Of course you know all about green tea, but you might have noticed matcha tea appearing alongside green tea in the specialist health food stores.
Matcha differs from regular green tea as the leaves are shaded for about three weeks before they are harvested. This change in light intensity leads to an increase in levels of chlorophyll, which is naturally rich in nutrients.
After harvesting, the leaves are steamed to stop fermentation - which would otherwise reduce nutrient levels. Once dried, the leaves are ground by specialists to produce a vivid green powder. That said, matcha is also made from white tea although the green tea variety is more available.
Matcha contains 137 times more antioxidants that regular green tea (that's partly because the majority of what we drink is water). It still contains caffeine, but only around 30mg per cup.
But the presence of l-theanine, an amino acid, is most interesting. L-theanine has been the subject of numerous studies and researchers report that it can have a beneficial affect on both physiological and psychological stress. It has a similar biochemical structure to glutamic acid, (an amino acid that aids energy), and thus can have a calming effect on the central nervous system. Matcha has been shown to help enhance cognitive function and whilst this is partly attributed to the natural caffeine content, the addition of l-theanine seems to enhance the benefit.
It seems that l-theanine significantly increases alpha wave activity in the brain, associated with alertness. Levels reduce when we are tired, so matcha tea, rich in l-theanine, can directly combat fatigue.
It's also likely that l-theanine interacts with caffeine and an antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), the polyphenol that is abundant in green tea and thus matcha that results in this welcome benefit.
L-theanine is also found in the leaves of the guayusa tree which grows on the banks of the Amazon, as well as the bay bolete mushroom, although matcha seems the most convenient.
Matcha might be a little powerhouse but even then, there are grades. Premium grades are made using only the top three leaves of the plant resulting in a higher concentration of l-theanine and a sweeter, milder flavour.
Ways to eat matcha?
Matcha can be used to make tea, added to salads or soups or sprinkled onto fruit salad. I have a half teaspoon every day mixed into fat free Greek yogurt with chia seeds and berries. Along with my double espresso I reckon that makes a perfect breakfast.
The Best Brands?
Teapigs , Teasan Extra Premium and Miracle Matcha's White Tea Matcha .
For more information, or to contact Ian Marber go to www.ianmarber.com
As seen on Telegraph.co.uk