For over 4,000 years the Chinese have used tea as a medicine for inflammation, fever, anxiety and a host of other health concerns. They introduced visiting Japanese Zen Buddhist monks to its wonderful healing properties in the 8th or 9th century in the form of a tea-cake ground into powder. This is matcha! Yet it was another 4 centuries before this powerful powder gained wide recognition in Japan.
Early in the 13th century the Japanese monk Eisai wrote his soon to become famous book, “How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea” (Kissa Yōjōki) which begins with the sentence: “Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy with the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.” Esai was referring to what we call matcha: nature’s ultimate tea.
Essentially, matcha means ‘powdered tea.’ It is a non-fermented green tea made by grinding the entire tea leaf into powder. Tea leaves destined to become matcha are shade grown, promoting high chlorophyll and L-theanine production. Traditionally hand-picked, these rich green leaves are lightly steamed to prevent oxidation, de-stemmed and de-veined and stone-ground into an ultra fine dark green powder.
Unlike regular teabags which are steeped, matcha powder is mixed with water and consumed in its entirety. Thus, matcha drinkers ingest substantially higher concentrations of health inducing antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Results for recent ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity) tests show one gram of Matcha contains 1,384 ORAC Units1 — compared to blueberries that contain just 24 units2. Matcha is also extremely high in catechins, especially EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). A study published in the Journal of Chromatography in 2003 determined that matcha tea contains approximately 3 times more EGCG than regular “brewed” green tea3.
Today, a headline like “Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea” would capture a great deal of attention and possibly become a best-seller. Ah so, 800 years later genuine matcha tea remains nature’s “ultimate mental and medical remedy.”
1 ORAC Analysis on Ceremonial Matcha Green Tea ME17916 Lot # D1805: Brunswick Laboratories
2 USDA Agricultural Research Service: learn more here / Journal of Nutrition (vol. 128, pp. 2383-2390); American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (vol. 68, pp. 1081-1087)
3 PMID: 14518774 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE], Department of Chemistry, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs, CO 80918, USA