Food trends these days seem to stun even those with the most adventurous of palates – black food and drinks infused with charcoal, rainbow colored stuff that you’d think twice before eating, all the while thinking they maybe they aren’t edible at all. With black and rainbow already being passe, the new trend is that of the color green. And when we say green, we are referring to food with its main ingredient being the superfood matcha. There is something common about most food trends these days, which are the health benefits that can be acquired from them. People nowadays are getting so health conscious hence the trend of everything related to well being being adopted. Take for example matcha, this specific food ingredient isn’t just popular because of its vibrant color or taste, but rather for the many health benefits one can get from consuming it.
What is Matcha?
You will be surprised to know that matcha is just your good ole’ regular green tea – yes, like the same popular drink around the world. The only difference is that matcha is in powdered form, and the name literally translates to “powdered tea”. So, how does matcha differ from traditional tea, aside from it being in a powdered form? With the latter, you infuse the tea bag or tea leaves with hot water, then after a few minutes, you remove and throw out the said tea bag or leaves. With matcha, you actually consume the tea leaves that are normally discarded when drinking regular tea, since it is in powdered form and mixed in with a drink or food (or consumed directly as matcha tea).
Matcha is generally considered as a ‘special’ type of green tea, because of a particular preparation made with the tea leaves, such as how they are covered with shade cloth before the harvesting process. Because of this ‘shade cloth’ practice, the tea plants produce better-flavored leaves. During harvest, the best leaves are carefully selected, and once plucked; they get steamed so that they stop fermenting. After steaming, the leaves are dried and then they are left to age while in storage. The longer the leaves are aged while in cold storage, the deeper their flavors will be. After they are taken out of storage, the dried leaves are stone ground to become what we know as fine matcha powder.
Origin of Matcha
The origin of match can be traced back in China during the Tang Dynasty, when the cultivation of green tea began, as well as the Song Dynasty, when the process of stone grounding tea to powder form became popular. However, the exact origin of the production of the tea powder which we now call matcha can be attributed to a Zen Monk from Japan named Eisai.
It was Eisai who bought green tea seeds to Japan from a trip to China in 1191, and it was also him who thought of a different way to cultivate green tea leaves, which was the ‘shade method’. The process, Eisai believed, is able to boost the therapeutic qualities of the tea leaves. The green tea plants were originally called ‘sencha’, and later became ‘tencha’ and ‘matcha’. Matcha supposedly assisted the Buddhist monks to become more focused and centered during meditation. And so the tea became part of the meditation rituals of the monks. Later on, the tea was recognised as the traditional drink of shoguns and warriors before they would go into battle, since drinking it brought mental sharpness and extra energy to them. The Zen Monk Eisai called matcha tea as the “elixir of immortals”.
Health Benefits from Matcha
It is a known fact that green tea offers great benefits, and it being in powder form through matcha makes it a greater source of the nutrients it already has. First and foremost, matcha is abounding with polyphenols, a kind of antioxidant that can help the body protect itself from some forms of cancer, diabetes, regulation of high blood pressure, prevention of heart disease, and is also anti-aging. Weight watchers also benefit from a daily intake of matcha, since a component of it called EGCG has been found to speed up ones metabolism, thus aiding in weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. Research has also shown that EGCG inhibits the growth of cancer cells.
Match is here to stay
Just mentioning how matcha is a disease-fighting, weight loss boosting, and an anti-aging miracle superfood is not enough to explain why the matcha craze is here to stay, then let us provide more explanation. Any form of meditation is ‘in’ nowadays, such as yoga and mindfulness, and since matcha is linked to Zen as its origin and part of Zen monk rituals, the powder makes it popular to people interested in any form of meditation. Matcha also contains caffeine without the buzz coffee has, which makes it popular to people looking for alertness but also an accompanying calm that matcha brings. And if you are not a fan of directly drinking matcha tea or mixing it in any drink, there is always the option of mixing it in foods. You can find stores, cafes, and restaurants that sell matcha flavored food such as stir fry’s, ice creams, soups, breads, puddings, breads, cookies, macarons, and a lot more.