By Sebastian Pole
(Photos © Pukka Herbs, UK)
Matcha—the wonder tea to improve your mental and spiritual well being
Matcha is green gold. It is made from a special type of powdered green tea that is grown under shade for a few weeks before being harvested. The stem and veins are then removed before being powdered into fine verdant grains that dissolve easily in water. Matcha has long been used in ancient Japanese tea ceremonies and by Buddhist monks for the last 1,000 years. Its light and ascendant properties elevate one’s awareness and energy through the heart to the head, bringing clarity and insight. It is this almost spiritual quality that makes Matcha such an appropriate drink for today’s busy world.
Growing Matcha under shade increases the volume of healing chlorophyll, as well as, of l-theanine, amino acids and polyphenols such as epigallocatechin-gallate. These natural compounds add to the sweet and savoury flavour known as Umami Umami, reducing the bitterness of the iridescent green Matcha. The rare amino acid l-theanine nourishes neurotransmitters in the brain, having a positive influence on our mood and sense of inner peace. l-theanine works synergistically with the low levels of caffeine in green tea and Matcha; this is one of the reasons why it brings such deep calm and alertness. It increases serotonin, dopamine and Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) — all essential neurotransmitters associated with feeling positive, bringing happiness, inner peace and the general clarity of “Shanti-ness”. These qualities help us feel our best in the midst of our over stimulating world because they help us focus and feel centred. These more subjective experiences cause measurable effects such as lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety and influencing alpha waves (associated with a relaxed state of mind and also regulated by deep meditation).
Matcha’s light and ascendant properties elevate one’s awareness and energy through the heart to the head, bringing clarity and insight to the drinker
These effects occur because humans and plants have evolved so closely together. We can benefit from eating plants containing these special compounds because plants evolved to protect themselves from invasion by microbes, as well as adapting to stressful environments for successful reproduction. For example, many of the colourful pigments in plants that protect them from extreme climates also protect us from extreme stresses. It is well known that the traditional Indian diet, full of healthy spices such as turmeric, cinnamon and ginger, helps protect against inflammatory disorders such as heart disease and cancer. Green tea is a powerful addition to this protective diet, with Matcha being the king of all green tea protectors; one cup of Matcha has 100 times the antioxidants of green tea (and green tea has approximately double the levels of black). Gram for gram, it is about 15 times more antioxidant than pomegranates and 100 times more so than spinach.
Matcha also helps burn body fat through a process known as thermo genesis. By enhancing metabolic processes, the nearly calorie free Matcha helps burn fat four times faster than usual.
It is also important to ensure your Matcha and green tea (and black) are organic. At Pukka, all our teas are certified organic because there have been numerous reports of conventional tea’s contamination with fat-stored and life-depleting pesticides and herbicides. This has recently been highlighted in a report by Greenpeace India.
Green tea and Matcha do not have a long history of use in India, as the British introduction of sweet milky chai has had a more prominent place. Whilst a masala chai from our favourite chai wallah is a delight, it is questionable whether so much sugar and milk are healthy. Perhaps it is worth reflecting on the goal of Ayurveda; ‘Swastasamatva’ or ‘to be established in yourself with balanced health’, and consider how you can include some delicious, uplifting and even spiritual Matcha in your daily experience of drinking green gold.
|The author is an Ayurvedic Practitioner, who is also Co-Founder and Herbsmith at Pukka Herbs, UK. For more information visit www.pukkaherbs.com|
This article appeared in the July 2015 issue of Pure & Eco India