African red tea, more commonly called rooibos tea, comes from the South African red bush and is naturally caffeine-free. It can be in the form of either green or red rooibos tea -- but red tea, the fermented variety, is more common. Rooibos is naturally low in calories and is naturally sweet-tasting, making it an ideal replacement for a less healthy, high-sugar drink. Rooibos also has a number of health benefits, including helping you meet your weight-loss goals.
In fact, the Japanese have spent the last 1,000 years refining the process of growing green tea and have perfected the art of producing Matcha. Drinking Matcha allows you to consume the entire leaf and unlock the full nutrient potential of green tea. Matcha has the highest antioxidant rating of all major superfoods and naturally comes with a perfect dose of caffeine for a clean and focused energy boost.
In 2013, global production of green tea was approximately 1.7 million tonnes, with a forecast to double in volume by 2023. As of 2015, China provided 80% of the world's green tea market, leading to its green tea exports rising by 9% annually, while exporting 325,000 tonnes in 2015. In 2015, the US was the largest importer of Chinese green tea (6,800 tonnes), an increase of 10% over 2014, and Britain imported 1,900 tonnes, 15% more than in 2014. In 2015, Kenya was the largest exporter of black tea in the world (443,000 tonnes).
Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, like helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and even encouraging weight loss. However, it’s important to note that much of this research isn’t from clinical trials that show green tea causes a benefit. Instead, it’s largely from population-based studies, where researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and compare their health outcomes to groups that don’t drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Matcha is even less studied than brewed green tea.
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.
Green tea has many health benefits. “It contains many nutrients, including antioxidants and anti-cancer and brain-healthy compounds,” Smith reminds us. One thing is for sure: regardless of whether or not you’ll shed pounds with green tea, drink it anyway. “All teas contain many healthful nutrients; it’s one of the healthier choices for a beverage!” Smith says.
"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.
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.
Another benefit of green tea it’s is lower in caffeine than most other teas, so you may be able to drink the five cups a day that lowered psychological stress in a large group of Japanese people in a recent study done at Sendai’s Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine. The researchers didn’t identify any particular component of green tea that might have been soothing, but animal studies suggest that one compound, EGCC, had both sedative and hypnotic effects that tamp down the body’s production of stress chemicals.
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".
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.