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Archive for the ‘Matcha Tea’ Category

Loose Leaf Tea

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on August 9, 2010

Loose Leaf Tea

There are many varieties of tea available today.  English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Green Tea, and Flavoured Tea are all names that we recognize.  The most important thing to remember about all of these teas, is that they all come from the same plant, the camellia sinsensis. The taste difference in the various teas comes from the way in which tea leaves are processed.  The longer the leaves are processed, or oxidized, the darker the tea will be. 

White tea is the least oxidized of all tea varieties.  This gives white tea its very light, sweet, taste.  Green tea is oxidized slightly more than white, and as such will have a deeper colour and offer a stronger more vegetal taste than white tea.  There is much variety even within each kind of tea.   For instance, a green tea may be weak or strong, sweet or pungent, flowery or vegetal, all depending on the method that is used to oxidize the leaf as well as the length of time it was oxidized. 

The hierarchy of light to dark teas looks like this: White, Green, Oolong, Black.  Along with the teas from the  bush, we have also developed other teas from many plants that we have steeped in hot water over the years.  Herbal teas would fit into this category.  Chamomile is a great example of this and is recognized by most as a tea. 

Rooibos is a leaf from an African Red Bush.  It offers a somewhat spicy flavor to many teas and is the base in the most popular chai drink we all enjoy.  Chai simply means tea. 

As you can see, tea comes from many different regions of the world. 

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Posted in Black Tea, Green Teas, Matcha Tea, Oolong Tea, Types of Teas, White Tea | Leave a Comment »

Matcha Tea: Cancer Prevention

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Again, antioxidants are found in many foods including fruits and vegetables – however, not all antioxidants are created equal.

The class of antioxidants known as catechins are only found in green tea, and they are easily among the most potent. Of the catechins themselves, EGCg (epicgallocatechin gallate) is the catechin with broadest and most potent cancer-fighting properties – numerous studies have shown that it’s free radical neutralizing power is able to help prevent various types of cancer, including pancreatic, stomach, kidney, and liver cancers.

Sixty percent of the catechin content of matcha tea is EGCg – overall, one gram of matcha contains 105 mg of total catechin content, roughly 61% of which is EGCg!

Energy, Relaxation, and Focus:

Much like coffee, matcha can give you an energy boost – that is, without any jittery side effects. However, unlike caffeine from coffee, matcha contains a mild stimulant known as theophylline – unlike the caffeine found in coffee, drinking matcha releases smaller dosages of theophylline over a much longer period of time. Actually, this slower release is caused by matcha containing an abundance of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals – this slows the absorption of theophylline into the blood stream, allowing for a continual release of energy over a period of 3 to 6 hours.

Moreover, the amino acids called theanines found in matcha are found virtually exclusive to green tea. Interestingly, research now suggests that the consumption of theanines may help to produce more alpha waves in the brain – briefly, alpha waves are the same brain waves that are created when you have a massage or relax in a hot bath. Overall, theanines trigger the brain to feel more relaxed and to reduce the feeling of stress.

Finally, many people comment on matcha’s ability to help provide sustained focus and feelings of lucidness – intriguingly, the Buddhist monks were the first to harness the power of matcha for this reason. For example, Buddhist monks often meditate for 3 to 6 hours at a time – after drinking matcha, the mild stimulation from theophylline keeps them awake and alert, while the theanines allowed the monks to focus, relax and concentrate on their training.

Detoxifying Agent

Over many years, numerous scientific studies have shown that chlorophyll, the pigment which gives leaves their green color, helps to remove poisonous heavy metals and various chemical toxins from the body.

Again, unlike tea leaves which are infused then discarded, and matcha powdered tea is fully ingested when consumed – since matcha is shade grown, a process which greatly increases the chlorophyll content in the leaves, matcha is an extremely chlorophyll-rich food.

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Antioxidants and the ORAC Tests

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 7, 2009

Briefly, ORAC, short for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, is a testing method developed by the U.S.D.A. and Tufts University to quantitatively measure the potency of antioxidants found in foods and beverages – generally speaking, foods that score high in the ORAC antioxidant assay may protect cells and their components from damage by oxygen radicals. Free radicals are nasty chemicals and metabolic by-products that go around wreaking havoc on your body by damaging DNA, structural proteins (e.g. muscle, skin), bones, and they can even accelerating aging! Antioxidants can ‘scavenge’ the free-radicals and render them harmless – that is, they neutralize them.

Recently, an ORAC test was conducted by Brunswick Laboratories on ‘muzi’ matcha green tea, and the results demonstrated that the antioxidant complement of matcha tea is exponentially greater than all hitherto known foods and beverages – staggeringly, ‘muzi’ matcha tea scored a whopping 1348 ORAC units per gram, and thus surpassed all antioxidant rich foods identified by the USDA by a magnitude of greater than 20! Again, when compared to other premium green teas, matcha contains approximately 10 to 15 times the antioxidants per serving.

Moreover, matcha contains a host of unique antioxidants – for example, EGCg, or epigallocatechin gallate, is a unique set of polyphenols that help to scavenge free radicals from the body, and they are currently the center of attention by many biochemical researchers and epidemiologists. In fact, a recent study conducted at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs suggested that matcha green tea contained over 137 times the EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate) levels of popular tea bag green teas. Furthermore, matcha contains polyphenols EGC (epigallo catechins), ECG (epicatechin gallate), and EC (epicatechins) all of which have a significantly stronger antioxidant effect than EGCg alone when working in synergy.

Now that you’ve learned about the extensive array of potent antioxidants found in matcha tea, and here’s a list of all the wonderful things antioxidants do for your body:

– Helps inhibit growth of cancer cells
– Reduce high blood pressure.
– Protection against getting a stroke.
– Improved blood flow to the heart.
– Reduce cholesterol.
– Helps inhibit the formation of blood clots in artery walls.
– Maintains even blood sugar levels.
– Lowers the risk for osteoporosis.
– Enhances immune function and helps fight infections.
– Inhibits the growth of bacteria that can cause gum disease, cavities, and bad breath.

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Health Benefits of Matcha

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Put bluntly, the health benefits of Matcha are extensive – by and large, Matcha is disproportionately healthier than all teas, including regular green teas. Intriguingly, the amazing health benefits of matcha are derived by the virtue of how it is consumed; unlike steeped teas, where the nutrients are dissolved into the water and then the leaves are removed, drinking matcha tea requires that one consumes the ground leaves whole. Overall, when it comes to steeped teas, only between 5% and 15% of its original dry weight in nutrients is consumed – however, when drinking matcha tea, one consumes 100% of it.

tea cupsOne cup of matcha tea is the equivalent of 10 to 15 cups of green tea in terms of both its nutritional value and antioxidant content (depending on quality). I’m sure that you’re familiar with the antioxidant properties of many different foods, including orange juice – however, by comparison, matcha contains approximately 70 times the antioxidants found in orange juice!

In addition to being loaded with antioxidants, matcha tea is also extremely nutritious – it contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and a host of other minerals. As for vitamins, the matcha contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Vitamin U (S-Methylmethionine), Vitamin P (Bioflavonoids) as well as others like thiamine (Vitamin B1) and folate (Vitamin B9).

I’m sure you’ve at least heard about the amazing health benefits of green tea – this includes its apparent ability to mitigate some symptoms of cancer, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and the role of its antioxidants in preventative medicine. However, the vast majority of these studies are predicated on subjects consuming between 5 to 10 cups of fresh green tea a day! For most North Americans, this amount is unfeasible to achieve at best – on the other hand, given that one cup of matcha equals roughly between 10 to 15 cups of regular green tea, this condition is satisfied in one cup!

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Matcha Preparation

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

japan tea gardenIn general, there are two ways to prepare matcha:

  1. Usucha (‘thin tea’): is prepared with half a teaspoon of matcha and about 2.5 oz of fresh hot water which can be whisked for frothiness. Usucha is lighter and slightly more bitter.
  2. Koicha (‘thick tea’): requires as many as 6 teaspoons of matcha powder and 3/4 cup water. Koicha requires a slower stirring motion which does not produce the foam. Koicha is a sweeter tea.

To prepare a standard serving of matcha, put two tea scoops (approx. 1.25g to 2g) or ½ a level teaspoon of matcha tea into a bowl – afterwards, take between 1 to 6 oz of hot water (depending on preference) that was once boiled and now cooled to 80 oC, and pour it into the bowl. Now, take a bamboo whisk and gently whisk the tea until a fine froth develops on the surface.

For those that do not have access to a bamboo whisk, the process is a bit more involved; you must add a droplet of water into the bowl with the tea to make a thick paste first, and then slowly add water while stirring to eventually dilute the tea to one’s preference.

Overall, determine the sweetness and general flavour of the matcha will depend on when the leaves are harvested – generally, matcha that was harvested later in the year will have less flavour and sweetness as opposed to matcha harvested earlier in the year (which is considered the highest grade).

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Production of Matcha

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Traditionally, matcha tea is made with only the highest quality Japanese green tea leaves available in the market – however, there are different grades of green tea, and the highest is known as ‘gyokuro’.

About 4 weeks before the harvest, the entire tea plantation is covered with bamboo to allow for shading – essentially, this causes the tea plants’ physiology to recognize that there is not enough light to continue the process of photosynthesis. As a result, the tea plant takes natural countermeasures – namely, the base of the plant begins to synthesize much greater concentrations of chlorophyll and deposits them in the leaves. Indeed, this physiological response is to help absorb and convert into energy the little light that comes through the shading. Of course, this is all part of the tea farmer’s strategy – by taking advantage of this natural mechanism, the tea farmers immediately harvest these now highly chlorophyll-rich tea leaves and steam, dry and sift them.

From there, the dried tea leaves are ground using granite grinding wheels – this produces a very fine powder, known as matcha powder. Subsequently, the matcha powder is inspected by laboratories for quality, packed in air tight containers, and flown across the globe to consumers world-wide. Actually, upon opening the tin of matcha, one can immediately assess the freshness and fineness of the tea – if the tea is fresh and was packaged and prepared properly, the green powder will “puff” into the air upon opening.

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History of Matcha

Posted by Susan Lutfallah on June 6, 2009

Broadly speaking, all Japanese teas are green – matcha is green tea leaves that have been ground to a fine powder, hence the translation ma (ground) cha (tea). However, since matcha drinkers consume the entire leaf, rather than steeping the tea and throwing out the leaves, they truly secure its energy and health benefits – actually, drinking the entire ground leaf makes it possible for one cup of matcha tea to equal 10 cups of regular green tea!

Historically, matcha tea was first introduced in the Song Dynasty of Southern China – in 1191, matcha was brought to Japan by a Zen Buddhist monk named Eisai. Intriguingly, due to the Mongol invasions of the Song, the powdered style of drinking green tea was lost in China – however, Japan, whose forces were successful at repelling the Mongol invasions of the time, managed to hold onto the matcha tradition. Indeed, matcha tea and its consumption has changed very little since the days of Eisai, which reflects a nearly thousand-year-old tradition that is now making its way into North America.

Although matcha is popular in all of Japan, it is primarily grown in three major areas: Aichi, Kyoto and Shizuoka – however, Aichi is Japan’s principal production region for premium matcha. Interestingly, the city of Nishio in the Aichi region is located far from the major urban centers – many matcha enthusiasts in Japan argue that this allows for the clean air and mountain waters to create the highest quality tea plants.

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