Matcha Green Tea: The Ultimate Guide
Of the thousands of teas in existence, there’s nothing quite like matcha green tea: that smooth, delicious flavor, the rich texture, and all those wonderful health benefits.
But before you take another sip, take a minute to learn more about this unique beverage, once reserved for only the highest nobility in Japan. At Art of Tea, we're truly passionate about incredible tea – so we're going to break down everything you need to know about matcha green tea. We'll cover the history, culture, health benefits, and preparation of matcha green tea, so you can enjoy this delicacy like never before.
After this guide, you'll never see matcha green tea the same way again. And to welcome you to matcha, we have a gift for you at the end of this post!
The History of Matcha Green Tea
There’s nothing like enjoying that traditional Japanese matcha green tea…
...or is it really Japanese?
The origins of this unique tea can actually be traced back to China during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 C.E.). During this time, Zen Buddhists started making a powdered tea from a shade-grown green tea called ”Gyokuro.” After steaming and drying the tea, they plucked the leaves — called “tencha” — and ground them into a powder called “matcha” (抹茶).
It wasn't until 1191 that a Zen monk named Eisai went to Japan and introduced matcha. Matcha slowly lost its popularity in China over the following centuries, but the Japanese embraced it and made it an important part of rituals in Zen monasteries. As they integrated matcha into their own culture, the Japanese continued to change and perfect their own unique process of creating matcha.
That said, matcha was extremely difficult to produce, so only the shogun and the high nobility could drink it. But in 1738, Sohen Nagatani invented the Uji method to make matcha green tea, a far more efficient process that's still in use today. After the invention of the Uji method, matcha green tea saw wider adoption across Japanese culture.
The Traditions and Culture of Matcha Green Tea
In addition to a long and rich history, matcha boasts a vibrant set of traditions, rituals, and cultures.
The Chinese Zen Buddhists who first created matcha could sense the benefits of the tea. They believed that drinking it brought them clarity, mental focus, and calm, and it became an integral part of their meditation. In Japan, Samurai warriors also sensed the power of the tea, drinking matcha before a fight to improve energy and focus. And all of this makes sense: modern studies have shed light on the chemical properties that give matcha its unique ability to raise energy levels without generating anxiety.
In addition to traditional applications, matcha also has a unique set of rituals attached to its preparation. Traditionally, matcha is brewed and presented in a performance-based tea ceremony called chanoyu (茶の湯). To an outsider, the process seems simple – but it's incredibly precise and detailed. It takes nearly ten years for a master to learn the matcha tea ceremony perfectly.
Every movement of the ceremony is prescribed and choreographed down to the most minute detail, all with a strong focus on spirituality, serenity, and silence. It’s about complete focus in the present and being immersed in every single motion – a perfect embodiment of the Zen Buddhist tradition from which matcha came.
The traditional Japanese tea ceremony rests on four core principles: harmony (和), respect (敬), purity (清), and tranquility (寂). And with such a flavorful taste and luxurious texture, the matcha green tea powder deepens the calming and meditative aspects of the ritual, providing a perfect accompaniment to Zen Buddhist practice.
Well, what about you?
In our fast-paced modern world, having your own tea ceremony with an invigorating cup of matcha green tea could be the perfect way to step out from the craziness of the world to enjoy some “me time” and relaxation.
How Matcha Tea Is Made
Even in today's industrial agricultural economy, the ancient traditions of matcha still guide the unique process by which it is made.
The first step is growing tea. The Sencha green tea trees are grown in shade, just as they were by Chinese Zen Buddhists 1000 years ago, for 20 days. Growing them in the shade slows the growth of the leaves, darkening them by increasing their chlorophyll content and producing amino acids. It's this process, and the unique biochemical makeup it produces, that gives matcha green tea its incredible health benefits.
They help produce and enhance matcha green tea’s incredible health benefits.
Once sufficiently grown, only the finest tea buds are picked by hand and steamed, using a traditional Japanese method of processing tea leaves. These leaves, known as Tencha, are placed in a rotating drum filled with ceramic-coated magnets. The magnets bounce rapidly through the drum and strike each other, finely grinding the tencha leaves without damaging their chemical composition.
This grinding process produces a fine, powdered tea: culinary Matcha green tea, or Grade A Matcha.
The Health Benefits of Matcha Green Tea
One of matcha's most distinctive characteristics is its unique, powerful health benefits. From oral health to weight loss, matcha green tea has been associated with a range of positive health effects throughout the body.
These benefits arise from the fact that matcha uses whole leaves ground into a fine powder, producing a higher concentration of polyphenols, flavonoids, catechins, and amino acids – phytonutrients that improve a host of bodily functions – than regular green tea.Shop Matcha
So what, exactly, are the health benefits associated with matcha green tea? It's a long list, but research suggests matcha may have eight primary health benefits:
- Anti-cancer properties
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Weight loss
- Oral & dental health
- Cognitive enhancement
- Stress relief
- Arthritis relief
- Increased exercise endurance
1. Matcha green tea might have the potential to fight and prevent cancer.
Green tea contains catechins, a powerful class of antioxidants. The most powerful catechin found in green tea is EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), and several studies suggest it has many benefits:
- In a 2012 study from the University of Chicago, researchers found that the EGCG in green tea could have anticancer benefits.
- A review in the 2014 World Journal of Clinical Oncology suggested that green tea extract could potentially help with breast cancer. Canadian scientists also found similar benefits against breast cancer from their own meta-analysis.
- Scientists from LSU found that a brief treatment with EGCG could significantly reduce serum markers such as PSA, VGF and VEGF that predict the progression of prostate cancer.
- In 2012, Taiwanese researchers even found that drinking at least one cup of green tea per day was associated with a decreased risk of lung cancer in smokers.
- Researchers from the University of Colorado found that the concentration of EGCG available from drinking matcha “is 137 times greater than the amount of EGCG available from China Green Tips green tea” (which is the green tea sold at Starbucks) – which shows that not all tea is created equal.
- Researchers from the United Kingdom even found that the EGCG in green tea may potentially have an anti-HIV effect.
2. Matcha tea could reduce the risk of heart disease.
Multiple studies have suggested matcha may have a positive effect on cardiovascular health, helping to lower the risk of heart disease:
- Spanish researchers reviewed a variety of studies and associated green tea and its flavonoid, catechin, with a decrease in cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, a reduction in platelet aggregation, and lower blood pressure.
- Research from the Harvard Medical School found that the antioxidants in green tea can possibly help block the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol and improving artery function.
- In a prospective 6-year study of 14,001 Japanese elderly people in the Annals of Epidemiology, researchers found that green tea consumption was associated with a significantly reduced mortality from cardiovascular disease.
3. Matcha may help you lose weight.
Green tea, and matcha, in particular, have long been hailed as a weight-loss supplement. Research supports this conclusion:
- Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a green tea extract significantly increased the energy expenditure (the body’s ability to burn calories) and fat oxidation in humans. German researchers also found that the EGCG in green tea increased fat oxidation and helped to lower body fat and BMI.
- A 12-week study also found that a group that took green tea extract (which is high in catechins) lost significantly more weight, fat mass, and waist circumference than a control group that drank a tea low in catechins.
4. Green tea could promote healthy teeth and gums.
Catechin – the same antioxidant responsible for matcha's anti-cancer properties – may also promote oral health. A 2009 study by the American Academy of Periodontology suggests that catechin could reduce periodontal disease and improve oral health.
5. Matcha can improve cognitive function and provide a mental boost.
Matcha is rich in L-Theanine, an amino acid that may be associated with relaxation and alertness in brain function. Multiple studies have born out this association:
- Dutch researchers suggested that the L-Theanine in green tea increases alpha activity in the brain, which could enhance mental alertness and attention. As an extra benefit, L-Theanine could improve memory and learn as a cognitive enhancing agent.
- A 2011 study suggested that the EGCG in green tea (as well as other flavonoids) could play a role in reducing a certain aspect of Alzheimer’s disease.
6. Matcha can help you fight stress.
L-Theanine may also have a positive effect on stress reduction:
- In 2007, Japanese researchers found that the L-Theanine in green tea leaves was associated with a reduction in physiological and psychological stress responses in the sympathetic nervous system.
- In 1999, researchers also showed that the same amino acid in green tea may significantly relax the mind without inducing drowsiness.
7. Matcha may also help relieve arthritis.
A study from the University of Toledo in 2013 suggested that the ECGC in matcha green tea could help against the inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis.
8. Matcha may improve your fitness and exercise.
In a ten-week study, Japanese researchers found that supplementing with green tea extract boosted exercise endurance by 8% – 24% by increasing the body’s use of fat as an energy source.
Matcha isn't a panacea, but a wide base of research suggests that it may have a positive effect on a number of health aspects all over the body. It's important to note that many of these studies caution that the evidence only demonstrates a correlation and doesn't prove a direct causal relationship, and also that more research is needed to make a stronger conclusion – but combined with the wisdom of the ancients, the data make a convincing case for the health benefits of matcha.Shop Matcha
Now, we’re not saying that matcha green tea is a miracle drink that will cure everything — not at all! But we want to share the research publically available on the benefits associated with elements within matcha green tea so you can get the education you deserve. Interesting stuff!
Many of these studies, however, caution that more research is needed to make a strong conclusion so who knows what the next few years of science could discover!
How to Make Matcha Tea
Thankfully, the millennia of wisdom, traditions, and benefits that surround matcha green tea isn't lost to history. Even in our fast-paced modern world, you can connect to this long tradition by performing your own tea ceremony with an invigorating cup of matcha green tea.
Here's what you'll need to perform your own matcha green tea ceremony:
- Tea bowl (茶碗, chawan)
- Tea whisk (茶筅, chasen)
- Tea spoon (茶杓, chashaku)
- Tea cloth (茶巾, chakin)
- Tea caddy (棗, natsume)
How to Perfectly Prepare Matcha Green Tea
Ready to experience matcha for yourself? Follow these steps to unleash the sensational flavor, texture, and health benefits of matcha green tea.
Start with the highest quality matcha green tea – our Grade A matcha or ceremonial grade matcha tea are both excellent choices. Our matcha green teas are certified organic with leaves hand-picked from the highest-quality farms in the world.
That’s why, once you open the jar, you are serenaded with the tea’s lovely and calming aroma. As you begin to whisk it into your bowl, the powder easily whips up into the trademark texture and creaminess of matcha tea.
- Preheat the tea bowl with boiling water to awaken the cells, aromas, and flavors currently in the bowl and moisten the tea whisk.
- Pour out the water and dry the bowl with a clean cloth or chain.
- Scoop 2 grams (1/4 teaspoon per 6-8oz of water) of matcha green tea and add approximately one teacup of hot water.
- Hold the bowl firmly with one hand and whisk from left to right to form frothy bubbles. Whisk the Matcha well and break up any small lumps with the tip of your whisk. This assures the most optimal flavor and a smooth and creamy texture.
- Hold the whisk in the middle of the foam and allow the liquid inside the whisk to draw off, then gently remove.
With your matcha prepared correctly, feel a wave of calm flow through your body as you take the first sip. Enjoy that bright, clean, and uplifting flavor with just a hint of the natural sweetness that only comes from high-quality matcha.
And that’s it! You’ll have a delicious cup of matcha ready to enjoy and a wonderful, relaxing ritual to give you some peace of mind (and a yummy health boost) in your day!
Matcha Green Tea at Art of Tea
Now you're a certified expert on matcha green tea – and if you'd like to experience this magnificent tea for yourself, Art of Tea provides everything you need. To make the process as easy as possible, we've combined all of the tools you need for the matcha green tea ceremony into a complete At Home Matcha Kit. We hope you enjoy the unique experience, taste, and health benefits that well-prepared matcha green tea can bring to your life!
Feel a wave of calm flow through your body as you take that first sip. And enjoy that bright, clean, and uplifting flavor with just a hint of that natural sweetness, which only comes from high-quality matcha.Shop Matcha
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