One of the key components in Matcha is the amino acid L-theanine, which is found almost exclusively in shade-grown green teas like Matcha. When L-theanine is combined with the natural caffeine in tea, it metabolizes more slowly, releasing the caffeine over a longer period of time and providing a stable three to six hour long energy boost (versus coffee caffeine at an hour to an hour and a half).
Asian countries like Japan and China are the biggest producers of green tea (they produce the best quality too) and are also its biggest consumers. Green tea available in other markets is found in far smaller quantities than black tea. Moreover, it is still gaining popularity, and you can get it at any modern shop. You can also order it from a local tea supplier, over the phone or on the internet. It is almost invariably imported from China (cheaper) and Japan (more expensive) and is packed in sealed packs of 200 grams, 250 grams, and 500 grams. Buy smaller quantities if possible, so that you get to make a fresh brew. Also, always check the date of manufacturing and packing before you buy.
Green tea is processed using either artisanal or modern methods. Sun-drying, basket or charcoal firing, or pan-firing are common artisanal methods. Oven-drying, tumbling, or steaming are common modern methods. Processed green teas, known as aracha, are stored under low humidity refrigeration in 30- or 60-kg paper bags at 0–5 °C (32–41 °F). This aracha has yet to be refined at this stage, with a final firing taking place before blending, selection and packaging take place. The leaves in this state will be re-fired throughout the year as they are needed, giving the green teas a longer shelf-life and better flavor. The first flush tea of May will readily store in this fashion until the next year's harvest. After this re-drying process, each crude tea will be sifted and graded according to size. Finally, each lot will be blended according to the blending order by the tasters and packed for sale.
Because you’re consuming whole leaves in matcha, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea, about the amount in a cup of brewed coffee. Matcha aficionados say that compared to the caffeine buzz from coffee, matcha creates an “alert calm” due to a natural substance it contains called l-theanine, which induces relaxation without drowsiness. Still, I do believe it’s best to nix all forms of caffeine (including matcha) at least six hours before bedtime, to ensure a good night’s sleep.
These are some of the many benefits but the reality is one cup of tea a day will not give you all the abundant gains. The jury is out on how many cups are necessary; some say as little as two cups a day while others five cups. If you are thinking of going down this route, you may want to consider taking a green tea supplement instead (it would keep you out of the bathroom).
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.
• One Chinese study found that men who drank more than three cups of tea a day reduced their risk of prostate cancer by 70 percent. In another study funded by the National Institute of Health, 79 men with prostate cancer were told to either drink 6 cups of green tea a day or 6 cups of water. After 3 to 8 weeks, the levels of prostate-specific antigen, a protein that may indicate cancer, were lower in the men who drank green tea than those who drank water. An indicator of inflammation, nuclear factor-kappaB, linked to cancer growth, was also lower in the men who drank the green tea.
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.