A fascinating ingredient with powerful health benefits, matcha makes a featured appearance in our winter ’14 specials: the Matcha Muffin and Matcha Mini tart.
A brightly verdant powder made from finely-ground whole green tea leaves, matcha is traditionally whisked into hot water, creating a beautifully silky and flavorful drink. The Chinese originally introduced matcha to Japan in the 12th century and it has since become an important part of Japanese culture. In fact, a traditional Japanese tea ceremony called ‘chanoyu,’ is centered on the preparation and serving of matcha.
Cultivation and Harvest
Matcha is made from tencha leaves, which are grown according to traditional methods in Japan, and harvested in the spring. Several weeks before the May harvest, farmers cover the plants slowly with shade cloths or bamboo mats to promote the growth of new shoots. The increasingly diminished light causes the leaves to grow thinner and more delicate as they try to catch the available sunlight. This process also increases the levels of chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their vivid green color and enhances the flavor.
The youngest leaves are hand-picked with great care, and then briefly steamed to prevent fermentation. The leaves are then dried and cooled, before being cold stored and aged for up to 6 months.
Matcha is said to promote feelings of well-being, and is often consumed as part of a meditation ritual. However, it has much more to offer than just being an enjoyable beverage! Because matcha is simply pure, stone-ground whole tea leaves (rather than just brewed tea water), it delivers much more potent health benefits than regular green tea.
While green teas are often praised for their antioxidant properties, matcha’s antioxidant levels are much higher. In fact, a study by the HNRCA of Tufts University showed that the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity – a unit of measurement of antioxidant capacity) of matcha even exceeds that of other high-antioxidant foods, such as pomegranates and blueberries – by a long shot!
Offering protection from many diseases, including cancer, antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals in the body, are known to slow the aging process, which is why matcha is so often linked with longevity in Japanese communities. The high levels of antioxidants in matcha also help to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Did you think that matcha’s list of wonderful properties stopped there? Think again! Full of chlorophyll, which gives matcha its deep green color and is a strong detoxifier, it helps cleanse the body of harmful substances. It is also high in vitamins like vitamin A, B-complex, C, E and K as well as many trace minerals.
Matcha is also a strong energy booster. Whether you’re seeking a physical boost or a mental boost, a dose of matcha should do the trick. Unlike coffee, which can give you the jitters or too much nervous energy, matcha contains high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid which can induce alpha wave activity in the brain, reducing stress and promoting relaxation.
All of this to say – we are excited to share the wonders of matcha with you with the two matcha infused items on our menu! Stop into your local LPQ to try them – or if regular green tea is your thing, try our Chunmee Green straight from our Pantry.
Image by Chashitsu_LaSere
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