But matcha didn’t skyrocket to celeb status on health merits alone. As we said back in 2011, wheatgrass is healthy, too, but we’re not seeing it in every other bakery and café. Matcha has flavor going for it—grassy, pleasantly vegetal, and slightly bitter—and a brilliant natural color that makes baked goods (like rainbow cookies) stand out from the crowd in busy bakeries (and on Instagram).
Already nearly calorie free, matcha is a great addition to a weight loss program by tackling the problem from both sides. It boosts metabolism and burns fat. One recent study even suggested that matcha may help burn calories by four times. At the same time, matcha does not put any stress on the body. It doesn’t raise blood pressure or heart rate, making it a safe alternative to questionable quick fixes or pharmaceuticals ridden with side effects.
Because matcha is prone to clumping (that’s why you’ll see instructions to sift it before whisking in the water or milk), you’ll want to take the same precaution in your baking experiments: Saffitz suggests combining the matcha with other dry ingredients like sugar or flour to avoid bitter lumps in your dough or batter. And use it sparingly, she suggests: Even a few teaspoons can create an intense flavor (and color).
Along with caffeine, which gives green tea its characteristic taste, bitterness, and stimulating effect, green tea is also rich in a group of chemicals, called catechin polyphenols (commonly known as tannins, which contribute to bitter taste and astringency). These catechin polyphenols include catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate (ECG), epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and various proanthocyanidins. They are also known as flavonoids and are very powerful antioxidants. Flavonoids, together with some amino acids like thiamine, are responsible for the potent flavor of green tea.
Green tea is a longtime treasure of China and Japan that is gaining popularity in America. It’s easy to understand why: the best green tea leaves are heated or steamed right after harvest, preserving their all-natural flavor and resulting in a nourishing beverage containing antioxidants. With about half the caffeine of black tea, you get the health benefits of green tea in every gentle cup. You can buy green teas in either loose-leaf or green tea bags.
In China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), tea leaves were steamed and formed into tea bricks for storage and trade. The tea was prepared by roasting and pulverizing the tea, and decocting the resulting tea powder in hot water, then adding salt. During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the method of making powdered tea from steam-prepared dried tea leaves, and preparing the beverage by whipping the tea powder and hot water together in a bowl became popular.
This ceremonial tea drinking was taken up with a fervor by Japan’s samurai class. The samurai were fearsome warriors yet cultured and high ranking members of Japanese caste society. The samurai identity was built on Zen Buddhism, practicing principles like discipline, ritual, and purification. It is said the samurai developed the Japanese tea ceremony into an art form and cultural tradition by adding hundreds of detailed steps to the practice, including specific hand movements, the proper design of the tea room, and instructions for how to sit and how to prepare and sip the tea. It is also said the tea ceremony was integral to samurai training, helping the warriors sharpen their focus, concentration, and patience in preparation for battle.
Flavan-3-ols, the type of flavonoids found in green tea and other teas, provide many of the anti-aging effects of green tea. Catechins in various types of teas are the polyphenols that seem to have the most potent antioxidant effects, according to Natural Standard, the leading and most respected reviewer of herbal compounds. Specific flavan-3-ols found in green tea include monomers (catechins) called:
It’s important to note that herbs can have powerful effects on the body when taken in large amounts, so use the tea as directed. Also, stay hydrated. Because several of these herbal ingredients are diuretics, your body will be losing fluids and you’ll be passing more urine than usual. It’s important to replenish the fluids within your body to avoid dehydration.
Generally, the leaves undergo an oxidation (often termed "fermentation" in common tea processing terminology). This process produces the distinctive reddish-brown colour of rooibos and enhances the flavour. Unoxidised "green" rooibos is also produced, but the more demanding production process for green rooibos (similar to the method by which green tea is produced) makes it more expensive than traditional rooibos. It carries a malty and slightly grassy flavour somewhat different from its red counterpart.
The leaves are used to make a herbal tea that is called by the names: rooibos, bush tea (especially in Southern Africa), or redbush tea (predominantly in Great Britain). The tea has been popular in Southern Africa for generations, but is now consumed in many countries worldwide. It is sometimes spelled rooibosch in accordance with the original Dutch. The tea has a taste and color somewhat similar to hibiscus tea, or an earthy flavor like yerba mate.
Green tea is processed using either artisanal or modern methods. Sun-drying, basket or charcoal firing, or pan-firing are common artisanal methods. Oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming are common modern methods. Processed green teas, known as aracha, are stored under low humidity refrigeration in 30- or 60-kg paper bags at 0–5 °C (32–41 °F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection and packaging take place. The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf-life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blending order by the tasters and packed for sale.
All that being said, it should come as no surprise that I fell victim to the active marketing campaigns of one of the year’s biggest trends: fitness teas. You know what I’m talking about: stars and influencers like Kylie Jenner, Catherine Giudici Lowe, and Vanessa Hudgens are touting the successes of their respective experiences with fitness teas. These teas (by various brands) claim to eliminate bloat, cleanse your insides, and detoxify your organs. They claim to help you lose weight and curb cravings. Seriously? I thought as I scrolled through ad after ad. Sign. Me. Up.
Indigenous to the Western Cape of South Africa, rooibos (Aspalathus linearis) is a shrub with long, needle-shaped leaves that turn red upon fermentation. When you drive through the countryside north of Cape Town, you see rooibos everywhere. Rooibos is a traditional beverage of the native Khoi people of the Cape area, though it has become more popular in recent years due to word spreading about its high antioxidant value. Traditionally, the native people harvest the leaves, bruise them with hammers, ferment them and dry them. The result is a red, astringent tea that refreshes and does not cause jitters.
Polyphenols found in green tea include epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epicatechin gallate, epicatechins and flavanols, which are under laboratory research for their potential effects in vivo. Other components include three kinds of flavonoids, known as kaempferol, quercetin, and myricetin. Although the mean content of flavonoids and catechins in a cup of green tea is higher than that in the same volume of other food and drink items that are traditionally considered to promote health, flavonoids and catechins have no proven biological effect in humans.
One detox tea brand, recently Instagrammed by Amber Rose, advises per their website that for "best results," the tea should be consumed along with plenty of water, healthy, balanced meals, and three to five workouts a week. Another, which has been Instagrammed by several celebs, including Kourtney Kardashian, Christina Milian, and Hilary Duff, states online that the tea "is recommended to be taken in conjunction with a healthy energy-controlled diet and regular exercise" and the website offers an accompanying meal plan for sale. Personally, I'd love to see a study comparing outcomes generated by a detox tea compared to a placebo, with both groups following the exact same eating plan, but I haven't found any. That makes it difficult to know whether the weight-loss results people are getting from these teas are actually due to drinking them, or simply the result of' a cleaned-up diet and consistent workout routine, which we already know can lead to weight loss. In any case, simply sipping detox tea while continuing to skip the gym and order takeout is unlikely to help you shrink your shape.
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.