What is Matcha Tea and What Are the Benefits of Drinking It?

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By : Suvarna Sheth

Matcha tea is all the craze these days, you will find it anywhere from Starbuck’s, with their Iced Matcha Green Tea Latte, to specialty coffee boutiques that serve matcha shots, matcha tea, and even matcha dessert.

So, what exactly is matcha tea, and are there any proven health benefits of the trendy bright green tea?

What is Matcha Tea?

Matcha tea comes from the same plant as green tea, the Camellia sinensis. However, it has different properties than green tea and is cultivated differently.

Matcha is grown from 90-100% shade-grown, green tea leaves, giving the plant a much darker green hue then regular green tea.

Once harvested, it is ground into a fine powder. The word “matcha” actually means “powdered tea,” and in Japan,  it is considered to be the crème de la crème of green tea.

Unlike green tea, which is steeped in hot water and then discarded, matcha comes in powdered form in a container. It is placed directly into the water (or milk of your choice) and then fully consumed.

What’s the History Behind Matcha?

Matcha is the special tea traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony. It has been consumed in Japan for almost 1,000 years.

It is believed that Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist Monk, brought back tea seeds from China, along with the Zen Buddhist methods of preparing powdered green tea in 1191.

The tea seeds that Eisai brought back were considered to create the highest quality tea leaves in all of Japan.

It was not until the 1500s that the traditional Japanese tea ceremony was formulated by Zen student named Murata Juko into the ritual we know about today.

The health benefits of Matcha tea were not fully understood at that time, but it was believed the tea had healing qualities that aid relaxation, prevent obesity and treat skin conditions.

What are the Health Benefits of Matcha?

There are various health benefits to matcha, and the research has been going strong over the last several decades.

Benefits range from weight loss, cancer prevention, liver, kidney, and heart protection.

1. Matcha Tea is Rich in Antioxidants

Matcha is rich in a class of antioxidants, called catechins, which may reduce cell damage.

Because the tea powder is directly consumed when placed in hot water, it is thought to have a greater concentration of the antioxidants.

One study found that catechins in matcha can be up to 137 times greater than in other types of green tea.

2. Liver and Kidney Health

Along with antioxidants, some studies show that Matcha may also protect the liver.

One study found that matcha protected both the liver and kidneys of rats with Type 2 diabetes.

However, more research is needed to know what the effects are in humans.

3. Protection Against Cancer

Matcha has even been found to prevent cancer in the lab and in animal studies. Matcha is especially high in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin that has been shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties.

One study found that green tea extract decreased tumor size and slowed the growth of breast cancer cells in rats.

Again, however, more research is needed on the effects and quantities of these properties in humans.

4. Anxiety

Recent research has shown that drinking matcha tea can reduce anxiety. A group of Japanese researchers from Kumamoto University showed that anxious behavior in mice was reduced after consuming matcha powder or matcha extract.

Researchers believe its calming properties appear to be due to mechanisms that activate dopamine D1 receptors and serotonin 5-HT1A receptors, both of which are closely related to anxious behavior.

The authors conclude that further research is necessary, but the results of their study show that matcha, may be quite beneficial to the human body.

Simple to Prepare At Home

Matcha tea is simple to prepare at home. You can find it at various health stores or online.

If you purchase it online, make sure you are buying it from a trusted and reputable source.

To prepare your own iced matcha, follow the simple steps below:

  1. Fill a Mason Jar with ice.
  2. Add 8 oz of cool, filtered water
  3. Add one scoop or 1/4 tsp of desired matcha powder
  4. Shake the container until the clumps dissolve
  5. Add milk, soymilk or almond milk to sweeten
  6. Enjoy!

To prepare a latte version of matcha, follow the simple steps below:

  1. Add 1 scoop (1/2 tsp) of matcha to a mug or teacup. To avoid clumping, use a sifter.
  2. Pour 2 oz. of 180° water over the matcha.
  3. Using a whisk, blend the matcha into the hot water. Keep going until a frothy layer forms on top and the matcha is fully blended.
  4. Pour steamed milk of your choice over the matcha.
  5. Enjoy!

Sources:

  1. Weiss DJ, Anderton CR. J Chromatogr A. 2003 Sep 5;1011(1-2):173-80. Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Retrieved August 6, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14518774
  2. Yamabe N, Kang KS, Hur JM, Yokozawa T. J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):714-21. Matcha, a powdered green tea, ameliorates the progression of renal and hepatic damage in type 2 diabetic OLETF rats.
    Retrieved August 6, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19735169
  3.  Kavanagh KT1, Hafer LJ, Kim DW, Mann KK, Sherr DH, Rogers AE, Sonenshein GE. J Cell Biochem. 2001;82(3):387-98. Green tea extracts decrease carcinogen-induced mammary tumor burden in rats and the rate of breast cancer cell proliferation in culture. Retrieved August 6, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11500915/
  4. Kurauchi, Y. et al., 2019. Anxiolytic activities of Matcha tea powder, extracts, and fractions in mice: Contribution of dopamine D1 receptor- and serotonin 5-HT1A receptor-mediated mechanisms. Journal of Functional Foods, 59, pp.301-308. Available at: http://dx. doi. org/ 10. 1016/ j. jff. 2019. 05. 046.

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