Researchers from the Netherlands confirmed in a recent study that two green tea compounds, L-theanine and caffeine, can significantly boost levels of attention and alertness, building on what is already known about the brain benefits of green tea. The drink is less likely to make you jittery and anxious than other energy-boosting drinks, because it contains lower levels of caffeine than other teas or coffee. In another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers discovered that drinking just one cup of green tea a day made people age 55 and older 38 percent less likely to experience a decline in their mental abilities. Drinking a second cup daily made them 54 percent less likely to show mental declines.
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).
To cut down on aches and pains, try to sip four cups of green tea a day. The tea contains quercetin, a chemical compound that acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. In a recent study conducted at Case Western Reserve University, researchers gave mice the equivalent of four cups of green tea a day, then gave them a substance that would normally produce rheumatoid arthritis. The tea-drinking mice were far less likely to develop arthritis than mice that drank water. According to the Iowa Women’s Health Study, women who drank more than three cups of tea a day were 60 percent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than non tea drinkers. Other research has found that tea’s polyphenols—antioxidant properties—are also anti-inflammatory and improve arthritis-related immune responses. Did you know other teas also act as natural home remedies for arthritis pain?
I believe that if preparing and sipping matcha becomes a way for you to slow down, and be in the moment, its benefits will extend far beyond the antioxidants it provides, because meditation, in any form, has a myriad of rewards. It's been shown to reduce cortisol (a stress hormone known to drive appetite and increase belly fat), lower inflammation (a known trigger of premature aging and disease), curb impulsive eating, lower blood pressure, and boost self-esteem and compassion.
There are mixed opinions about how much green tea one should consume. The reality is one cup of green tea isn’t enough to affect your health. Some believe 2 cups of green tea will show benefits while others say 5. Some people say up to 10 cups is ideal but if you’re concerned about spending a lot of time in the bathroom you can add a green tea supplement to your diet.
Matcha is a high-grade green tea ground into powdered form. The green tea powder is whisked into hot water, instead of steeped, to form a frothy drink. The meditative act of preparing, presenting, and sipping matcha is the backbone of the Japanese tea ceremony. While matcha’s origins are ceremonial, the green tea powder is widely popular around the world in beverages like tea lattes or boba tea, and as a cooking ingredient in everything from ice cream to salad dressing.
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.
Others credit various Buddhists in the 500s BC and subsequent centuries for the discovery of tea. Buddhists would travel between India and China spreading their religion, culture and ritual of tea. Buddhist monks grew, harvested and produced tea much like their Catholic counterparts in European monasteries did with grapes and wine. The monks’ habit of tea drinking for physical refreshment, to aid meditation and as a substitute for alcohol developed into a spiritual and social practice that spread across China.
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.