In January 2015, we wrote about the rapid rise of matcha on the American beverage landscape and posed the question, “Have we reached maximum matcha saturation?” Three years later, we're living amid matcha croissants, matcha custard pie, matcha face masks, matcha lifestyle guides and $50 cups of matcha itself. Clearly, the answer was "No." But what is this powder we're whisking into green lattes, baking into doughnuts, blending into smoothies, and adding to our fish fillets?
Day 3: As I started to make my 5th cup in 3 days, my best friend said, “Ab, I really don’t think you should be drinking so much of this stuff. Why don’t you just stick to the recommended amount?” I responded with “It’s just TEA — what’s the worst that could happen?” On day 3, I learned. I had decided to give up coffee during my 28 days, both as a way to save my sanity and excretory system and as a way to wean myself out of my coffee habit. That was really stupid. By day 3, I was experiencing a horrifying caffeine headache and a rough case of the spins. I was also literally exhausted and finally feeling the ~desired effects~ of the detox (frequent trips to the bathroom, to put it lightly), so I was dealing with an excess of that on top of my other horrible side effects. Do I blame the tea? Not even a little. I blame myself for overindulging in too much of a good thing. From there on out, I decided to follow the rules.
Most Japanese teas are blended from leaves grown in different regions, with less emphasis on terroir than in the Chinese market. Because of the limited quantity of tea that can be produced in Japan, the majority of production is dedicated to the premium tea market. Bottled tea and tea-flavored food products usually use lower-grade Japanese-style tea produced in China.
Grown under shade for three weeks prior to plucking, gyokuro is one of the most exclusive varieties of tea produced in Japan. The shading technique imparts a sweeter flavor, and produces a particularly rich color thanks to the higher amounts of chlorophyll in the shaded leaf. Gyokuro tea is associated with the Uji region, the first tea-growing region in Japan. It is often made using smaller-leaf cultivars of the tea plant.
Green tea also seems to boost physical performance, increase exercise endurance, and decrease reaction time, and there are many, many such studies showing these effects from caffeine, although other ingredients in green tea may aid this effect. Caffeine, and green tea’s, ability to mobilize fatty acids in fat tissue to make them more easily available for use as energy also seems to aid physical performance. In one study, caffeine was shown to significantly increase physical performance (exercise endurance and exertion). The antioxidants in green tea may also help prevent tissue damage during physical exertion as well.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Globulus), Ginger (Zingiber Officinale), Anise (Pimpinella Anisum), Tamarind (Tamarindus Indica), Red Raspberry (Rubus Idaeus), Cranberry, Blackberry, Knapweeds (Centaurea), Cornflower(Cyanus), Chamomile (Chamomilla Recutita), Ginseng (Panax Ginseng), Rose Hips (Rosa Canina Fructus), Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon Citratus), Fennel (Foeniculum Vulgare)
"Drink tea if you enjoy it, in moderation, and not because you're taking it as a medicine," says Dr. Sesso. Stirring in a little sugar is fine, but if you add a few heaping teaspoons of sugar, you're probably canceling out tea's possible benefits, he notes. And beware of the sugar found in many bottled teas, some of which contain as much as nine teaspoons of sugar per serving—almost as much as colas and other soft drinks. Check bottled tea labels and choose only pure, unadulterated tea—or save money and brew your own at home.
The next morning, I had a bagel and one daily tea, as instructed. I felt my stomach become uneasy as most stomachs do when they’re working their “digestive magic.” Suddenly, the worst cramp of my life hit me out of nowhere. It was the sharpest PANG I’ve ever felt as it made its way from my stomach to my chest. As a reflex, I jumped up. That’s when I felt another wave of pain and swiftly made my way to the restroom.
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.
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.