But matcha didn’t skyrocket to celeb status on health merits alone. As we said back in 2011, wheatgrass is healthy, too, but we’re not seeing it in every other bakery and café. Matcha has flavor going for it—grassy, pleasantly vegetal, and slightly bitter—and a brilliant natural color that makes baked goods (like rainbow cookies) stand out from the crowd in busy bakeries (and on Instagram).
Day 2: I hopped out of bed, made my 2nd cup of tea, then went about my day. As the hours wore on, though, I grew discouraged. The reviews I had read and testimonials from friends had assured me that the tea was going to start working its magic very quickly, but my stomach still felt perfectly normal and average. Since I am the perfect blend of spontaneous, self-destructive, and optimistic, I went ahead and made myself my 3rd cup in 24 hours (Remember that last night I drank it at night instead of the recommended first-thing-in-the-morning.).
If you do choose to try a tea detox, the most important aspect isn't the kind of healthy tea you choose—it’s what else you eat: “Tea can only be medicinal and detoxifying if your diet isn’t taxing your system, which most American meals are guilty of,” says Lagano. In order to truly detoxify your body, cut processed and fried foods, and up your intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and anti-inflammatory fats like avocados and almonds, says Villacorta. Once your diet is clean and gentle on your body, detoxifying teas can begin to enhance your natural organ function.
Both nutritionists we spoke to agree that drinking tea when you wake up and before bed can help your system rev up and calm down, depending on which variety you choose. If you’re a tea fanatic, work in a few cups throughout the day: Unless you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can probably handle five to seven cups a day without any negative side effects, says Lagano.
One study that was published in the February 2010 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry investigated the effects of catechins on eye diseases and found that consuming more catechins may help protect the eyes from oxidative damage and vision loss. Scientists involved in the study found evidence that catechins can pass from the digestive tract of rodents to the tissues of their eyes and reduce oxidative stress for up to 20 hours after ingestion. (11)
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.
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.
Matcha green tea powder mixed with cream and sweetened condensed milk yields a creamy, dreamy ice cream that has almost a soft-serve texture to it. The fresh, grassy notes of the matcha balance out the sweetness of the condensed milk. It’s a rich ice cream, so a little goes a long way on a cone for a summertime treat or in a bowl for a classy dinner party dessert.
The many well-researched health benefits of green tea make it a great beverage to include in your diet for the prevention and treatment of cancer, heart problems, cardiovascular diseases, high cholesterol levels, rheumatoid arthritis, infection, tooth decay, and many others. Green tea contains an antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG), which is also helpful in treating a variety of diseases.
In this traditional Japanese preparation, the powder is sifted through a fine mesh sieve and measured into a special bowl called a chawan. Hot water is added slowly while whisking briskly in a W pattern with a bamboo whisk called a chasen until smooth with a foamy froth on top. Matcha can have a slight astringent note and is usually served with a small sweet confection called a wagashi. Because of this complementary relationship with sweets and reputed green tea health benefits, it has become a favorite ingredient for chefs and confectioners.
According to science, matcha is something of a miracle supplement. For one, it makes you feel good. One recent study examined the effects of the phytochemicals in green tea on mood and cognition. The combo of caffeine (present in most green teas) and L-theanine, an amino acid found in some teas, were found to “improve performance in attention-switching tasks and alertness, but to a lesser extent than caffeine alone,” partly because of how L-theanine chills you out.
Sencha: Sencha comes from the same plant, but in this green tea variation, the leaves are from the middle of the branch and are bigger, older, and less tender than Gyokurocha. This variety gives a clear, light green tea when brewed as well. Naturally, it is more bitter and stronger than the former variety. Being of less noble origin (middle of the branch) and having more caffeine and tannin, it is cheaper and more popular than Gyokurocha.
African red tea's naturally sweet taste makes it easy to keep your added sugar intake low. According to the American Heart Association, most Americans consume too much added sugar in their diet, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. The association recommends consuming no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Added sugar, and especially drinks high in added sugar such as sodas, have no nutritional benefits whatsoever, unlike rooibos, which has a number of associated health benefits.
Observational studies found a minor correlation between daily consumption of green tea and a 5% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In a 2015 meta-analysis of such observational studies, an increase in one cup of green tea per day was correlated with slightly lower risk of death from cardiovascular causes. Green tea consumption may be correlated with a reduced risk of stroke. Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials found that green tea consumption for 3–6 months may produce small reductions (about 2–3 mm Hg each) in systolic and diastolic blood pressures. A separate systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that consumption of 5-6 cups of green tea per day was associated with a small reduction in systolic blood pressure (2 mmHg), but did not lead to a significant difference in diastolic blood pressure.
Use it as a natural food coloring in cake batter and icings, or make a less-sweet snickerdoodle by rolling the cookies in matcha-sugar. Infuse it into milk or coconut milk before you make ice cream, or incorporate it into a citrusy dry-rub for salmon or tuna. Sprinkle matcha over poached eggs to intensify their savoriness, or cream butter with matcha and granulated sugar, then spread it over toasted brioche. Or shake ½ teaspoon into a lemony, herbal cocktail.
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In China during the Tang Dynasty (618–907), tea leaves were steamed and formed into tea bricks for storage and trade. The tea was prepared by roasting and pulverizing the tea, and decocting the resulting tea powder in hot water, then adding salt. During the Song Dynasty (960–1279), the method of making powdered tea from steam-prepared dried tea leaves, and preparing the beverage by whipping the tea powder and hot water together in a bowl became popular.
Our green tea is passed through a steaming treatment before rolling. Steaming applies light heat to the leaves to help halt the oxidation process before the leaves are rolled into shape. Steaming also helps expose the fresh, grassy flavor of the leaf. Green tea leaves are not allowed to oxidize after rolling, which is why they remain light color and flavor.
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.