What is Matcha
Matcha tea has risen in popularity in the past two decades and has become recognized as a superfood. It’s made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, also known as tea. While green tea is cultivated under the sun, Matcha tea is shade-grown. The leaves are dried and ground into a very fine powder. Actually, Matcha means “powdered tea” in Japanese.
This tea dates back to the Tang dynasty of China and was introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks. It became an integral part of the Japanese tea culture and their Chanoyu tea ceremony. The best Matcha quality is grown in the Uji region of Japan.
Matcha is packed with greater health benefits than regular green teas, as the whole leaf is consumed. It contains caffeine and several antioxidants, including EGCG, which is known for its properties that help fight cancer and improve metabolism and aging, and L-theanine which helps to calm the mind and improve memory and concentration. (1)
Matcha vs Green Tea
Although Matcha is derived from the same Camellia sinensis plant as regular green tea, it is cultivated and processed differently. (2)
During the cultivation, green tea is grown in the sun, while Matcha is grown under shade during the final few weeks before harvest.
This way of cultivation leads to a higher amount of tea theanine in Matcha, which gives a special taste called “Umami” that may balance the usual bitter taste derived from catechin, and improve the palatability of the tea. (3)
What’s more, when processing green tea, the procedure usually includes sun-drying, tumbling, and steaming. While Matcha tea leaves are destemmed and deveined and only steamed shortly after harvest.
Due to this special processing, Matcha has a bright green color and there is no loss of nutrients during the steaming process as in regular green tea.
With green tea, you’re drinking the brew resulting from steeping leaves in hot water. With Matcha, you’re drinking the leaves themselves, leading to a higher antioxidant count and richer flavor.
Four Of The Proven Benefits Of Matcha Tea
Matcha is probably one of the most nutritious drinks out there. Its health benefits make it a true super drink. Let’s dive into some of them.
Matcha Is Rich In Antioxidants
Matcha has the highest antioxidant concentration of any other tea and major superfood. Using the test method known as ORAC (oxygen radical absorption capacity), experts discovered that matcha has an astonishing antioxidant capacity, 15 times more than pomegranates or blueberries. Matcha’s ORAC rating is 1573 units per gram, compared to 105 units per gram for pomegranates or 93 units per gram for blueberries.
Why is this important? Because antioxidants are the body's defense agents. They help the body fight disease better, reduce the chance of developing cancerous cells (4), lower insulin resistance, and help regulate blood pressure, among other things. (5)
The antioxidants contained in Matcha are called catechins. Catechin EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) in particular, has powerful anticancer properties. (6)
EGCG and other catechins reduce the effects of free radicals, such as pollution, UV rays, radiation, and chemicals, which can cause damage to cells and DNA. Since more than 60% of catechins in Matcha are EGCG, a daily intake can help preserve the well-being of your body.
Matcha Improves Cognitive Function
Consuming Matcha is an effective dietary intervention to promote clarity of mind and cognitive function. Again, these health benefits are attributed mainly to EGEG and Matcha’s caffeine content. While it has a small amount of caffeine, the way the caffeine bonds with L-theanine makes all the difference.
L-theanine is a rare amino acid, found in high concentrations in Matcha. It crosses the blood-brain barrier and promotes a feeling of relaxation while reducing mental and physical stress. L-theanine works with caffeine to provide a stable and prolonged energy boost without the usual restless side effects of caffeine.
One study showed that in a series of cognitive tests assessing attention, information processing, working memory, and episodic memory, participants who consumed 4 grams of Matcha, performed better than those who didn’t. Scientists found that Matcha improved attention, reaction time, and memory. (7)
Another study showed that consuming 2 grams of Matcha daily for two months helped improve brain function in the elderly. (8)
Matcha Has A Cardioprotective Effect
It has been proven that people who regularly drink Matcha tea have lower levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) while having higher levels of HDL (good cholesterol) (9). HDL removes bad cholesterol from the arteries, preventing atherosclerosis. Obstruction of the arteries resulting from atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
In other words, Matcha helps balance cholesterol levels, which leads to better heart function.
Matcha Has Antiviral Properties
Matcha tea strengthens the immune system and limits the invasion and growth of viruses and bacteria in the body.
The unique antioxidant called EGCG is effective in protecting the body and fighting various bacterial and viral infections including COVID-19 (10).
EGCG binds to the body’s cells and inhibits the growth of many pathogenic microorganisms, including influenza A virus, hepatitis virus, and angina bacteria.
Matcha tea is an excellent tea for daily consumption. It contains high amounts of antioxidants with powerful anti-inflammatory effects. It has promising potential health benefits, mainly through the high concentration of catechins. And regular consumption maintains health and helps prevent diseases.
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(6)Green Tea Extracts for the Prevention of Metachronous Colorectal Adenomas: A Pilot Study | Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention | American Association for Cancer Research (aacrjournals.org)