What is matcha?
Also exclusive to matcha is “zenergy!” – the feeling of being calm yet energized and focused at the same time. (I find it really quite amazing!) But where does this zenergy come from? And why is it unique to matcha? It comes from the awesome combination of caffeine AND theanine. Theanine (which is not present in coffee) is only found in very small amounts in most types of tea… except matcha where it is much higher. The reason is because matcha green tea plants are deliberately shaded from direct sunlight for 3 weeks before harvest. (Depicted below courtesy of Encha.com.)
During this shading, the plant grows more theanine. (So cool!) Theanine, which is an amino acid, helps induce a state of wakeful calmness. It works its effect in our body more gradually across a longer span of hours, giving that longer-lasting energy without the jitters or crash typical from coffee. Studies also show theanine is effective at reducing stress and promoting relaxation (without sedation) while improving attention/focus. I’ve definitely noticed all these effects in my own experience – happy and relaxed, but focused and alert throughout the day… amazing!
Matcha Health Benefits
Long ago in ancient civilizations, tea began as a medicine. Only later did it turn into the casual daytime beverage that we enjoy today. But modern studies continually reveal the huge range of health benefits of matcha, and they’re pretty impressive. One study states a single cup of matcha contains 137 times more antioxidants than a cup of brewed tea bag. What’s uniquely special is that matcha contains a certain kind of antioxidant called catechins (of all antioxidants, catechins are the most potent and beneficial). Matcha is especially high in one specific catechin, called EGCG, which is recognized for its cancer fighting properties. To learn more about other health benefits, check the graphic below and Encha’s “Science of Matcha” Health Benefits page.
How To Make Matcha
Preparing ceremonial matcha is quick and easy – just 5 minutes! You’ll need three simple tools shown below: a bowl, bamboo whisk, and measuring scoop (or teaspoon). Since you’ll whisk vigorously to achieve the beautiful froth, it’s best to use a wide and deep enough bowl (if you don’t have a matcha bowl, a soup bowl works great).
Start by measuring 1 teaspoon matcha powder in a bowl. (If you’re using a bamboo scoop, it’s about two scoops.) Heat 5 oz. water (~2/3 cup) just under boiling, around 160-170 degrees, and add it to the bowl. Using a bamboo whisk, stir a few times to make sure all the clumps are off the bottom and side, then whisk very briskly back and forth in a straight line for about 20-30 seconds (trying not to scrape the bottom of the bowl with the delicate bamboo prongs). Then whisk in a zig-zag pattern to calm the waves and create delicate “microfoam”. That’s it – pure frothy bliss! I just rinse my whisk, and set it upright on the counter for next time. For a visual, check out the short video tutorial below:
Whisking pure matcha is my favorite way to enjoy, but I also love lattes, smoothies, and iced matcha (see recipes below for a few ideas). Some people even cook and bake with it. One of the great things about matcha is it’s versatility! You can enjoy it pure, creamy, or sweet – it’s all about finding the best way it fits into your own daily routine.
My personal experience with matcha
Matcha is truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It gives me laser-sharp focus and a happy, positive energy. (Zenergy!) My mind is so much more relaxed – dissolving negative energy and leaving my thoughts clear for positivity and production. Before matcha, I didn’t really drink coffee because it didn’t settle well and almost always caused a crash. I’ve been a long-time fan of regular green and black tea but it doesn’t provide the unique zenergy like matcha. I drink matcha daily in the mornings, and very once in a while enjoy a half serving the early afternoon if I’m needing a boost. It significantly helps with that late day slump, reducing my stress and giving plenty of happy long-lasting energy while I make dinner, clean up, chase a toddler, etc. 😉 I also noticed after a couple months of daily matcha that my skin tone improved and there’s been a general increase in my immunity.
My husband’s experience
(A coffee-fanatic turned matcha lover)
I never thought I’d be able to pry the coffee from my husband’s hands long enough for him to try matcha. But he agreed to do a week-long experiment with me to test the effects. Surprising to us both, he loved it! Now he often whisks matcha in the morning before work, and sometimes again after lunch to give that calm, steady alertness throughout the day. One morning he drank matcha before studying, and said he couldn’t remember the last time he studied that well. (How cool is that?!) He loves how “clean” matcha feels over coffee.
Where do you buy the best matcha?
Finding high-quality organic matcha is very important. (And not all matcha is created equal!) Many companies sell inferior powder, some of which is not even organic. As a result, taste and health benefits lack. Always look for organic matcha that is a bright, vibrant green color. My absolute favorite is Encha Organic Matcha. I can’t express just how much I LOVE this company! They work directly with the farm in Japan for quality assurance to provide us with the best organic matcha – truly “farm to cup”. The Encha team has visibility into the entire process from growing to grinding. I encourage you to check out their farm page, complete with a beautiful video! Encha’s founder, Dr. Li Gong, has a passion for matcha that absolutely radiates, and I really admire his focus on creating a matcha community (check out @MyEncha on instagram!)