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.
Ceremonial grade: This is the highest quality used mainly in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples. This is stone-ground into a powder by granite stone mills. It is high-quality and expensive (~$100–140 for 100g). The unschooled drinker is unlikely to notice a large difference between Ceremonial and Premium grade. Ceremonial is characterized by subtle tones of "umami".
If you’re not sure if matcha will become a daily ritual, editor at large Christine Muhlke recommends buying a tin within the $14 to $18 range (save the under $10 matcha for baking and the over $30 for when you’re ready to commit). Some of Muhlke’s favorite brands are Chalait, Panatea, Matchaful, Kettl, and CAP Beauty, and Ippodo (seasonal releases are available at their Manhattan storefront on East 39th Street).
Evidence pointing to a boost exists in abundance. But first, let’s clarify what matcha is to begin with — in case you were trapped under something heavy these past few years. It’s basically green tea, derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, finely ground. Oxford’s Living Dictionary cites its origins in Japan as a combo of two terms, “from matsu ‘to rub’ + cha ‘tea’, from Chinese (Mandarin dialect) chá (see tea).” Matcha masters House of Matcha say the beverage is steeped in history. “Samurai warriors drank matcha green tea before going into battle because of its energizing properties, and Zen Buddhist monks drank it as a way to flow through meditation while remaining alert,” reads the website.
The preparation of matcha is the focus of Japanese tea ceremonies, and it has long been associated with Zen. This is likely one reason it’s becoming so popular, as meditation is becoming more and more mainstream. Because I’m blown away by the research on the health and weight loss benefits of mindfulness meditation, I included an entire chapter about this practice in my new book Slim Down Now, and recorded a five-minute guided meditation video on my website (click on the word mindful, top right to view).
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?
Light and crisp, Rooibos can be sweetened or un-sweetened, with or without other flavors. I sometimes make a cup of rooibos tea and add lemonade, which complements the tea nicely. Companies like Numi, Traditional Medicinals and Republic of Tea all offer rooibos teas, and the company Roobie Red makes a delicious bottled rooibos tea with other natural flavors added. Kids love it, and they don’t even notice they’re drinking something uber-healthy.
Because matcha is a powder made from ground tea leaves, it is not steeped in the traditional way. To prepare matcha, add between ½ teaspoon and 1 teaspoon of matcha green tea powder to a cup. Fill a kettle with water and heat to just short of boiling. Pour 6 ounces of the steaming water into the cup of matcha powder. Then, blend vigorously with a tea frother or bamboo matcha whisk, until the top is nice and foamy. You may need to experiment with the proportions of water and matcha powder to find your favored strength.
Ceremonial grade: Ceremonial grade is the highest quality matcha from the most carefully cultivated buds and leaves. Ceremonial grade is given the most attention to detail during processing to yield the freshest, most delicate tasting, and smoothest ground matcha. Ceremonial grade is meant to be enjoyed on its own, with no other sweeteners or additives, to really enjoy and appreciate the intended flavor.
As an additional benefit, L-Theanine may help memory and learning and ability all the while inhibiting any possible side-effects from caffeine, a natural component of green tea. Therefore, a bowl of matcha promotes concentration and clarity of mind without any of the nervous energy found in coffee. Try matcha as a pick-me-up for the afternoon or anytime you need extra focus.
In 1994, Burke International registered the name "Rooibos" with the US Patent and Trademark Office, thus establishing a monopoly on the name in the United States at a time when it was virtually unknown there. When the plant later entered more widespread use, Burke demanded that companies either pay fees for use of the name, or cease its use. In 2005, the American Herbal Products Association and a number of import companies succeeded in defeating the trademark through petitions and lawsuits; after losing one of the cases, Burke surrendered the name to the public domain.