Zen Buddhism and the Chinese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. In Japan it became an important item at Zen monasteries and from the fourteenth through to the sixteenth centuries was highly appreciated by members of the upper echelons of society. Although powdered tea has not been popular in China for some time, there is now a global resurgence in the consumption of Matcha tea, including in China.
Day 1: So you’re supposed to drink your tea first thing in the morning (or before a workout), but I didn’t receive my package until after arriving home for the day (in the early evening). Since I am a slave to my own desire for instant gratification, I said “Screw the rules!” and made my first cup right then and there. Immediate observation: It’s actually pretty delicious. I don’t consider myself a tea connoisseur by any means, so I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t think it needed the recommended addition of honey.
Green tea leaves are initially processed by soaking in an alcohol solution, which may be further concentrated to various levels; byproducts of the process are also packaged and used. Extracts may be sold in liquid, powder, capsule, or tablet form. Decaffeinated versions are also available. Green tea extract supplements are accessible over the counter in various forms.
And not all the science has been favorable to tea. A report in the March 1 edition of The New England Journal of Medicine looking at green tea consumption in humans, found no effect on stomach cancers once adjustments were made for other factors that could affect risk. Those other factors included sex, age, history of stomach ulcer, use of tobacco or alcohol, and other dietary habits.
Matcha comes in several grades that aren’t officially regulated, but the most important distinction is between ceremonial and culinary grade matcha. Ceremonial grade is made from the youngest, most tender tea leaves and is smooth and fine in texture. Use it when you’re planning to drink pure, unadulterated matcha or a top-notch latte. Culinary matcha is a less expensive and made from comparatively older leaves. It is best for baking, cooking, or making blended drinks where the matcha flavor is not imperative. (“Premium” or “select” matcha is somewhere in between the two major grades, and you can find organic versions of matcha in each category.)
The reason that green tea has more health benefits attached to it than black tea is due to the processing. Black tea is processed in a way that allows for fermentation whereas green tea’s processing avoids the fermentation process. As a result, green tea retains maximum amount of antioxidants and poly-phenols the substances that give green tea its many benefits.
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.
In 2009, King’s College researchers found that epicatechin may protect brain cells through mechanisms unrelated to its antioxidant ability, as epicatechin is one of the few flavonoids that can cross the blood-brain barrier. The King’s College researchers reported that somehow epicatechin protects brain cells from the negative effects of beta-amyloid plaques, although the exact mechanism of how this works is still not entirely know. (9)
When I was conducting research into South Africa’s native herbs, I was served rooibos everywhere I went. Red in the cup, fragrant to the nose and pleasing to the palate, rooibos soon became a favorite. In every meeting, I looked forward to that red tea, which is one of the only native herbs of South Africa to achieve significant commercial status. My wife and I keep it in the tea cupboard at home, and we often turn to rooibos when we want a cup of tea without caffeine.
Today, an estimated 2.5 million tons of tea leaves are produced each year throughout the world, with 20 percent of that being green tea. Green tea didn’t become popular or widely distributed outside of Asia until about the early 1900s. China, other countries in Asia, countries in North Africa, the United States and Europe currently consume the most green tea worldwide.
Other Risks: Long-term consumption, in excessive quantities, may give rise to problems such as insomnia, restlessness, annoyance, irritability, headaches, hypertension, abnormal heartbeat, loss of appetite, spasms, constipation, and acute addiction to caffeine. Many times, people who are addicted to caffeine do not feel normal without the substance and suffer from acute constipation, irritation, and lack of concentration in the absence of green tea.
An animal study published in 2009 in “Phytomedicine” found that green rooibos tea helped regulate glucose metabolism, preventing increases in fasting blood glucose levels during the course of the five-week study. This effect is a result of aspalathin, a compound found in green rooibos. Poor glucose tolerance and high fasting glucose levels are signs of type-2 diabetes and are common in obesity. The study suggests rooibos tea may help keep blood glucose levels in check, preventing sharp spikes and falls that can trigger symptoms of hunger and possibly leading to lower calorie consumption.
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.
Rooibos or 'red bush' from South Africa is found to be a very potent variety of red tea prepared from the leaves of the herb Aspalathus linearis. Indigenous to the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa, Rooibos is the only red tea that undergoes a fermentation process similar to black tea. Fermentation turns the green leaves into a garnet colour and lends a very sweet flavor. Rooibos endowed with a very high magnesium ('Nature's tranquilizer') component, acts as a natural adaptogen i.e., that which helps the body adapt to stress.
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.