromine, theophylline, and xanthine; pectin (also found in fruits); saccharides (sugar), chlorophyll, and triterpene saponins. Vitamins, like vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, C, and E are also found in green tea. After that impressive list, perhaps you can begin to understand how packed green tea is with nutrients and beneficial components.
Day 7: I had a formal event to go to on Day 7, and I had a flowy dress all picked out. My friend convinced me to try a much tighter dress at the last minute, and I kid you not when I say that my stomach felt flatter in this dress than it has felt in a long time. I ended up wearing the tighter dress and feeling VERY confident (see below — I’m the one on the left!). Do I owe it to the tea, to my workout regimen, or to my healthy eating habits? Probably some combination of all three (but let’s be realistic, I had just had McDonald’s that very morning, so probably just the first two).
Scientists at Tufts University compared the “ORAC” (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, a measurement of the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances) of black and green tea and 22 fruits and vegetables, and found green tea brewed for five minutes outranked even so-called superfoods on the produce list. And EGCC, a catechin found in tea (and shows highest levels in green tea) has been shown to protect the DNA in cells from cancer-inducing changes. Antioxidants are essential for neutralizing and removing free radicals found in the bloodstream that can damage cells and cause disease. This antioxidant ability may be why one benefit of green tea is it’s believed to play a role in cancer prevention. Next, find out more health benefits of drinking any type of tea.
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.