Superfood Spotlight - I Love You So Matcha
With the recent health studies touting an association with drinking coffee and living longer, there is more reason to enjoy that morning cup of joe (thank heavens). However, matcha has been giving coffee a run for it’s money; quickly gaining attention in the food scene over the past few years and popping up on menus in the form of tea, lattes, smoothies, and even baked goods. Why the matcha madness? The hype over this brilliant green powder is due to it’s nutritional content and the fact that it offers a dose of focus with a side of calm. At Ascend, we’re always down for learning new ways of incorporating healthy ingredients into our lifestyle that support the mind and body, both in and out of the studio.
What is matcha and why is it so expensive?
Matcha is a green tea variety grown in Japan. Unlike traditional green tea, matcha tea bushes are grown in the shade (which boosts chlorophyll). The delicate leaves are handpicked, and minimally processed during harvest (lightly steamed and dried), preserving higher antioxidant levels. The dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder. The high price of matcha is due to the quality and care it takes to make. While the cost seems high upfront, a little goes a long way; a container of matcha will last a while since a typical serving is only ½-1 teaspoon.
Before gaining popularity in hip coffee houses, matcha was used for centuries (and still is today) in Japanese tea ceremonies. As part of the spiritual ceremony, special care is given during the practice of preparing and drinking matcha. Mindfulness is a meditative practice—and the ritual of slowing down and sipping matcha can be replicated in your own home. Traditionally, matcha powder is combined with a small amount of water and made into a paste using a bamboo whisk until the right consistency is reached. Then, more hot water is whisked in until a frothy layer forms on top. At first, whisking for 1-2 minutes may seem unnecessary and you may find yourself feeling impatient and ready to drink up. In time, this ritual can provide a sense of calm, complimenting the effects of the tea itself.
So what are the bangin’ benefits?
Tea is naturally abundant in antioxidants, which have been linked to preventing age-related diseases. Contrary to steeping green tea, matcha powder is combined with water and ingested so you consume the actual tea leaves (and all of their goodness) rather than tea-infused water. This is why matcha is more nutritionally potent than standard green tea. Just one cup of matcha provides ten times the amount of antioxidants as a standard cup of green tea!
Matcha is a nutritional powerhouse that can boost metabolism, detoxify, aid in weight loss, help prevent cancer and diabetes, enhance mood and provide long-lasting energy and focus. A few key compounds found in matcha, include:
· EGCG: Matcha contains high levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a polyphenol antioxidant with cancer fighting properties and metabolic benefits.
· L-theanine: A rare amino acid known for its relaxing effect on the mind and body, L-theanine can induce brain waves leading to a state of mental calmness and clarity. It counteracts the jitters typically associated with caffeine, and can lower blood pressure. L-theanine may also help improve memory. Monks would sip matcha for ease and focus during meditation. Relaxed alertness = best of both worlds. #winwin
· Chlorophyll: Levels of chlorophyll are higher in matcha than other green teas due to its shade-growing conditions. Responsible for it’s bright green hue, chlorophyll naturally detoxifies (eliminating heavy metals and chemicals) and helps the blood deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body’s cells.
The taste of matcha is quite strong and is said to have a grassy or umami flavor. You can drink matcha mixed with hot water, make iced or hot lattes, and add it to smoothies, ice cream, or baked goods such as pancakes or doughnuts. Read how our rock star instructor, Jess, enjoys her matcha:
“I start every day with a morning matcha, and often enjoy another mid-afternoon. My go to recipe is hot water, matcha powder, coconut butter, cinnamon, collagen peptides, raw honey and a mix of herbs and adaptogens to support my mind and body. I blend it all together in my vitamix for a frothy concoction that starts my day off in the best way. Not only do I look forward to the ritual of it, I just love how it makes me feel! I find that I have more steady energy and endurance while I ride too! My muscles are fueled and my mind is sharp, all without the jitters and crash that I'd sometimes experience with coffee.”
Try these recipes for your next afternoon pick-me-up:
Ready for your #matchamoment?
Blogpost written by Ascend Content expert, Ashley H