Food and drink fads come and go, but some deserve close attention.
That’s certainly the case when it comes to the powdered form of green tea known as matcha.
Our longtime friend Andrew Weil, M.D., has long advocated for green tea, and he’s particularly intrigued by matcha’s unique attributes.
He kindly granted permission to republish his article about matcha — see Discover Matcha Tea, below — in which he describes its history, method of production, and benefits.
Dr. Weil’s article is followed by our summary of recent research on the benefits of green tea, with matcha being the type that's by far the richest in antioxidant and relaxing phytochemicals.
We’ve sampled quite a few matcha teas, and particularly enjoy the offerings from Matcha Kari (matcha.com), grown in the Kyoto region.
Their website provides several varieties and grades of matcha, plus top-quality kits and accessories and very helpful hints on preparation and enjoyment.
by Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.
Matcha tea — literally, “powdered tea” — is a special type of green tea: a precious, jewel-green powder that is whisked with hot water in a bowl to make a frothy beverage of the same name.
Preparation of matcha tea is the focus of the Japanese tea ceremony and has a long association with Zen.
Matcha tea is the only form of tea in which the whole leaf is consumed, and because it is made from top-quality leaves that are treated with great care, it delivers more of the healthful elements of green tea than other forms.
A unique, beautiful, and richly flavorful drink, matcha tea gives most people a feeling of well-being. In addition, the simple ritual of preparing it is both enjoyable and meditative.
For matcha tea, unlike most other forms of green tea, farmers cover the plants with heavy shade cloth for three weeks prior to harvest in May. This causes the new shoots to develop larger, thinner leaves with better flavor and texture.
Harvesting is by hand, and only the youngest, smallest leaves are selected for the best quality matcha.
Farmers steam the leaves briefly to stop any fermentation, then dry them and pack them in bales for cold storage. Aging deepens the flavor of the tea, which becomes optimum after six months.
Healing benefits of matcha
In addition to providing trace minerals and vitamins (A, B-complex, C, E, and K), matcha tea is rich in catechin polyphenols — compounds with high antioxidant activity.
These compounds offer protection against many kinds of cancer, help prevent cardiovascular disease and slow the aging process.
They also reduce harmful cholesterol in the blood, stabilize blood sugar levels, help reduce high blood pressure and enhance the resistance of the body to many toxins.
The most important polyphenol in matcha is EGCG (epigallo-catechin gallate), which is the subject of many medical studies.
Matcha tea has a significant amount of dietary fiber and practically no calories.
Republished from www.drweil.com with permission from Dr. Andrew Weil.
By Craig Weatherby
Clinical studies and animal experiments alike find that green tea brings myriad benefits:
Depending on matcha grade and quality, one bowl provides as many antioxidants as three to 10 cups of regular green tea.
Evidence review affirms weight-control benefits
Last year, Dutch scientists published a review of the evidence on green tea’s metabolic effects, and came to positive conclusions:
“… a mixture of green tea catechins and caffeine has a beneficial effect on body-weight management, especially by sustained energy expenditure, fat oxidation, and preservation of fat free body-mass …”. (Janssens PL et al. 2016)
Buyer beware — some popular green tea beverages are seriously lacking in the antioxidants and other compounds that may green tea so healthful. For more on that, see Green Tea Fraud.
The relaxing effects of matcha tea derive from its high levels of a complex glutamate compound called L-theanine.
Compared with regular green tea, matcha provides about five times more L-theanine, thanks to the shading applied in the weeks before harvest, which protects it from UV sunrays.
Green tea boosts brain performance
Earlier this year, another group of Dutch scientists reviewed the evidence from 49 clinical studies that tested the effects of green tea’s key active constituents — caffeine, L-theanine, and EGCG — on mood, attention, focus, and thinking (Dietz C et al. 2017).
As the authors noted, “Previous research on tea constituents caffeine, L-theanine, and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) repeatedly demonstrated benefits on mood and cognitive performance.”
Their analysis found that two key constituents of matcha provide real benefits:
They couldn’t draw firm conclusions regarding the effects of EGCG, due to insufficient data concerning its effects on mood and thinking.
Overall, they came to an encouraging conclusion: “These  studies provided reliable evidence showing that L-theanine and caffeine have clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found that the L-theanine in matcha enhances relaxation by blunting the potentially over-stimulating effects of caffeine.
Aside from its ability to aid weight control and mental focus, matcha is a deeply satisfying, relaxing beverage, which makes it one very joyous fad to follow!
How much caffeine in tea and coffee?
By way of comparison, these are the average amounts of caffeine in various tea and coffee beverages: