You may have heard of it. You may have tried it. But are you familiar with the many wellness aspects of the ancient Japanese powdered green tea?
Matcha is a whole-leaf derivative. Although it comes from the same plants as the ubiquitous green tea, rather than creating a drink by steeping the leaves, matcha powder is made by grinding the entire leaf. This releases a full range of ingredients only available in part with the steeping method.
Related: Pure Origin delivers coffee with environmental purpose
There are countless studies on the benefits of green tea. Inasmuch, it’s well regarded as a health and wellness product. Although research is ongoing for any differences between green tea and matcha, nutritionists embrace the product for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant components.
According to the National Library of Medicine, matcha delivers an array of wellness benefits. It’s regarded as one of the best antioxidants you can consume. With regular ingestion, it’s said to lower blood glucose, boost the immune system response to illness, clear the mind to improve concentration, improve energy and reduce overall inflammation.
The main bioactive component in green tea is known as EGCG, or epigallocatechin gallate. This antioxidant has been associated with supporting heart and lung function. It’s even been credited with reduced rates of colorectal and other cancers.
Furthermore, matcha contains high amounts of caffeine, which is the reason it makes a great substitute if you’re moving away from coffee. However, the caffeine enters and leaves the body in a slow release, meaning you won’t get the jittery high or the post-consumption crash. In fact, matcha is also recognized for its calming effects, making it a useful tool in the battle against anxiety.
Matcha is also a beauty aid. Regular consumption has been associated with reduced skin problems such as acne and wrinkles. Shade-grown matcha contains higher than average amounts of chlorophyll, which also provides a natural detoxifier of heavy metals and other toxins in the body.
How matcha is used
Matcha comes as a powder ready to mix into a hot tea. The traditional method is to sift a teaspoon of matcha powder into a bowl or oversized cup and add a small amount of hot, but not quite boiling, water. Use a matcha whisk to make the mixture frothy with a brisk back and forth motion (not quite the same as the circular whisking motion). Once you’ve created the foam, top it with more hot water or turn it into a latte with the addition of steamed milk. You can sweeten matcha if desired. If you don’t want to sip it in hot form, you can add it to smoothies, yogurt, or stir fried foods, among others.
While popular in Japan for generations, matcha is more recently flooding the market in the United States. When deciding on a brand, look for a ceremonial grade rather than a culinary one and select an unsweetened product.
Bawsy Blends is a Latina female led company based in Los Angeles, CA. Its matcha is sourced from a single source in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, meaning it’s not blended with lower quality tea leaves. Bawsy Blends matcha is USDA certified organic and is ceremonial grade.
Other companies incorporate matcha into products for flavor and wellness attributes. Nutr Blends is one such company. Seen on Shark Tank, Nutr developed a machine that turns any nut into a plant-based milk in minutes. The company has subsequently released wellness powders to flavor those milks and offer a fortified punch. The recent launch includes Matcha Clarity among the five flavor options.
Beauty companies are also tapping into the restorative qualities of matcha. Look for clean labels for antioxidant creams, cleansers, masks, toners and even makeup wipes.
Matcha and the environment
Like all crops, there’s the potential for environmental impact in the growth and harvest of matcha. However, it has a lot going for it as a fast-growing, stable plant. Matcha is primarily grown in two regions of Japan that perfectly suit its needs. Laws pertaining to pesticides are strictly enforced. The location and the methods used mean there is little need for any non-organic additives. This is good for the environment and results in little water and air pollution.
However, during the essential shade phase, many farmers use non-organic fertilizers for the best results. You might find it more difficult to find organic Japanese matcha for this reason. Most organic matcha is manufactured for export. Within Japan, it appears to be less of a priority because of the already strict growing standards.
When the plants are ready for harvest, they are commonly hand-picked. The leaves are then steamed, dried and deveined at which point the product is known as tencha. The tencha is then ground into powder with either a mortar and pestle or a more modern powdering machine. Matcha is mainly grown on very small farms, but the use of machines is becoming more common.
Lead image via Pexels