You may have been hearing things recently about the latest health product that’s gaining popularity- matcha. But what is it exactly and why is there so much love for it at the moment?
If you’ve only just become aware of it now don’t dismiss it as just another health fad- it’s actually been around for centuries! Traditional Japanese tea ceremonies called ‘Chanoyu’ are centred around the art of the preparation and offering of matcha tea, using beautiful hand-painted bowls, teapots and cups. These days, matcha powder is being used in a variety of creative ways, being added to smoothies, lattes and even raw desserts.
Considered to be one of the most powerful superfoods around, matcha is the highest quality form of green tea available. It’s made from the nutrient-rich leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which is in fact the same plant that all true teas come from. The difference lies in the special way matcha is grown, harvested and processed. In the last few weeks before harvesting, the matcha tea leaves are shaded from direct sunlight, which increases the chlorophyll content and creates the beautiful bright green colour. Only the best leaves are picked, stemmed and de-veined before being carefully stone-ground into a very fine powder. It's then stored away from oxygen and light to preserve the antioxidant properties.
Matcha has an impressive list of health benefits and is said to be 10 times more nutritionally powerful than ‘regular’ green or black tea. This is because you’re actually consuming the entire leaf, not just the brewed water as you do with other teas, so you’re getting the goodness from the whole plant!
Matcha is high in catechins, which are the most beneficial and potent types of antioxidants. These have antibiotic properties which help boost our immune systems and promote overall health. It’s packed with the powerful EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate), which fights cancer-causing free radicals in the body, reduces cholesterol, assists in preventing heart disease and can slow the ageing process. Matcha green tea has 137 times more antioxidants than regularly brewed green tea!
Matcha contains the amino-acid L-Theanine which helps stimulate alpha brain waves, reducing stress and anxiety, calming the mind and inducing relaxation without the drowsiness. The tea has been used for over a millennium by Japanese Zen Buddhists and Chinese Daoists to remain alert while meditating.
Combined with caffeine, L-Theanine creates a calm, focused energy within the body- it makes you alert without giving you the shakes and nervousness that coffee can. This also promotes the production of the chemicals dopamine and serotonin, which improve memory and concentration, as well as enhancing our mood. Japanese Samurai warriors would drink matcha green tea for an energy boost before going into battle.
The high levels of chlorophyll not only gives Matcha its bright green colour, but help your body remove unwanted chemicals, toxins and heavy metals.
Matcha has been shown to increase our metabolism, helping the body to burn fat faster without negative side effects such as raised blood pressure and heart rate.
Matcha contains a wide range of nutrients that promote general health and wellbeing, including Vitamins A, C and E, beta carotene, iron, protein, potassium, calcium, zinc, magnesium, selenium and chromium. It has 130 times more calcium than normal green tea and 172 times the amount of protein! As matcha green tea powder uses the whole leaf, the fibre and chlorophyll are still intact, which you don’t get from regular brewed teas.
Itching to get your hands on some matcha now!? After you run out and grab yourself some, why not try our recipe for Matcha, Mint & Cashew Cream Swirls!
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