[Matcha Benefits] 3 Unique Matcha Benefits Zen Monks Love + How to Make Matcha Latte
What do Brooklyn hipster couples, Zen Buddhist Monks and Samurai Warriors have in common? No, not the beard (monks shave!). The yoga mat? That, too. The answer: their favorite drink, matcha green tea.
In the 13th century, the first Zen Monks in pre-modern Japan taught warriors of the Samurai order the art of brewing matcha to achieve focus of mind.
Eight centuries later, the astonishing benefits of matcha have not lost any of their attraction or timeliness – for good reason.
In this guide we cover the most versatile, nutrient-packed and powerful of all Japanese green teas: matcha and its unparalleled superdrink benefits.
Plus, we include a bonus how-to guide on how to make matcha latte, with monkish grace, yet easy to replicate even for matcha newbies.
12th century monks understood what science was only to confirm centuries later: the paradoxical potency of matcha as a "calming stimulant".
Perfectly suited to their long meditations, the matcha benefit Zen Buddhists appreciated most was the state of mental alertness matcha induces.
Matcha only contains about one third of coffee’s caffeine. Yet, thanks to its potent secret ingredient – the amino acid L-theanine – matcha is able to stimulate your brain in rather unique ways, naturally inducing anti-anxiety and euphoric effects in the process.
It wasn't until the 13th century that the Samurai Warriors discovered matcha for themselves. Guided by a rigorous code of conduct, the Samurai incorporated their elaborate ritual of brewing and drinking matcha tea (called "wabi") into their preparations for battle.
The Samurai drew on matcha's physically energizing properties for the body and the aforementioned focus and alertness for the mind.
Over the course of centuries, the Samurai wabi ritual gave birth to the intricate matcha tea ceremonies that remain to this day a graceful and meditative tradition, even in modern-day Japan.
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What is Matcha?
Made from the naturally dried, unoxidized leaves of the Camellia sinensis bush, matcha stands out from other green, oolong and white teas because of its minimal processing (using no heat throughout the process) and the resulting unique polyphenol and antioxidant contents.
First among equals, matcha outperforms some of the absolute best superfoods, boasting 13x the antioxidants of pomegranates, 15x the antioxidants of blueberries and 125x the antioxidants of spinach.
Antioxidants are natural compounds that inhibit oxidization processes, thus protecting your cells from oxidative damage caused by environmental toxins and free radicals which, if left unchecked, can cause inflammation and degenerative diseases, including cancer.
Another property that sets matcha apart is that when drinking matcha unlike with other green teas whose leaves are only steeped in hot water, you actually consume entire green tea leaves in the form of a highly refined, ground up matcha powder.
The consumption of the entire green tea leaf explains also why drinking matcha affords you 10x more nutrients (!) than drinking regular green tea. These matcha benefits make it easily one of the healthiest teas on the planet.
Matcha Benefit #1: Mental Focus and Increased Productivity
Matcha is a brain superfood. A study conducted by the University Hospital of Basel, Switzerland found that people who consumed green tea extract on a regular basis showed higher working memory functionality.
Another reason why matcha green tea increasingly finds its way into hipster coffee shops, shared workspaces and start-up lofts is that it provides just the right amount of focus and relaxation needed for intellectual and creative work.
Matcha tea's moderate levels of caffeine release stimulating effects, including the firing of neurons and the concentration of positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine, while the amino acid L-theanine stimulates calm-clarity-inducing alpha waves in your brain.
Combining L-theanine and caffeine, matcha green tea puts your mind in its best possible state: stimulated, but not jittery, productive, but not anxious.
Matcha Benefit #2: Clear and Youthful Skin
Matcha is a skincare tea as well. It owes its healthy, silky green color to being densely packed with chlorophyll. Yep, that's right, the plant compound you may remember learning about in high school.
In the chemical process of photosynthesis, chlorophyll allows plants to produce energy from sunlight. However, matcha tea leaves are grown in the shade for three weeks.
What is counter-intuitive about matcha is that it turns a life-threatening disadvantage (not getting enough sunlight during its growth process) into a comparative advantage over other tea plants by producing unusual amounts of chlorophyll to still produce energy even with nearly no light.
Chlorophyll provides many positive skin care benefits such as shielding your skin from the damaging effects of UV exposure, boasting anti-aging effects and preventing wrinkle formation and sun spots.
More than that, matcha is an acne tea that can help tremendously with oily, acne-prone skin. Acne is a skin condition that occurs when the pores in your skin become clogged by dead skin, bacteria or oil.
Clogged pores can lead to inflammations and acne breakouts. Matcha contains tannins which shrink the size of your pores, lowering the amount of oil your pores can produce in the process.
Finally, matcha is also a great addition to your personal skin care routine because it contains high amounts of phenols which stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, two proteins responsible for adding volume to your skin, supporting skin structure and making your skin look firm, springy and youthful.
If you are looking for a comprehensive and holistic skin care diet and drink plan (including matcha, of course), take our 7-day skin glow challenge and start tackling your skin problems with 100% natural solutions.
Matcha Benefit #3: Weight Loss
Natural, unsweetened matcha tea is a zero-calorie beverage and perfect for your weight loss efforts. Beyond that, matcha also qualifies as an excellent weight loss drink because of its modest caffeine and high water content which both promote satiety.
In other words, matcha reduces your appetite and supports you in your efforts to lose and manage weight. Suppressing your appetite is a very valuable matcha benefit, anyone on a weight loss journey will hugely appreciate.
Thanks to its powerful catechins, matcha however takes weight loss to another level.
Matcha uses body fat as a fuel and actively burns that fat. A study found that 690mg of catechins consumed every day over a 12-week period increased participants' ability to burn fat as fuel and improve muscle endurance.
Several other studies concur that reducing body fat, especially in the abdominal area (yes to flat bellies!), ranks high matcha benefits.
Matcha Trivia: When Buying Matcha Tea Powder, How Do You Distinguish High- from Low-Grade Matcha?
When selecting your matcha tea powder, you should know that premium matcha is made of only the youngest, most chlorophyll-dense leaves on the tea stem.
Premium matcha tends to be pine tree green (as matcha experts in Japan call the dark bluish tone) while lower-grade matcha tea resembles more the light green color of a bamboo tree.
High-grade matcha will also offer you an opportunity to experience the enigmatic, much-discussed 5th flavor (after sweet, sour, salty and bitter) called umami. Quality matcha’s sweet-savory earthiness is the epitome of umami, as Japanese tea connoisseurs claim.
How to Make Matcha Latte?
Ingredients (for 1 serving):
1/2 teaspoon high-grade, organic matcha green tea powder
6 ounces of hot water (the water should be hot, but not boiling. For a mellow sweet matcha note 60°C is ideal, for a stronger, slightly more bitter caffeine note 85-90 °C is perfect.)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or any milk you like for that purpose)
1/4 teaspoon raw honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated cinnamon
Heat a kettle with fresh, filtered water to just short of boiling. Warm up the matcha bowl by pouring the hot water into it. Let it sit for 30 seconds, then pour it out again and dry the bowl.
Add 1 teaspoon of matcha powder to your bowl, preferably through a sifter to avoid clumps, then add about 2 ounces of hot water. Now, depending on how high you heat your water, the flavor profile of your matcha will be different as the key matcha tea components theanine and caffeine come to the fore at different temperatures.
To harness the mellow sweetness of matcha's theanine, prefer water that is about 60°C hot. For a mildly bitter caffeine taste, heat your water to 85-90°C.
Whisk for 1-2 minutes until your matcha has no more clumps and looks deliciously frothy, then add another 3-4 ounces of water and whisk again.
Warm 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk with 1/4 teaspoon of raw honey. We try to err on the side of less sweetness not to offset the health benefits of matcha tea by making it too sugary as the matcha lattes they serve in chain coffee shops).
Now, whisk the milk resolutely until it becomes a little frothy. Then pour it into your matcha bowl. Sprinkle with a pinch of freshly ground cinnamon. Serve right away.
Simple Healthy Habits Around Matcha
Keep in mind, there is nothing difficult (really nothing!) about making matcha latte.
If you want to go slightly less elaborate than the 6 steps suggested above, take out step 1, do not worry about your water temperature in step 2 and 3 (so long as your water is hot and not boiling), and skip the nice-to-have cinnamon sprinkles (they add a fun spicy flavor and look cute, but are not absolutely necessary).
Remember, it is more important to create a healthy habit around incorporating healthy matcha tea into your regular diet in order to reap all the matcha benefits outlined above rather than religiously follow all the steps and drop the entire habit because it seems complicated.
Enjoy your first homemade matcha latte, and many more to come! And yes, if you do it right, it is normal to feel a little like a Zen Monk for once ;)