Matcha – A healthy tea with many benefits

Posted by Jesse van der Velde on

Perhaps you have never even heard of matcha. Yet this green powder tea is centuries old and in Japan, it is the key ingredient in the traditional tea ceremony, in which matcha tea is not only drunk, but the preparation and serving of tea is governed by strict tradition. Matcha powder is becoming popular in The Netherlands too, mainly because of its many health promoting benefits. This blog post explores what matcha is, why it is so healthy and how you can use it in your cooking.  

What is matcha?

Matcha powder is really nothing more that special green tea leaves that have been ground to a very fine powder. What is different about the green tea leaves used for the production of matcha, is that it grows on green tea plants that are covered with cloth about three weeks before the harvest. This prevents the leaves from exposure to the sun. During those three weeks of shade, plant growth slows down while the production of chlorophyll and amino acids (theanine in particular) increases, helping to turn the leaves dark green. Alter three weeks, only the undamaged leaves are picked and dried. These dried leaves, called tencha by the Japanese, are then stripped of stems and veins and ground finely, an extremely labour-intensive process – resulting in the final product - matcha. The taste of matcha is determined by the amount of amino acids (the theanine especially) in the powder. Matcha made of younger leaves has a sweeter and more intense taste than those containing older leaves, which are harvested later in the year.  

Why is matcha so healthy?

Matcha contains very high amounts of theanine and chlorophyll, as mentioned previously. Theanine is known to boost concentration, as it is able to break through the blood-brain barrier, which usually protects the brain from various substances.  (Gomez-Ramirez et al., 2007[1]). In addition, researchers have found that theanine decreases emotional and physical stress.  (Kimura et al., 2007[2]), states that it improves memory and study ability, while (Park et al., 2011[3]), says mood can be lifted and greater mental achievements made, especially when taken in combination with caffeine (Haskell et al., 2008[4]). The effect of cholorphyll on health has also been widely studied. Studies have shown that chlorophyll helps to replenish blood (Schwalfenberg, 2012[5]), detoxifying the intestines and liver (Balder et al., 2006[6]) and relieving pain for people with chronic pancreatitis (Yoshida et al., 1980[7]). There are also strong indications that chlorophyll may reduce constipation (Young et al., 1980[8]), helping with the treatment of cold sores and shingles  (Belenkii et al., 1971[9]; Kongkaew et al., 2011[10]), replenishing and regenerating red blood cells, helps to prevent anaemia, (Nakano et al., 2010[11]) strengthens the immune system and (Morris et al., 2007[12]) contributes to prevent and treat certain forms of cancer, ( Tsukagoshi et al., 2004[13]; Kochneva et al., 2010[14]). More than enough reason to drink a cup of matcha tea daily. Not a fan of green tea? Then here is some good news – matcha can be consumed in many other ways!

Other uses for matcha powder

Matcha powder is obviously well suited to a lovely cup of green tea. Simply add one teaspoon of Superfoodies matcha powder to a cup and fill with hot water. Another use of matcha powder is as an ingredient in other drinks, dishes and sweet treats, as well as smoothies, shakes, ice creams, superfood cakes or cupcakes, raw superfood chocolates and sushi as the Japanese do. The interesting thing about matcha powder is that it turns your drink, dish or treat green, which is ideal for sushi or fun cupcakes!

References

[1] Gomez-Ramirez, Manuel, et al. “The deployment of intersensory selective attention: a high-density electrical mapping study of the effects of theanine.” Clinical neuropharmacology 30.1 (2007): 25-38.
[2] Kimura, Kenta, et al. “L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses.” Biological psychology 74.1 (2007): 39-45.
[3] Park, Sang-Ki, et al. “A combination of green tea extract and l-theanine improves memory and attention in subjects with mild cognitive impairment: a double-blind placebo-controlled study.” Journal of medicinal food 14.4 (2011): 334-343.
[4] Haskell, Crystal F., et al. “The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood.” Biological psychology 77.2 (2008): 113-122.
[5] Schwalfenberg, Gerry K. “The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?.” Journal of Environmental and Public Health 2012 (2011).
[6] Balder, Helena F., et al. “Heme and chlorophyll intake and risk of colorectal cancer in the Netherlands cohort study.” Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention 15.4 (2006): 717-725.
[7] Yoshida, Akira, Osamu Yokono, and Toshitsugu Oda. “Therapeutic effect of chlorophyll-a in the treatment of patients with chronic pancreatitis.” Journal of Gastroenterology 15.1 (1980): 49-61.
[8] Young, R. W., and J. S. Beregi Jr. “Use of chlorophyllin in the care of geriatric patients.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 28.1 (1980): 46-47.
[9] Belenkii, G. B. and Krikun, B. L. “Treatment of herpes simplex and herpes zoster by chlorophyll preparations”. Sov.Med. 1971;34(1):151-152.
[10] Kongkaew, Chuenjid, and Nathorn Chaiyakunapruk. “Efficacy of Clinacanthus nutans extracts in patients with herpes infection: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials.” Complementary therapies in medicine 19.1 (2011): 47-53.
[11] Nakano, Shiro, Hideo Takekoshi, and Masuo Nakano. “Chlorella pyrenoidosa supplementation reduces the risk of anemia, proteinuria and edema in pregnant women.” Plant foods for human nutrition 65.1 (2010): 25-30.
[12] Morris, Humberto J., et al. “Immunostimulant activity of an enzymatic protein hydrolysate from green microalga Chlorella vulgaris on undernourished mice.” Enzyme and microbial technology 40.3 (2007): 456-460.
[13] Tsukagoshi, S. “Development of a novel photosensitizer, talaporfin sodium, for the photodynamic therapy (PDT)”. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho 2004;31(6):979-985
[14] Kochneva, E. V., Filonenko, E. V., Vakulovskaya, E. G., Scherbakova, E. G., Seliverstov, O. V., Markichev, N. A., and Reshetnickov, A. V. Photosensitizer Radachlorin(R): “Skin cancer PDT phase II clinical trials”. Photodiagnosis. Photodyn. Ther. 2010;7(4):258-267.


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