I have recently taken up a habit of consuming matcha. It is refreshing in this hot weather to drink an iced latte matcha that mixes plant-based milk such as soy or almond milk with the green matcha powder. Apparently, matcha can be pretty good for your health for several reasons, as follows:
- Matcha was traditionally used by monks in Japan to stay calm and alert during long hours of meditation. In addition to caffeine which aids alertness, matcha also contains a high level of L-Theanine, a rare amino acid that helps boost relaxation and ease of one’s mind. Because of the way it is produced (more on this later), matcha has much more L-Theanine than ordinary green tea
- Antioxidants help slow the aging of human cells. One cup of matcha contains as many antioxidants as 10 cups of brewed green tea. Furthermore, it contains almost 15x and 50x more antioxidants than pomegranate and broccoli, respectively
- Matcha is made from young tea leaves that have to be shaded from sunlight 2-3 weeks before processing. As a result, matcha retains a lot more chlorophyll than other green teas, a chemical that aids human bodies detox
- There are studies that associate matcha with weight loss, prevention of heart disease & cancer and protection of liver
It can be expensive
There are two main and popular grades of matcha: ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial grade is the highest grade of matcha that is made of very young tea leaves and requires a lot more care during the process. Hence, it’s quite expensive. Ceremonial grade matcha reportedly has a delicate flavor and should be used in tea ceremonies only. On the other hand, culinary grade match is cheaper because it reportedly is made of tea leaves that are young, yet older than those used to make ceremonial grade. Culinary grade can be used in baking, cooking and beverages.
To get a sense of how expensive matcha can be, take a look at the listings on Amazon for “matcha green tea powder” keyword
I buy my matcha from a local shop called The Tea Smith in Omaha. One ounce of culinary grade matcha from The Tea Smith costs $4.5. There is a cheaper alternative that costs only $2.5 per ounce. It is cheaper because it mixes matcha powder with sugar cane. It baffled me as to why matcha is expensive. I did a little research and apparently, the process of producing matcha is quite laborious and unique. Tea leaves have to be shaded from sunlight a couple of weeks at least before they are picked. After they are picked, they go through several steps of steaming, air-drying and removing stems & old leave parts. In the end, there are only soft particles left, which weighs about 1/10 of the original leaves. The particles are then stone-grounded, using uniquely crafted and carefully maintained stone mills. Each mill produces only one ounce or 30-40 gram of matcha per hour.
There is also a Chasen
A Chasen is a whisk specially used to mix matcha powder with water. I bought my whisk for $18.5! I was shocked at the price at first, but would soon understand the reason why after I learned how Chasens are made. Watch the videos below to know how they are created. Trust me, you’ll be blown away by the craftsmanship, patience and incredible talent of the Japanese
This video touches a little bit more on the hachiku bamboos used in the matcha whisks.
In sum, even though regular consumption of matcha can cost a bit, I do think I will continue with this habit in the future, unless there are scientific studies proving that matcha is hazardous to humans. I think given that matcha is linked with a lot of health benefits, it’s a cheap investment into the most valuable asset one can have. Also, as I learned about the art of producing matcha and Chasen, my already big admiration and respect for the Japanese craftsmanship and culture only grew bigger.
Let me know what you think about matcha. Stay safe and have a nice weekend!