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Matcha - Japanese Super Powder

  1. Matcha powder is a Japanese product and used to be used as a medicine. Today it is used as a culinary additive (in ice, for example) or for (Buddhist) ceremonial purposes. The active substances in matcha show an extremely positive image of the powder in terms of health: it is said to have an anti-carcinogenic effect and it is rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other such substances. Is matcha a new 'superfood'? How is it made and what's in it?

What is Matcha?

  1. Matcha is a very old (origin ~ 12th century) Japanese tea variety that has been ground into powder. This tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a tea plant that mainly thrives in South America, East and Southeast Asia, southern Africa and Turkey. Many teas are made from this plant, but it depends on how the leaves are processed after picking which type of tea is made. In addition, this tea is produced exclusively in East Asia.

Matcha production

  1. A few weeks before the leaves are harvested, they are covered. The result is that these leaves receive less sunlight, which means that the plants grow more slowly. To counter this trend, the plants produce extra leaf green, also called chlorophyll. This makes the leaves more dark green, which means that the leaves are richer in amino acids. After this process, only the purest leaves are picked and dried. During drying, the leaves curl and products such as the stem are removed. After this, the leaves are carefully ground, leaving a light green powder. This product is called matcha.

Health effects

  1. Matcha easily outdoes the health benefits of regular tea, because matcha uses the whole leaf instead of the leaf extract. This releases all the substances that were in the blade into the hot water. Substances that matcha is rich in include antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, catechins and the amino acid L-theanine. This combination is said to provide a more relaxed, cheerful, fitter and healthier feeling.

Rich in antioxidants

  1. Matcha contains a large amount of antioxidants, such as vitamin C (approx. 1.75 mg per gram), polyphenols and chlorophyll. Antioxidants are important in the neutralization of free radicals. These are highly reactive particles that form in the body when an atom or molecule splits under the influence of UV light. The reactivity comes from an unpaired electron on the particle, and because this particle resides in the body, it can easily attach to, for example, DNA, mutating DNA and possibly causing cancer. Antioxidants attach themselves to the free radicals, so that they are neutralized and no longer a threat to health, so that they have an anti-carcinogenic (anti-cancer) effect.

Rich in vitamins and minerals

  1. It is well known that plants and leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals. Matcha contains a very wide range of vitamins and minerals per gram, including significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamins of the B complex, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The vitamins and minerals present have a positive effect on the hair (B complex), the eyes (A), red blood cells (iron), the immune system (zinc) and the metabolism (E).

Rich in catechins

  1. Catechins is an umbrella term for so-called polyphenols. Polyphenols are organic substances containing benzene rings with hydroxyl groups. Because these occur more often in such a molecule, they are called polyphenols. These substances are found in the Camellia sinensis and have a very strong anti-oxidative effect. Due to the strong anti-oxidative effect of these substances, they have the property that they reduce the risk of cancer.

Matcha powder quality and availability

  1. Matcha powder is often available at an Asian store. However, it can happen that the quality of imported macha powder is disappointing. This is usually betrayed by the color of the powder: the darker the powder, the lower the quality. This may sound contradictory, but higher quality matcha powder usually has a color as shown in figure 2. The darker color of the lower quality matcha powder can be attributed to shortcomings in the production process, such as grinding too quickly (the heat thereby changes the chemical composition and the color) or the presence of contaminants. It is being investigated whether these powders contain less active substances than matcha powder of higher quality. It is therefore recommended to 'test' the matcha powder from different places in order to enjoy the highest quality of the healthy, fairly tasty matcha powder.

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