Matcha (抹茶, Japanese pronunciation pronounced [mat.tɕa], English /ˈmætʃə/[i]) is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is special in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for about three weeks before harvest and the stems and veins are removed in processing. During shaded growth, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine. The powdered form of matcha is consumed differently from tea leaves or tea bags, and is dissolved in a liquid, typically water or milk.
It depends not only on the processing method the tea producers use, but also on the cultivation practices the tea growers use. What time of year is the tea plucked? How is the plant pruned? What parts of the plant are plucked? Are the plants treated with chemicals or are they organically grown? What kind of heat is applied to the tea leaves to stop oxidation? How are the tea leaves shaped, rolled and dried? Are the leaves left whole or cut in smaller pieces?
Sejak (세작; 細雀; lit. "thin sparrow"), or dumul-cha (두물차; lit. "second flush tea"), is made of hand-picked leaves plucked after gogu (20–21 April) but before ipha (5–6 May). The tea is also called jakseol (작설; 雀舌; lit. "sparrow tongue") as the tea leaves are plucked when they are about the size of a sparrow's tongue. The ideal steeping temperature for sejak tea is 60–70 °C (140–158 °F).
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.
Matcha is hot with chefs, not just as a beverage, but as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes. If you Google matcha recipes, you’ll find everything from matcha muffins, brownies and puddings, to matcha soup, stir frys, and even matcha guacamole! I love experimenting with it, and in a previous post I wrote about the potential weight loss benefits of umami foods (The Surprising Food Flavor That Can Help You Shed Pounds). But due to concerns about lead, I recommend avoiding “matcha madness.” Even with superfoods, you can get too much of a good thing (check out my article 4 Superfoods You Might Be Overeating). So look for pure, organic, quality matcha, and enjoy it in moderation.
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.
All that being said, it should come as no surprise that I fell victim to the active marketing campaigns of one of the year’s biggest trends: fitness teas. You know what I’m talking about: stars and influencers like Kylie Jenner, Catherine Giudici Lowe, and Vanessa Hudgens are touting the successes of their respective experiences with fitness teas. These teas (by various brands) claim to eliminate bloat, cleanse your insides, and detoxify your organs. They claim to help you lose weight and curb cravings. Seriously? I thought as I scrolled through ad after ad. Sign. Me. Up.
Matcha tea rich in EGCG helps fight various bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. According to a research study, EGCG binds to the lipid membrane and exerts inhibitory action against the growth of various human pathogens. These include influenza A virus, hepatitis B, and C virus, herpes virus, adenovirus Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and Candida albicans yeast.
Ready to unwind for the evening? Nothing does the job better than a warm cup of 310 detox tea to help you digest after dinner and get you in a nice, relaxed state before bedtime. Though 310 Tea does contain some natural caffeine, it is such a tiny amount (22.7mg compared to 95mg in the average cup of coffee), that many people can have it at night and it does not affect their sleep.
"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.
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.