I’m a huge advocate of breakfast. We’re no strangers to the health-nut mantra that if you want to stay healthy, lose weight, gain energy, and get rich quick, you should eat breakfast every day. I certainly agree, and a big part of the morning consumption routine often involves caffeine.
I come from a family of coffee and tea drinkers alike. I am now under no delusion – I had a phase in my life where I thought I “didn’t need” caffeine in the morning, that it was pointless, that I would be a better person if I cut it out altogether and just let my body wake up “naturally.” That was a terrible time in my life. I’m sure some folks love to exist this way, but I will never deprive myself of my coffee again. Morning caffeine is an amazing thing… especially living on Capitol Hill, the Seattle coffee wonderland. But that’s a discussion for another day.
In addition to my completely rational and harmless coffee addiction, my morning routine usually involves matcha.
A while back, I was doing a little homework about the health benefits of green tea. As many important experts have said, green tea happens to be really good for you. This is especially true of matcha – a type of Japanese green tea that is ground to a very fine powder and mixed with hot water to make a eerily green, opaque, and downright potent beverage. I’ve grown to absolutely love the stuff for both health and flavor.
One of my first sources for this was ZenMatcha, for the tea itself and a wealth of information about it. I was a skeptic at first, as I tend to be – the entire site definitely has a bias towards massive matcha consumption, and is hardly objective. Luckily, at the time of my discovery a few years ago, the owner of the site was a sweet woman named Naomi, and she was very responsive to questions. We sent three or four emails back and forth and I decided to buy a couple of tins. I also got my hands on a matcha bowl, matcha spoon and a bamboo whisk used in “traditional” matcha preparation (pictured). If I was gonna try this stuff out, I wanted to do it right. Because, you know, science.
I drank it semi-regularly in college, and nowadays, I drink it every day. The real question: is this tea worth it, and does it actually work? The ZenMatcha website has a whole list of health benefits – and if sources are to be believed, matcha does everything short of cure cancer. Oh wait, apparently it does that, too. Let’s break down the list here, according to the website:
- Significantly increases energy (over 8-10 hours) without the caffeine “jitters”
- Improves mental alertness (L-theanine component)
- Increases calmness and reduces stress (L-theanine component)
- Boosts metabolic rate by 35-40% in regular drinkers, facilitating weight loss
- Powerful “anti-aging” activity due to super-charged antioxidants
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol
- Minimizes symptoms of PMS
- Super cancer-fighting activity due to high levels of polyphenols and catechins
- Stabilizes blood sugar levels
- Powerful anti-biotic and anti-viral activity
- Strong blood cleanser/detoxifier and alkalyzer due to high chlorophyll content
Yep, this stuff is the secret potion to become a sexy god among humans – Unfortunately, this list doesn’t link to any peer-reviewed data, which is what made me a skeptic in the first place. However, plenty of sources can be found elsewhere – This article on another matcha website, among all the fancy stock photos of women being healthy, actually sites a few scientific studies. I chose to buy from ZenMatcha when Naomi explained her suppliers and assured me that I was getting authentic Japanese matcha, in addition to a pretty damned affordable price.
Drinking matcha every day feels good. It actually has a low amount of caffeine, compared to coffee – only about 35mg per gram of powder, and I use around 2 grams per cup. However, it also throws L-theanine into the mix, which gives a calm, alert feeling while the caffeine gives just the right amount of kick. Sometimes I supplement with coffee if it doesn’t feel like enough – but then again, I also love coffee.
I’m no scientist, but I do notice a good thing when I see it. Drinking this tea every morning has had the expected caffeinated effects, and I feel more alert and less jittery than with coffee alone. It’s also good before a workout – I drink it in the early morning before I go to the gym and it gives me just the right kind of energy.
Since this is a cooking blog, here’s my method of preparation: I heat 1/2 cup (4 ounces) of water to hot, but not quite boiling – about 175 degrees, to be exact. A thermometer is a good idea here, since this tea is delicate stuff. I put about two scoops (equivalent to around 2 grams, or a little more than a teaspoon) of matcha powder in a small bowl or mug and dry-whisk it a little bit to prevent any clumps in the final product. I then add the water, and by the suggestion of every matcha recipe ever, whisk vigorously in a zig-zag motion to give the tea an attractive, frothy head. Drinking then commences, after only enough time to heat up some water.
There are plenty of preparations to be found elsewhere, too — smoothies, lattes, baked goods and the like. I find that the above preparation is the best for regular consumption, giving good flavor and a good kick of tea, but as always, I encourage experimentation. Any other tea-obsessives out there who have given matcha a try on a regular basis?
Next time – I dropped most of my knives off at Seattle Edge yesterday, or as I call it: the luxury knife spa. Once I get them back I’ll be doing some pretty cool things here, so stay tuned!