Matcha: The Green Tea That Does it All
You might be wondering about the “matcha fad” and why we're all so ga-ga for this green elixir. While some partake simply because of its recent popularity, those who know the roots of this precious tea are drinking it for a reason! If you don’t drink matcha regularly already, you may want to take it up by the end of this post.
This powdered green tea dates far back to the Tang Dynasty in China (618 - 907). They developed the method of grinding the tea leaves into a fine powder to mix with water and salt.
In 1191, a Zen Monk, Eisai, who had been studying Buddism in China, returned to Japan with tea seeds which he planted on the temple grounds in Kyoto. The monks drank the precious elixir ceremoniously while refining the harvesting techniques to boost its medicinal effects.
So while some say matcha originated in China, others argue that traditional ceremonial matcha truly belongs to Japan.
Green tea has many health benefits, but you’ll get more from matcha since you’re consuming the entire tea leaves in powder form versus steeping leaves and removing them. A few of its bragging rights:
While matcha has caffeine, it’s paired with high levels of theanine and catechins which counteract the negative effects one might experience with coffee. Matcha's effect is a gradual release of energy over the course of 4-6 hours.
Theanine, (or L-theanine) is an amino acid which promotes a state of calm alertness and reduces the jitters and crashes associated with coffee. Benefits:
Improves cognitive performance
Mood booster - Increases serotonin and dopamine
Catechins are a flavonoid that help protect plants from environmental toxins and repair damage. They are:
Prevention of periodontal disease
Theanine may be present in other types of tea, but in much lower levels than matcha. The matcha plants are shaded during the last few weeks of harvesting which increases the chlorophyll and theanine levels. If the theanine-rich matcha leafs are left in direct sunlight before the harvest, photosynthesis will convert theanine into catechin.
Since you are literally consuming the matcha leaves, this makes it all the more important to source organic tea not treated with pesticides or insecticides since there is no way to rinse the powder before you drink it.
Which matcha should you buy?
So where do you get traditional matcha? China or Japan? Therein lies much debate.
Lead contamination concerns: Both Japan and China
Potential for pesticides/insecticide contamination: Both Japan and China
Radiation concerns: Japan
You might immediately write-off Japan for the Fukushima disaster, but not so fast! When reviewing the list of benefits linked to matcha, it’s primarily due to the intricate cultivation process the Japanese are responsible for developing.
China’s matcha may very well not have the same levels of theanine as traditional Japanese matcha. But then, there are copy-cats in either country. Some matcha may not be as green, some may be too sandy, some may be too bitter.
When qualifying matcha, I investigate the brand for:
Heavy metal testing (including Lead)
Cultivation technique (must be shaded before harvest)
If 1 of the 4 areas aren’t met, I won’t bother touching the product. If all criteria are met, then I’ll take it to second base. But I only ever share the home runs with you all.
ENCHA ORGANIC MATCHA
I recently discovered Encha Organic Matcha and was impressed with their level of commitment to traditional Japanese matcha while meeting my standards listed above. Since their farm is in Japan, I immediately looked for their radiation-free certification which is available here.
Encha Organic Matcha’s founder, Dr. Li Gong, left a VP position here in Silicon Valley to seek out the best farm to share the tea with the world.
The farm he found is located in Uji, Kyoto, a mountainous area protected from pesticide contamination and far from the Fukushima site. Encha Organic Matcha has visibility into the entire process; it’s sealed on site and is quite literally Farm to Cup.
I love how educational Encha Organic Matcha’s website is and how they offer a variety of grades to provide the type of experience each customer would want:
While Encha Organic Matcha has an incredible ceremonial-grade, for those who primarily drink matcha lattes (like me), the latte-grade may be the best fit...and it's more cost effective!
If you want to cook or bake with matcha, there is a culinary-grade which offers even more savings! All three types are found here.
We leave town for a few days this week and I'm for sure taking my latte-grade travel sizes along! Since we aren't bringing a blender, our handheld frother will come in handy for matcha-mornings at the hotel.
And the best part is, you can get Encha Organic Matcha on Amazon...AND for a limited time, you can take advantage of my discount code (starting November 7th)
Just add the promo code E15janny at checkout to apply the savings!
Wondering how to prepare it? My favorite blend is listed below. There are tons of matcha recipes all over the web and social media or you could just mix it with hot water! It all depends on your taste. Make it your way and share in the comments how you take your matcha!
My Go-To Matcha Recipe
1 heaping teaspoon Encha Organic Matcha latte-grade
1/2 tsp ceylon cinnamon
1 medjool date, coconut sugar or local raw honey to taste
1/2 tsp ashwagandha (optional)
1/4 tsp chaga mushroom (optional)
1 1/4 cup hot water
1/3 cup nut milk
Top with a tad more cinnamon.
Tip: If adding cold nut milk, leave the blender running for a couple minutes to heat it up!