Matcha Tea – Fine Japanese Powder

Picture of Matcha Set

Matcha Tea is green tea’s big brother. Made from the same plant Camellia Sinensis, only the shade-grown leaves are used to produce matcha tea. Before the harvest the tea bushes are covered to avoid sun light for up to several weeks; this turns the leaves a darker shade of green and stimulates amino acid production in the leaves making the resulting tea a bit sweeter. Once picked the leaves are dried, when they crumble the veins and stems are removed and the rest is finely ground into the bright green, fine powder known as matcha.

In recent years, matcha has been recognized by the health and science community as a super-food, due to its anti-oxidant properties. A drink for both the mind and the body, matcha is so much more than your “ordinary” green tea.

Contents:

How To Prepare It
Nutrition Facts
Side Effects
Caffeine Content
Health Benefits
References and Further Reading

How to prepare it

Matcha tea can be prepared in two ways: thick and thin. Before using the powder, let it come to room temperature and sift it using a fine strainer. One teaspoon to 3 ounces of water makes thin matcha, while 4 teaspoons for 3 ounces of water makes it thick. Add the powder into the hot water, just under boiling temperature), then whisk quickly back and forth. You should hold the whisk vertically and not let it touch the bottom of the bowl or cup. Once you see soft foam developing, your cup is ready. The taste is strong and vegetal, and you may adjust it to your taste by adding more powder and repeating the whisking.

Eating something sweet greatly complements the flavor of this exquisite drink. There are a large variety of Japanese tea sweets that will certainly be to your pleasure and impress your quests.

Nutrition Facts

Since the amount of powder used in a cup varies, nutrient values are usually presented per gram of powder.

Matcha, as most teas, is low in calories. One gram of matcha has 3 calories and 35 mg of caffeine. Though low in sodium, matcha has a considerable amount of vitamin C, dietary fiber, iron and potassium. Vitamins A and E are also present.

It has been proven that matcha contains 10, up to 15 times more overall nutrients in comparison to the traditional teas made from the same plant: green, white and black tea. It actually contains more antioxidants than high-antioxidants fruits such as blueberries, making it one of the healthiest drinks there is.

Nutrition Facts – Serving size (1g of matcha)
Total Cathecins 105 mg
EGCG 61 mg
Total Dietary Fiber 332 mg
Potassium 27 mg
Iron 0.17 mg
Carbs 348 mg
Vitamin A 292 units
Vitamin C 0.6 mg
Calories 3 calories

Side Effects

As with green tea, the moderate consumption of matcha (between 3 and 5 cups a day) will not cause any problems or negative effects. Drank in larger amounts, there have been some side effects reported, mostly due to the caffeine content of the tea.

Caffeine-related complaints may include sleep problems, irritability, tremor, dizziness, mild to serious headaches or vomiting and diarrhea. There haven’t been many such cases reported in relation to this type of tea, but you should always take into consideration the fact that even too much of a good thing can be bad for you.

Camellia Sinensis teas have also been linked to poor iron absorption from food, so  if you know you have an iron deficiency, you shouldn’t drink more than two cups of it a day. A low matcha consumption is also recommended if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, since the caffeine reaches the placenta and breast milk and is passed on to the baby. Drinking more than 200 mg of caffeine regularly increases the risk of miscarriages.

If you a known to suffer from the following conditions you should reduce the amount of matcha you drink to a minimum:

  • Anemia  – green tea in general makes anemia worse
  • Anxiety – the caffeine in the tea makes you more anxious and irritable
  • Bleeding disorders – the tea increases blood pressure and speeds up the blood flow in the body; worsening such disorders.
  • Diabetes – the caffeine affects the way your body controls its blood sugar levels, so if you chose to drink matcha regularly and have diabetes, be careful to monitor your blood sugar at regular intervals
  • Diarrhea – is worsened by the caffeine
  • Glaucoma – drinking this type of tea increases the pressure inside the eye
  • Osteoporosis – the tea increases the levels of calcium that is taken out of the body through urine. 2 or 3 cups a day are safe, but don’t drink more than that, and consider taking some calcium supplements to make up for the loss

Be aware that matcha does interact with various types of medications, and in case you are under a special treatment, you should ask for medical advice before starting to drink large amounts tea regularly. This tea should not be combined with stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine or ephedrine, because they stimulate the nervous system, and when combined with coffee it may lead to serious side effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure.

Also avoid large quantities of matcha if you take antibiotics as these influence the rate your body breaks down caffeine and increase the latter’s side effects causing headaches, increased heart rate and other problems. The same goes for birth control pills, estrogens and other medications such as clozapine, fluvoxamine and dipyridamole.

Caffeine content

As almost all side-effects of matcha are caused by its caffeine content, you should be careful how much you drink and how concentrated your tea is. Keep in mind that in moderate amounts, caffeine offers many health benefits, being a mild, natural stimulant present in many plants, fruits and nuts. So prepare your tea a little thinner if you want to reduce the amount of caffeine you take in during a day.

Also be careful about the caffeine in other drinks you may have during a day, as the mg add up:

Drink Caffeine (mg)
Pepsi-Cola (12oz) 38
Matcha tea (8oz) 70
Coca-Cola Classic (12oz) 35
Red Bull (8.4oz) 80
Coffee (Brewed) (8oz) 108
Coffee (Instant) 57

Health Benefits

The health benefits of matcha tea are even greater than that of green tea. One of the main reasons is you ingest the actual leaf, while in green tea you have just the brewed water. You could say that one cup of matcha is ten times one cup of green tea when it comes to its antioxidant content and nutritional value.

  • ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) is a scientific method that measures the antioxidant properties. Matcha has one of the highest levels of ORAC, this means around 1348 units per gram, much more than that found in other Camelia Sinensis infusion teas.

Antioxidants fight against chronic disease and aging effect. Green teas in general are rich in catechins, perhaps the most potent class of antioxidants there is. Because with matcha tea you actually ingest the leaf which has undergone very little processing and no boiling, you take in these all natural antioxidants that fight against the harmful effects of free radicals, such as aging, cancer, HIV and numerous other diseases and disorders.

  • Organic matcha tea is also rich in EGCG a cancer-fighting catechin; in fact 60% of the catechin content in it is EGCG. It helps inhibit the growth of cancer cells and has anti-tumor effects. Studies have indicated that when took daily EGCG lowered the risk of cancer with at-risk individuals.
  • EGCG also suppresses oral pathogens that cause bad breath and tooth decay. It increases the acid resistance of tooth enamel, lowering the risk of cavities. You can get rid of your bad breath if you drink one or two cups on a regular basis.
  • When drank in moderation, matcha increases the production of nitric acid, preventing hypertension and lowering blood pressure.
  • It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has relaxing properties, reducing stress and anxiety. This is why this beverage is also known as a mood enhancer. This natural amino acid will offer you sustained energy for 3 to 6 hours without the nasty side-effects of coffee. It will also increase your concentration and focus.
  • The polyphenols in matcha have been proven to have positive effects on various neurodegenerative conditions, preventing brain cells from dying or repairing damaged neurons.
  • Last, but certainly not least, matcha tea cleanses the body of toxins, as the chlorophyll in it removes chemical toxins and heavy metals from the body.

References and Further Reading

http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-eden-foods-organic-matcha-green-i104385
http://www.matchasource.com/matcha-tea-health-benefits-s/14.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matcha
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/960.html

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