Matcha green tea is a high-grade, finely ground, concentrated green tea. It’s been traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies for hundreds of years and has recently gained notoriety for its high antioxidant content. When you drink matcha tea, you drink the actual tea leaves, which have been ground up. This allows you to obtain even more nutrients compared to drinking steeped green tea.
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.
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?
Those magical catechins also have tons of potential in helping people with heart issues. “Catechins present in green tea have the ability to prevent atherosclerosis, hypertension, endothelial dysfunction, ischemic heart diseases, cardiomyopathy, cardiac hypertrophy and congestive heart failure by decreasing oxidative stress, preventing inflammatory events, reducing platelet aggregation and halting the proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells,” explains the author of the study, published in the Chinese Journal of Natural Medicines.
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.
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.
This tea is a rich source of antispasmodic agents, which can ease severe stomach cramps and abdominal pains. This is mainly due to the activation of K+ (potassium) ions in the body without antagonizing the activities of calcium, according to a report published in the Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. This can reduce the presence of hyperactivity in the gastrointestinal tract, thus preventing diarrhea and other intestinal issues.
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.