The Mysterious Matcha Tea (February 2017)
In December, 2014 I went on my cycling trip in Southeast Asia. During that trip, I noticed that there seemed to be a considerable amount of hype surrounding matcha tea, which is in the green tea family. Not only is it the only tea that is produced and used in a powdered form, it is also considered the most potent tea in the world. Its potency comes from the fact that the powder consists of the entire tea leaf, unlike other tea products, which are tea leaves infused into hot water then discarded. Repeatedly hearing about this tea led me to write a monthly insight for all my tea connoisseur readers.
Let me begin with some interesting facts about this tea. It originated in Japan by a Japanese Buddhist monk named Eisai who brought home the green tea leaves known as “matcha.” This tea, commonly used as a ceremonial tea in Japan, is traditionally blended with a bamboo whisk and consumed from the Japanese drinking bowl known as a Chawan.
However, matcha tea is no longer limited to the traditional use, traditional consumption, nor even only the Japanese market. Today, we may find it in smoothies, boba drinks, and lattes, as well as an ingredient in sweet and savory recipes.
As a matter of fact, the use of matcha tea has actually become global, i.e., an individual can purchase these powders from tea purveyors all over the world. Unfortunately, research suggests that the purity and quality might be compromised depending on where the processing took place.
As I have cycled through many different tea fields, where field owners provided information about their teas as well as the opportunities to taste them, I can say first hand that matcha tea’s flavor intensity varies from the production and the quality.
The cost of the final product is determined by whether it is low grade powder with added sweeteners or pure matcha, which is bright green, the desired color for the end product. Matcha exposed to oxygen may easily become compromised because it can become oxidized. Oxidation imparts a dull brownish-green color and a distinctive hay-like aroma, characteristics that indicate a low quality product.
The International Standards Organization’s (ISO) tea subcommittee has considered setting a standard for matcha and other green tea powders, an action similar to what the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does for food in the United States. I believe for every food industry it is important to have standards so the quality of the product does not vary a great deal and the consumer is not misled. Because determining this standard is a work in progress, we will look for their completion and publication in the future.
Benefits of matcha are similar to other green teas relative to the antioxidant content. Benefits of antioxidants include risk-reduction for certain forms of cancer and coronary artery disease. It is interesting to note that one glass of matcha is equivalent to ten glasses of green tea in regards to the antioxidant content. I would say, therefore, that this tea is quite an antioxidant power house. In addition, due to the caffeine content of the tea, it certainly may increase one’s ability to pay attention
On those days when the weather is brisk, treat yourself to matcha. It would not only be soothing and comforting, it would also give you a substantial dose of health-promoting antioxidants while helping you stay awake and alert.