April 19, 2016
If you’re not drinking matcha, I don’t know what you’re doing! Although I’ve been aware of the stir and buzz surrounding this magical drink for quite some time, I never took it upon myself to actually adopt matcha as a part of my morning routine. But now that I have, I must admit this is an absolute game changer. Mark my words.
For those of you unfamiliar with matcha (as I was too until about a week ago), it is a finely ground green tea powder, which has been used in Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies dating all the way back to the ninth century. But over the past two years, this powder has become a widespread, mainstream phenomenon to say the least. It may even be more accurate to classify this phenomenon as more of a “green tea cult” that is continuously proliferating. Not only has the drink become super popular to the point that Starbucks is carrying it, but I have also observed an explosion of it being used in all sorts of dishes ranging from pasta, and pancakes, to nearly every dessert imaginable.
So what makes matcha so special? The answer to this question lies in its preparation process, wherein the whole tea leaf is actually consumed. If you think about drinking a regular cup of tea, you steep the leaves in hot water until it reaches your desired strength, then you discard the leaves. With matcha, the health benefits and antioxidants you receive from one cup are far more abundant because you are actually consuming the leaves in their entirety!
What originally sparked my interest of incorporating matcha into my morning routine was my feeling of wanting to break-up with coffee. I absolutely love coffee – I mean who doesn’t!? – but I found as of lately it was making me feel extra jittery for some reason, and if I drank coffee too late in the afternoon, I always experienced difficulty falling asleep at night. I thought it would be beneficial to experiment with replacing coffee with some other type of beverage, and that’s what led me to test out matcha. Plus, I needed to find out firsthand what all this hype was about.
In the past I have tried replacing coffee with loose leaf tea, but I found that it didn’t come close to the ‘kick’ coffee gave me (and let’s face it, that kick is necessary for most of us to help turn us from zombies to humans each and every morning).
Enter matcha. About ten minutes after consumption, I felt a boost of energy, mental clarity, and awareness. It was almost as though I had drunk a large cup of coffee, but without all the negative side effects my body typically associates with such. I was instantly hooked at that moment. I was eager and excited to go to the gym (which is rarely the case), and I felt absolutely fantastic.
Typically I like to do my research ahead of time, before diving into anything new. But when I tried my first cup, I knew virtually nothing about matcha other than the fact it was green, and it made me feel thoroughly invigorated. I decided to go online and learn a little bit more about the green tea powder, and I stumbled upon a very insightful article written by Dr. Sara Soloman, BSc, PT, DMD which I found on thebodybuilding.com. Not only does this article list all of matcha’s magical capabilities such as helping to lower blood-pressure and bad cholesterol, ward off cancer, prevent aging and promote longevity, speed up your metabolism, and a wide range of other positive side effects. But what I found most interesting was Dr. Soloman’s explanation as to why this drink was providing the same energy boost as coffee, but a much better version:
Matcha green tea contains up to 5 times more L-theanine than conventional green tea. L-theanine is an amino acid with psychoactive properties, capable of inducing alpha wave activity in the brain. Stress is known to induce the brain’s beta wave activity, leading to a more agitated state. Alpha wave activity can relieve stress, promote relaxation and even lower blood pressure. Although matcha contains some caffeine, the relaxing properties of L-theanine counterbalance the “jittery” effects of caffeine. Therefore, a cup of matcha green tea promotes concentration and clarity of mind without producing any of the nervous energy typically associated with coffee.
If you’re still skeptical about joining us on the green tea cult side, I highly suggest you do yourself a favour and just try it for yourself. I know it sounds too good to be true, but it really is that amazing. For some of you, it may take a bit of a time to adjust to the taste, and I would suggest the fearful beginners to ease their way into the cult with a matcha latte. That way the taste isn’t as pungent, plus, you can easily do this at home. I often switch between drinking the traditional-styled matcha and matcha lattes (in which I combine hot water with warm vanilla almond milk).
Now the only possible downside I can really point out, is that this stuff definitely does not come cheap. Not only is the powder costly (for 20 grams of Organic Rishi Teahouse Matcha it was about $18 CAD), but you also need a bamboo whisk ($12-21 CAD) to prepare the tea. Although it is not crucial, another cost to consider is the purchase of a special matcha bowl to prepare the tea in. You can opt out of purchasing one, and use a wide, deep bowl instead if you have one at home. I invested in the “The Matcha Essentials” kit from David’s Tea ($40 CAD), which I think was worth the money, but it would likely cut costs if you were to purchase each piece separately.
Stay tuned for many more matcha posts to follow, including my experimentation with using this stuff in cooking and baking…the matcha madness is real! It is definitely safe to say I am now a #matchamaniac, and I hope some of you will be converted after trying it as well!