WHAT IS MATCHA?
Matcha (抹茶, Japanese) is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves.
It is unique in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants used for matcha are shade-grown for up to 40 days before harvest and during this time, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine. This also slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and causes the production of amino acids. Only the finest top leaves are handpicked once a year in spring. After harvesting, the leaves are laid out flat to dry and become known as tencha which will be deveined, destemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green powder known as matcha.
Grinding the leaves is a slow process because the milling stones must not get too warm, otherwise the aroma of the tea gets altered. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades. Matcha used in ceremonies is referred to as "ceremonial grade", meaning that the powder is of a high enough quality to be used in the tea ceremony. Lower quality matcha is referred to as "culinary-grade".
MATCHA vs COFFEE
The difference between matcha tea and coffee is not only in their caffeine content but also in the way caffeine is assimilated and handled in our system.
After you drink a cup of matcha, caffeine doesn't reach your blood all at once. Instead, it's slowly released over time and its effects can last up to 4 hours. This is because caffeine is bound to other chemicals, called catechins, and only after they are broken down and removed, caffeine can freely travel to the brain.
Catechins are specific antioxidants found in tea leaves but not in coffee beans. They slow down the release of caffeine, therefor you don't experience a crash of energy.
By preventing a spike in caffeine, catechins in matcha promote a long-lasting boost of energy and they also reduce the side effects typical of coffee consumption like high blood pressure, poor sleep and migraines.
Beside catechins, L-theanine is another amino acid in matcha which plays an essential role in terms of caffeine effects which is found almost solely in tea plants.
L-Theanin has a direct effect on the brain where it promotes a state of calm and mental alertness.
This is because L-theanine acts on the brain circuits inducing a specific type of electrical impulses, called alpha waves, which are known to promote relaxation without drowsiness.
In matcha tea, catechins and L-theanine work in synergy to provide sustained energy whilst offsetting the negative effects of caffeine. In fact, L-theanine is able to improve mental performance and alertness more than caffeine alone.