What is Matcha Tea?

Posted on Monday, February 1st, 2016

Written by Megan Scarth, AHN student

You may have heard of matcha tea by now: But is it really as marvellous as tea stores would like to claim?

Matcha is a unique form of tea in that its leaves are not only steeped, but also consumed with the drink. It’s traditionally made by mixing one teaspoon of matcha tea with one third of a cup of water that has been heated to slightly less than a boil. The tea is then whisked with a bamboo brush until it becomes frothy. It’s green in colour, and has a grassy taste that’s stronger than that of regular green tea.

Matcha tea leaves are also prepared differently from traditional tea. To make matcha, the tea leaves are covered with shade to improve their flavour and texture, steamed to stop them from fermenting, and then they are dried and aged. Finally, the leaves are ground into a powder.

So what is so great about matcha? Like traditional teas, it may not be very high in vitamins and minerals, but it’s a great source of antioxidants. In fact, it has the antioxidant equivalent of 10 cups of brewed green tea, and 15 times as many antioxidants as pomegranates or blueberries.

The type of antioxidants found in matcha are called catechins. In particular, matcha contains the catechin EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate), which helps to prevent cancer by helping to prevent DNA damage and inhibiting tumour growth.

Additionally, matcha tea contains five times as many levels of the amino acid L-theanine than in green or black tea. L-theanine produces a relaxation effect, reducing high blood pressure and decreasing anxiety. It also may improve memory and learning ability and increase cognitive performance.

Additionally, matcha tea contains much higher levels of chlorophyll than other teas. Chlorophyll has been shown to help decrease carcinogenic damage caused by chemicals and radiation. It does so by binding to these chemicals, forming a complex that is difficult for your body to absorb and is thus eliminated through feces, decreasing your risk of cancer. It has also been shown to decrease LDL-cholesterol levels (the ‘bad’ cholesterol).

Not only is this traditional drink tasty, but adding it to your diet seems to indeed have some positive benefits. Just be wary that like regular teas, it does contain caffeine, and has about half of the amount as a regular cup of coffee. So depending on your sensitivity, drinking matcha right before bed may not be a good idea. But for a quick pick-me-up during the day, matcha seems to be a healthful — and tasty — choice.

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