The bright green drink has been making a splash in the health industry in recent years, although certain parts of the world have been reaping its benefits for centuries. Wondering what matcha is, how it can help you, and how to start taking advantage of this superfood for yourself? We've got you covered with all you need to know about this colorful drink.
The matcha plant is most associated with East Asia, having been an important part of Chinese and Japanese cultures for several centuries. The green tea bushes from which matcha is made are grown in the shade, a process which helps to give the plant its distinctive green color and deep flavor. The leaves are then handpicked and dried before being ground into a matcha powder that tea lovers and health aficionados enjoy all over the world.
Although matcha is a type of green tea, it differs quite a bit from the traditional green tea you may be used to. Most teas are brewed by infusing the tea leaves with boiling water and then removing the leaves. Matcha, on the other hand, is made by grinding up the leaves until a bright green powder is formed. That matcha powder is then whisked with hot—but not boiling—water. Instead of drinking infused water, you're drinking the tea leaves themselves!
Aside from adding a vibrant shot of color to your day, there are a variety of matcha benefits for your health.
If you suffer from high blood pressure—a condition which can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes—matcha may help to lower it. The tea also appears to help lower your levels of "bad" cholesterol, or LDL, which can be another contributing factor to certain heart health issues.
You likely know that antioxidants are good for you, but how exactly do they affect your body? Antioxidants help to prevent cell damage by stabilizing what are known as "free radicals," or molecules that the body produces as a reaction to stress. Free radicals can cause a number of chronic health conditions and diseases, so getting enough antioxidants in your diet is an important way to avoid long-term health issues.
Fortunately for us all, that's where matcha comes in. Green tea is already recognized as a great source of antioxidants, but matcha offers even more because it includes the tea leaves themselves and thus gives you all the nutrients from the matcha plant.
A recent study showed that certain compounds in matcha tea, including l-theanine and EGCG, can potentially help to improve brain function. Participants who were given matcha performed better on tasks involving attention, memory, and reaction time.
Another compound in matcha that affects your brain function is caffeine. Caffeine is widely recognized for its positive effect on alertness and brain function, and it can even decrease the risk of diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Though caffeine is found in most teas, matcha includes a higher amount due to its whole leaves—in fact, its caffeine content rivals that of a cup of coffee. Thanks to other compounds in the tea, however, matcha is recognized as providing a more relaxed buzz as compared to coffee, with fewer jitters and less of a come-down when it wears off.
Some of the compounds in matcha tea work as anti-inflammatories, which can help your muscles recover better after exercise. In a recent study, participants who supplemented their diet with green tea extract showed fewer markers of muscle damage after their workouts, meaning their muscles were able to recover more quickly.
Consuming green tea, including matcha, has been shown to have potentially positive effects in preventing and treating a variety of cancers, including colon cancer, stomach cancer, and prostate cancer. This is largely due to green tea's high concentration of polyphenols, which are the compounds that give the tea its unique bitter taste.
Your primary care doctor won't be the only one grateful for your matcha habit—your dentist will be thanking you, too! That's because matcha has been shown to help prevent tooth decay by reducing the growth of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth. The tea also has been associated with a reduction in gum disease and may reduce the risk of oral cancer.
A final oral benefit we can all appreciate? Better breath.
By now, you're sold on the benefits of matcha, and you want to know the best way of preparing it, right? Let's walk through the basics of matcha tea: how to make it, what a matcha latte is, and the best matcha powder.
Matcha comes in a powder form. To turn the powder into a delicious cup of tea, follow these three easy steps.
At this point, your cup of matcha tea is ready to enjoy! As with most teas, you can add a dash of milk, honey, or sugar, or leave it as is for a stronger taste.
While matcha tea is great if you're already a tea drinker, you may want something different if your usual morning brew is a latte or cappuccino. Fortunately, a traditional cup of tea isn't the only way to get your matcha fix.
Think of a matcha latte as a regular latte, except you're substituting brewed matcha tea for the espresso. Once you've brewed your matcha tea using the above steps, you'll combine the hot tea with steamed milk for a creamy, frothy blend. You can also sweeten your matcha latte with honey or sugar as desired.
There are plenty of different matcha powders on the market that can be used for both matcha tea and matcha lattes, but you'll want to keep a few considerations in mind when deciding which one to buy.
Look for powder that is a bright, pure green color. If it looks brown, it means the tea will be less fresh and less flavorful.
The best matcha teas generally come from Japan. Ideally, however, you'll have even more specifics about where the leaves come from, including the region or a specific producer. While these matcha powders may cost a bit more, their quality will be better than ones that give only a generic idea of being from China or Japan.
Finally, look for matcha powders that are designated as a "ceremonial grade." These are the highest grade of matcha available and will provide the smoothest and richest taste.
From short-term brain function to long-term disease reduction, matcha offers a host of health benefits packed in a single cup of tea. Brew your own to take advantage of this super green superfood today!
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