Matcha is green tea that has been specially grown and processed. Twenty days before harvest, the leaves are shaded from direct sunlight, which amps up the chlorophyll levels (and accounts for that Kermit green color) and increases the production of the amino acid L-Theanine, which is thought to promote relaxation even as the tea gives you a caffeine jolt. The leaves are hand-picked and laid out to dry. Once they are rid of their veins and stems, they’re stone-ground into what is finally matcha.
Research also shows that green tea lowers total cholesterol, improving the overall cholesterol profile. One population-based clinical study found that men who drink green tea are more likely to have lower total cholesterol than those who do not drink green tea. Other clinical studies that look at populations of people indicate that the antioxidant properties of green tea may help prevent atherosclerosis, particularly coronary artery disease. The benefits also seem to extend to preventing stroke, reducing high blood pressure, and inhibiting the formation of blood clots. Much of the effect may also be due to the ability of green tea to help lower blood sugar and insulin levels.
Chris Kilham is a medicine hunter who researches natural remedies all over the world, from the Amazon to Siberia. He teaches ethnobotany at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is Explorer In Residence. Chris advises herbal, cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies and is a regular guest on radio and TV programs worldwide. His field research is largely sponsored by Naturex of Avignon, France. Read more at www.MedicineHunter.com
Shade grown: All matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves—a labor-intensive process where tea bushes are protected from the sun and light is filtered to the bushes in a very controlled manor. Shading boosts the chlorophyll production in the plant, giving the leaves a rich green color. The lack of sun reduces the plant’s photosynthesis of the leaves, which in turn alters the naturally occurring levels of caffeine, flavanols, sugars, antioxidants, and theanine. By controlling the sun exposure, tea producers can significantly alter the chemical make-up and flavor of the final tea leaves.