In case you hadn't noticed, we have a bit of a 'Zen' theme going on this month. So on that note, we'd thought we'd introduce one of our favourite beverages; Matcha tea.
The story behind it
Matcha comes from Japan where it has been drunk as a ceremonial beverage by Buddhist monks and royalty for over 900 years.
Introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks who had travelled to China in the 700's, tea was for many years a luxury item only consumed by those who could afford it; the aristocracy and ruling samurai elite.
In 1191 the cultivation and consumption of tea became more widespread after a Japanese Buddhist priest, Eisai returned to Japan after travelling to China to study Zen Buddhist meditation.
He proclaimed that Matcha meaning 'fine powder tea', played a crucial role in Zen meditation as it helped keep tiredness at bay. He went on to write a book Kissa Yōjōki (in English, Drinking Tea for Health) highlighting the health benefits of Matcha tea.
Eisai was more focused on the medicinal aspects than anything else, believing it was a cure for many ailments.
What makes Matcha so special
The leaves are grown under the shade for two weeks before picking. This increases the volume of healing chlorophyll as well as the L-Theanine, amino acids and polyphenols such as ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate).
Much of the scientific research into the antioxidant properties of green tea are focused on how EGCG works within the human body.
One cup of Matcha has one hundred more times the antioxidants compared to green tea. Gramme for gramme it contains about 15 times more antioxidants than pomegranates and 100 times more than spinach!
The rare amino acid L-Theanine helps to nourish neurotransmitters in the brain, which have a positive influence on our mood and sense of inner peace.
A Japanese study in 1992 found that L-Theanine can help improve learning performance and promote concentration as well as support the immune system.
calming & energising
Paradoxically, Matcha helps to both calm and energise. Matcha contains the natural stimulant, caffeine which combined with L-Theanine gives off a slow release of energy that lasts throughout the day. Matcha drinkers report they feel alert, calm and focused for many hours.
Japanese students drink copious amounts of this amazing green stuff when they're cramming for their exams. It also explains why Buddhist Monks drink it to keep them calm and focused during hours of meditation.
A study at the University of Alabama found that the polyphenols found in green tea can inhibit UV-radiation-induced skin damage and protect your skin from free radicals and premature ageing.
Similar studies have shown that consuming polyphenol-containing beverages results in greater blood flow and oxygen to the skin and improvements in overall skin quality.
Bye-bye body fat
Matcha helps to burn body fat through a process known as thermogenesis (that is, the rate it burns calories). By enhancing the metabolic process, Matcha helps to burn fat four times faster than the usual metabolism and halt the growth of fat cells.
Because Matcha is a powder, it's incredibly versatile. You can drink it straight, as a hot tea or add it to fruit juices, smoothies and lattes. In Japan, Matcha is used to flavour popcorn, ice cream, cakes and biscuits! (Note: Green tea ice cream is THE best. If you haven't tried it, you need to). 🍦😛
For this months beverage of choice, we have opted for a cocktail; the MATCHARITA (well it is summer after all!).
This twist on (yes you guessed it..) the Margarita, adds a touch of Zen to the cocktail ceremony. It was created by bartender Ago Perrone (of the Connaught Bar, Mayfair, London) and mixologist Tom Sandham.
If you prefer a non-alcoholic option, we have the 'Green Matcha Zen' for a clean, refreshing tea.
To get the recipes, tootle on over to our recipe section. 👇
On a final note, it is important to ensure your Matcha (and any other tea you drink for that matter) is organic. Conventionally grown tea has had numerous reports of its pervasive contamination with pesticides and herbicides. This has recently been highlighted by a report by Greenpeace India ‘Trouble brewing: Pesticide residues in tea samples from India.’