The Way of the Tea: The Story of Matcha

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It might be said that the entire story of matcha, however long and fabled, can be summed up with a single phrase: “Ichi-go, Ichi-e”, or “one time, one meeting”. Steeped in Zen Buddhist traditions of Japan, matcha is the very embodiment of the concepts of oneness and living in the present. The star of the chado (or Japanese Tea Ceremony), matcha has played an integral role in creating an environment of mindfulness, sharing, and peace in Japan for over 1000 years.

 

Here, we’ll break down matcha’s illustrious history into tea-break sized mouthfuls to share with friends the next time you share a cup of matcha together.

 

The Day Tea Arrived in Japan

 

Few cultures in the world have recorded their history as meticulously as the Japanese. Completed in 840, the Nihon Kōki is just one of a series of six meticulous records of early Japan. It was here, in 815, that the first mentions of the arrival of Chinese tea to Japan can be found, when the Buddhist monk Eichū served the Japanese emperor sencha (un-ground green tea leaves in hot water) for the first time. At first reserved only for use in Buddhist temple rituals, the upper classes soon clamoured to obtain the finest tea from the palace gardens in Kyoto.

 

Tea was already a popular beverage during the Chinese Song Dynasty (960-1279), used both recreationally and in rituals. Around this time, a new way of storing and transporting of tea emerged, in which leaves were steamed, ground, and formed into small cakes called dancha. In 1191, a Buddhist monk named Eisai arrived back to Japan from a trip to China with this new form of matcha green tea powder, bringing with him the methods of matcha green tea preparation, seeds for the eventual cultivation of Japan’s best matcha, and the beginnings of a uniquely Japanese tea culture. At the time, he wrote:

 

“Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has the ability to make one’s life more full and complete. Tea has an extraordinary power to extend someone’s life. Everywhere people plant tea, long life will follow”

 

By the 16th century, the tea ceremony much as we know it today emerged, with matcha green tea at the heart of its many measured and meditative steps. Tea master Sen no Rikyū (and his teacher, master Takeno Jōō) are most commonly credited with inventing “The Way of the Tea”, as well as its aesthetic principles.

 

The Way of the Tea

 

At the center of the Japanese Tea Ceremony is the search for both inner and outer peace, creating an environment in which no one person present is more important than the next, and in which living in the present moment is paramount. In this way, the Japanese Tea Ceremony is made up of four key principles as originally defined by 16th century master Sen no Rikyū: Harmony (wa), respect (kei), purity (sei), and tranquility (jaku).

 

While the reasoning behind the Japanese tea ceremony’s quest for peace can be traced back to Zen philosophy, the etiquette behind much of The Way of the Tea actually betrays a second meaning: The tea ceremony was developed during a time of intense civil war in Japan, and as a rule, no warrior was allowed to enter the tea room wearing a sword.

 

A typical tea ceremony involves a series of purposeful yet simple gestures, culminating in sharing a single cup of matcha green tea. In the chaji, a small meal is served in preparation for serving the tea. After participants have eaten a small dessert meant to sweeten the mouth before the matcha, three main actions are performed: the purification of tea serving utensils, the serving of the tea, and the cleaning of the utensils. In its entirety, these deceivingly simple gestures typically last 3 and a half to four hours.

 

The Way of the Tea is still very much alive in Japanese culture, though you don’t need to travel to Kyoto to take part in a tea ceremony. Most major cities have Japanese societies meant to promote traditional Japanese culture, and it’s not uncommon to find a tea ceremony quietly held inside the walls of a roji (garden). While a traditional ceremony can last several hours, most tea ceremonies outside of Japan last about half an hour.

 

The Scoop on Matcha

 

  • Tea was first discovered about 5000 years ago, in the Southwest Yunnan prefecture of China.

  • Tea arrived in Japan in 815 with Buddhist monks following trips to China.

  • The method of adding powdered tea leaves to water was developed in Song Dynasty China.

  • Matcha and its preparation methods were first brought to Japan from China in 1191 by the Buddhist monk Eisai.

  • The word “matcha” derives from “ma”, meaning powder, and “cha” meaning tea.

  • In the 13th century, tōcha (or tea-tasting parties) were frequently held, where guests would win prizes for guessing the best quality matcha.

  • The tea ceremony – still popular in Japan today – was first developed in the 16th century. It’s development is credited to the tea master Sen no Rikyū.

  • Tea master Sen no Rikyū is also responsible for most of the aesthetic principles of The Way of the Tea, and is said to have invented several utensils used in preparing matcha, including cups, tea-scoops, and flower containers.

  • Today Japan only exports between 1-4% of its matcha, its most precious of which is saved for traditional tea ceremonies.

Every Small Business Should Be Drinking Matcha, Here’s Why:

ceramics-set-one-matcha-made-600

Growing a small business from the ground up tends to require a few things: A great internet connection, a team willing to be paid in passion over a big paycheck, and a steady stream of positive, focused energy. While we can’t guarantee that matcha can fulfill the first two requirements, it does do a great job promoting the latter.

 

Packed with antioxidants to keep your mind and body active and healthy, amino acids to keep you calm and focused, and just enough caffeine to keep you on track from morning till night, matcha makes other caffeinated drinks seem as boring as water cooler gossip.

 

1). Team-Building Made Easy

 

Since its early development in the 12th century, matcha has been used to build bonds between friends and colleagues. In Japanese tea ceremonies, where matcha plays a key role, the concept of bringing people from different walks of life on an equal plane is paramount. Both monks and warriors would shed off stress by sharing a single cup of matcha green tea together, meditating on oneness and living in the present moment.

 

While passing around a single cup of matcha between co-workers might be out of the question at the office, taking a moment to measure out a scoop of matcha powder and whisk it together with hot water for a perfect cup of emerald green matcha makes for an excellent opportunity to catch up with colleagues on challenges and successes. The amino acid l-theanine, found abundantly in matcha green tea powder, has been clinically proven to reduce stress while curbing side-effects like irritability and nervousness. As a result, matcha green tea promotes a friendly, relaxed working environment, ripe for collaboration.

 

2). Long-Lasting Focus

 

Coffee, black tea, and sodas release and expel caffeine from the body quickly, so that we go from feeling fully charged to bleary-eyed within a couple of hours. Matcha is different. While the amount of caffeine in a cup of matcha (about 25 mg) is equivalent to less than a shot of espresso, the buzz generated from a cup of matcha green tea lasts much longer, often up to 6 hours.

 

The reason behind this is simple: When combined together, the amino acids in matcha have been found to actually slow the release of caffeine, thereby preventing jitters and prolonging energy and alertness. Recent studies have also shown that l-theanine improves mental focus and clarity by stimulating alpha brain waves, which are responsible for a calm yet alert state of mind.

3). Bigger, Better Business Ideas

 

Sometimes, the only thing standing in the way of a good company becoming a great one is one big idea. Not only does the l-theanine in matcha green tea promote feelings of a calm alertness, it has also been found to improve linguistic and numerical cognition (which might just help you find your next “Eureka!” moment). Meanwhile, another recent study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience showed that l-theanine helps the brain’s ability to avoid distractions and multitask.

 

Because matcha powder is consumed whole as opposed to being steeped then discarded, a cup of matcha green tea contains several dozen times more of the powerful antioxidant EGCG than the average cup of green tea. EGCG has been found to improve cognitive functions by promoting a process called “neurogenesis”, whereby neurons are produced. In tests with lab mice, EGCG was found to help improve both object recognition and spatial memory – two more steps to helping you find the solution to your company’s biggest problem.

 

4). No More Sick Days

 

In 2012, Forbes magazine wrote that sick days cost employers upwards of $576 billion dollars. In small business, a nasty case of the flu can cost a company their monthly sales target, or worse.

 

Along with proper diet and exercise, a diet rich in antioxidants is essential to maintaining a strong immune system. Research has shown that the EGCG antioxidants in matcha boost the body’s immune system by producing “T cells”, which fight bacteria and infection, and “regulatory” cells, which rebalance the body’s immune system once the T cells have done their job. Among its other strengths, EGCG combats free radicals that can otherwise lead to age-related illnesses such as Alzheimers; improves the cardiovascular system; prevents the growth of several different types of cancerous cells (including those related to lung and colon cancer), and regulates insulin levels.

 

Resources:

 

L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. Nagoya University Department of Psychology

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. Unilever Research and Development

Brainy beverage: Study reveals how green tea boosts brain cell production to aid memory. Wiley. Science Daily. 5 September 2012.

US Workforce Illness Costs $576b Annually from Sick Days for Worker Compensation. Bruce Japsen. Forbes Magazine. 9 December 2012.

Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and other flavonoids reduce Alzheimer’s amyloid-induced mitochondrial dysfunction. Dragicevic N, Smith A, Lin X, Yuan F, Copes N, Delic V, Tan J, Cao C, Shytle RD, Bradshaw PC. Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology, University of South Florida.

Mechanisms of Growth Inhibition of Human Lung Cancer Cell Line, PC-9, by Tea  Polyphenols. Yoshizawa, S., Horiuchi, T., Fujiki, H., Yoshida, T., Okuda, T. and Sugimura, T. Antitumor. Cancer Science. Volume 88. Issue 7. July 1997.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) attenuates high glucose-induced insulin signaling blockade in human hepG2 hepatoma cells. Lin CL, Lin JK. Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University.

Effects of Green Tea and EGCG on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health. Swen Wolfram Phd. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 26. Issue 4, 2007.

The Ultimate Immunity-Boost: A Cup of Matcha a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Detox and matcha

A cup of  Matcha a day keeps the doctor away!

Nothing spells winter quite like a sniffly, frog-throated, stay-in-bed cold. Every bone in your body feels listless, every muscle weak, every brain cell clouded in a gooey, runny fog. While some of us brave the annual office flu shot to avoid sick days, others (present company included) have a secret weapon: matcha green tea.

 

Matcha green tea powder is made of whole ground tea leaves, grown in the shade, hand-picked, then ground into a fine powder to retain optimal antioxidants and natural immunity-boosting vitamins and minerals. Instead of steeping then discarding the tea leaves, matcha tea powder can be whisked into hot water and consumed whole, meaning that none of the nutrients in matcha tea powder go to waste.

 

Here, we deconstruct the best matcha health benefits to help keep you far away from the doctor’s door:

EGCG

Epigallocatechin 3-O gallate (EGCG) is matcha green tea powder’s greatest achievement, and perhaps the key reason why matcha was conferred its “superfood” star status. The most potent catechin in tea, EGCG is now widely recognized for its benefits in cancer prevention and treatment (one 2005 study alone from the Saitama Cancer Research Institute showed that EGCG inhibits the growth of lung cancer cells), as well as for its ability to help fight degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and to prevent diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels.

Matcha is also known to aid in the production of “T cells” and “regulatory cells”, both of which help to maintain a healthy immune system. For this reason, matcha is a popular supplement in HIV treatment.

EGCG is also known to improve the health and general appearance of skin, hair, and teeth; in a study from 2009, for example, matcha was found to improve the problems associated with periodontal disease by inhibiting the cellular adherence of periodontal pathogens.

Good for: Cancer prevention, insulin regulation, cardiovascular health, degenerative disease prevention, immunity, skin health, hair health, dental health.

Vitamin A

 

Vitamin A in matcha comes in the form of a beta-carotene, a carotenoid found naturally in plants that quickly converts to Vitamin A in the human body. A cup of matcha contains about 595 mg of Vitamin A Carotene, which is known to help eyesight and boost immunity, but is also used as an alternative supplement to treat cystic fybrosis, cataracts, and Alzheimer’s Disease. Vitamin A is also a common ingredient in skin moisturizers, as it helps to replenish and maintain skin cells.

 

Good for: Eyesight, immunity

Vitamin K

 

Although all teas deriving from the camellia sinensis plant contain Vitamin K, only matcha green tea powder is able to transfer its huge array of benefits into the human body. Found abundantly in the Japanese diet (where osteoporosis rates are far lower than in North America), Vitamin K is hugely important in maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin K works in the body through a process called the “vitamin K cycle”, whereby vitamin k targets and activates proteins, collecting calcium ions along the way. The process helps to regulate calcium build-up in the arteries, while bringing the calcium to bone mass in order to help them stay strong.

Good for: Cardiovascular health, bone health.

Potassium

1 gram of organic matcha powder contains about 27 mg of potassium, a mineral essential to bone health, blood sugar regulation, and fluid balance in the human body. A brilliant little electrolyte, potassium makes sure that that bodily fluids remain in balance while transmitting electrical charges from the brain through the central nervous system, to make sure that every organ is running smoothly. Potassium is also important to proper muscle growth, and helps to relieve soreness and cramps by regulating muscular contraction and relaxation.

 

Good for: Bone health, muscle health, fluid balance.

References

 

Mechanisms of Growth Inhibition of Human Lung Cancer Cell Line, PC-9, by Tea  Polyphenols. Yoshizawa, S., Horiuchi, T., Fujiki, H., Yoshida, T., Okuda, T. and Sugimura, T. Antitumor. Cancer Science. Volume 88. Issue 7. July 1997.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) attenuates high glucose-induced insulin signaling blockade in human hepG2 hepatoma cells. Lin CL, Lin JK. Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University.

Effects of Green Tea and EGCG on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health. Swen Wolfram Phd. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 26. Issue 4, 2007.

Health Benefits of Potassium. Organicfacts.net. 2014

Here’s Why Zen Buddhists Have Drank Matcha for Over a 1000 Years

plate-of-matcha-hands

First imported to Japan by Buddhist monks over a thousand years ago, there is no question that matcha green tea is steeped in the very essence of Zen. An entire culture has been built around the power of matcha as an “elixir of life”, replete with its own etiquette, ceremonies, rituals, and aesthetics. That said, a simple drink that seemingly wields this much power begs the question:

 

Why is matcha green tea powder so important to Zen Buddhism?

 

Long before it arrived in Japan, tea it was celebrated in its birthplace, China, as a source of healing and wellness. Although tea first came into use in China during the 10th century BC (around the time of the Early Iron Age in Europe), it wasn’t until the 3rd century BC that we first hear mention of its medicinal use in a text by Hua T’o, who wrote, “to drink bitter t’u constantly makes one think better.” From this time on, tea became an enormously popular drink in China both for the aristocratic and religious upper classes and later amongst the merchant and peasant classes.

 

Matcha green tea powder (made of steamed and ground sencha leaves, grown in the shade) was developed in 12th century AD China during the Southern Sung dynasty, and was soon favoured by Zen monks for its special ability to help them stay alert during meditation.

 

This new “cake” tea, which would come to be known as matcha (“ma” meaning powder, and “cha” meaning tea), was brought to Japan by the monk Esai in 1191 AD. Along with him he also brought Zen Buddhist knowledge of matcha green tea’s importance to Zen meditation.

 

A story told by monks from this time goes that Buddhists would gather together and meditate on the image of Bodhi Dharma while sharing a single cup of tea. This peaceful image goes a long way in understanding how The Way of the Tea became such an important part of a meditative social life in Japan.

 

By 1211 AD, Esai had completed Kissa Yōjōki, or How to Stay Healthy by Drinking Tea, a seminal book that would make matcha green tea a central part of life within the warrior class of Japan. The first sentence alone leaves little room to question Esai’s enthusiasm about matcha green tea:

 

“Tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy and has

the ability to make one’s life more full and complete.”

 

The Science behind why Zen Buddhist monks have drank matcha for over 1000 years

 

As with so many discoveries, the scientific research that went into finding out why matcha green tea powder is so important to Zen Buddhism came out of 1000 quiet years of intuition and observation.

 

The science behind matcha’s meditation power can be ground down to a single chemical property: the amino acid l-theanine. Beginning in the mid-20th century, scientists began to discover that l-theanine has psychoactive properties when it’s combined with the caffeine in matcha and other tea, meaning that it is able to cross the blood-brain border and actually stimulate Alpha brain waves, the brain signals directly associated with an alert yet calm energy. The result of this complex biological process is an overwhelming feeling of calm, focus, and of improved mental alertness, precisely what is needed in meditation.

 

L-theanine can be found in all tea, but it’s especially potent in matcha. While a regular cup of Orange Pekoe might only contain 20 mg of l-theanine per cup (or even less depending on the quality of tea you’re drinking), a cup of high-quality organic matcha green tea can contain upwards of 46 mg.

 

Whether or not the importance matcha green tea lies on a meditative or a molecular level, it’s important to take your time enjoying your next cup of matcha green tea, and when possible, share this peaceful experience with others in the same way monks have done for over 1000 years. After all, as Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh says,

 

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”

Resources

 

History of Tea. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 26 January, 2014.

 

Silent Dialogue and “Teaism”: A New Perspective on European Missionaries’ Experiences of the Way of Tea 茶道 in Late Sixteenth-Century Japan. N. Frances Hioki. Sophia University Institute of Comparative Culture Working Paper Series, Number 7.

 

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

 

Thich Nhat Hanh. Plum Village Mindfulness Practice Center. 2014.

Matcha Green Tea at the Dojo: Our 5 Reasons Matcha Improves Martial Arts Performance

buddha

At the dojo, conviction, discipline, focus, and humility always outweigh physical strength. A cup of matcha green tea, loaded as much with history as with amino acids and antioxidants, provides mental clarity, focus, and an unmistakable calm that has been making the rounds in the martial arts community as their “superfood” of choice.

 

Here are 5 reasons why organic matcha green tea powder will help your next training session at the dojo.

 

1). Conviction

 

The “Karate-dō Kyohan”, the seminal guide to Karate, teaches that “indecision is weakness”. The strength conviction is central to all Japanese Martial Arts, and with this comes planning, confidence, and experience. Matcha green tea is packed with l-theanine, an amino acid found only in tea that has been clinically proven to improve mental clarity, improve cognitive functions, resist distraction, and switch between tasks more easily. The result? Faster, more precise decisions, and not a moment of indecision in the face of your opponent.

2). Energy

 

Martial Arts practitioners often joke that their second home is the dojo – long training hours require the right blend of proper diet, rest, and that certain zip of energy to keep their minds and bodies on track. Caffeine in matcha green tea is assimilated into the body a very different way than other caffeinated drinks. Here, caffeine attaches itself to catechin molecules (which are also powerful antioxidants), and then releases itself slowly into the bloodstream so the energy from a cup of matcha green tea will last around 6 hours.

3). Focus

 

If there’s one element that truly binds matcha and the dojo together, it’s supreme focus. Martial arts are activities based on concentration and mental clarity – a single action is never taken lightly, nor is the decision to take on an opponent. Scientific studies repeatedly show that matcha green tea powder significantly improves mental focus and clarity because of its abundance of l-theanine. When combined with caffeine, this powerful amino acid stimulates alpha brain waves, which create a sense of calm alertness.

 

4). Health

 

To make matcha green tea powder, the tea plant camellia sinensis is grown in the shade before it is ground into a fine powder, a process that guarantees the intense neon green color we associate with only the best matcha powder. As a result of this unique harvesting method, organic matcha green tea powder contains huge levels of antioxidants – far more than dark chocolate, goji berries, or spinach combine. Among its many benefits, the antioxidant EGCG in matcha has been clinically proven to improve the cardiovascular system and boost the body’s immune system by promoting the production of “T cells” and “regulatory cells”, which help to fight infection and rebalance the immune system. Matcha is also high in vitamin K, known to aid in maintaining healthy bones and insulin levels. One of the four fat-soluble vitamins, matcha is the only form of green tea that confers vitamin K.

5). Humility

 

Humility – the pursuit showing respect for both one’s teacher and one’s opponent – is central to all Japanese martial arts. Respect for one’s teacher, the ability to take criticism, and the promotion of honour and courtesy are paramount to karate, kendo, aikido, and judo. In “the way of the tea” (or the Japanese tea ceremony), participants share a cup of matcha green tea on equal footing. Developed during a time of civil war in Japan, warriors were traditionally asked to leave their swords outside the chashitsu (or tea room) in order to meditate on the peacefulness of the present moment in time over a cup of matcha.

 
References:

L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. Nagoya University Department of Psychology

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. Unilever Research and Development

Effects of Green Tea and EGCG on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health. Swen Wolfram Phd. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 26. Issue 4, 2007.

 

Vitamin K. Examine.com. February 3 2014.

 

Matcha. Cathy Wong ND. About.com Natural Medicine. Updated August 2 2013.

 

Artist’s Tea: How Matcha Helps my Creative Process

matcha-powder-4

Artists tend to be creatures of habit, adopting routines and rituals that help them ease into their creative flow from one day to the next. For many artists, these routines have historically included a bottle of booze and a steady stream of cigarette ash on the studio floor. Times have changed, though, and so have the tools artists use to help them make their work.

My Matcha Story

 

I’m an artist, working with painting and sculpture. I discovered matcha a few years back, when it first hit my local cafe as the new “it” drink. Though skeptical at first (“isn’t it just green tea?”), I was soon hooked. I immediately fell in love with the creamy, full-bodied texture of matcha, and loved letting its earthy, fresh green flavor linger in my mouth.

 

Soon though, I began to notice how much better my mind and body felt after choosing a cup of matcha over my usual double-long espresso. Suddenly, I felt energetic, I felt calm, I felt alert.

 

Artists tend to see the world differently than other people (which is usually why the rest of the world see us as bumbling shoe-gazers). Integral to my art practice is observation; I look for little details that go unnoticed by others, but inform bigger systems that exist around us. With a cup of matcha green tea by my side, I always feel a curious mix of calm and focus as I work; I suddenly feel more aware of the world around me – able to see all the beautiful little details that are so integral to my art practice.

 

Curious, I decided to find out why matcha has made such a big impact on my art practice. As it turns out, scientists are way ahead of me.

The Science of Focus

 

Like most people of my generation, I’m a full-blown internet addict, prone to social media distraction at any opportune moment. It took me a while to figure out when to turn off my phone and disconnect my wifi connection while I’m in my studio, but I also found other rituals that help me to focus on what I’m making: Yoga in the morning, and a cup of matcha before I get to work.

 

The story of matcha goes back to 1169, when Zen Buddhist monks arrived back in Japan after a trip to China carrying with them powdered green tea, or “matcha”. Long used in China as a tool to help monks focus during meditation, matcha green tea powder soon became the favourite drink of the Imperial court and Buddhist monasteries alike. Matcha green tea powder has been used at home and as an integral part of the Japanese tea ceremony ever since.

 

By the late 20th century, scientists in Asia and the West began to study matcha’s chemical properties to determine why it has been used so effectively for so long. Two main natural components of matcha with hugely beneficial implications for the human body and mind were found to exist in matcha: The amino acid l-theanine, and the antioxidant EGCG.

 

L-theanine is an amino acid found exclusively in tea. Because matcha green tea powder is made using ground tencha leaves that are consumed whole (as opposed to steeped), matcha contains huge quantities of l-theanine. Among its many health benefits, l-theanine has been clinically proven to improve working memory, reduce stress, and aid spatial and numerical cognition. Most importantly for me, l-theanine has been found in clinical tests to reduce the brain’s susceptibility to distraction while helping me to switch between tasks more easily. L-theanine’s power lies in its psychoactive ability to stimulate alpha-brain wave activity, which helps to promote a state of calm focus.

 

The catechin antioxidant EGCG, meanwhile, has been found to boost brain activity by impacting the generation of neural progenitor cells during a process called “neurogenesis”. While this may sound like martian-speak, the ultimate effect of neurogenesis is to actively prevent memory loss, while shielding the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimers.

Collaborating on Matcha

 

Sure, I spend long hours alone in my studio, but my life as an artist is far from solitary. Studio visits, gallery openings, and regular meetings where I exchange ideas with other artists are all part of my job. The stakes are high, and stress can run rapids if I don’t keep myself in check.

 

Before I go out in the evening to a gallery opening, I like to sip a cup of matcha green tea. The amino acids in matcha help me to network the gallery, constantly switch conversations and meet new people. Matcha also keeps me relaxed, so that I can settle down into a good conversation when the opportunity is right.

 

When I have friends and colleagues over to discuss work, I like to share a cup of matcha green tea with them. Besides the initial (and quickly subsiding) “oh, what’s….this?” reaction from my guests, I find that our conversations are always far richer, and our time is so much more productive while we’re sipping matcha green tea. We’re also able to work productively for longer periods of time, the result of amino acids mixing with the low dose of caffeine in matcha to even out and lengthen its buzz.

 

I like to imagine the first drinkers of matcha green tea, zen buddhist monks in China and Japan, sitting together and sharing a single bowl of this neon green and earthy concoction, meditating collectively on oneness and the present moment, opening their eyes to compose beautiful poetry and pen and ink drawings.

 

Resources

 

L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. Nagoya University Department of Psychology

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. Unilever Research and Development

Brainy beverage: Study reveals how green tea boosts brain cell production to aid memory. Wiley. Science Daily. 5 September 2012.

4 Ways to Overcome Writer’s Block

Matcha Green Tea

 

 

Somewhere down the line, you’ve probably experienced writer’s block. Perhaps it first occurred during finals at college, when you downed a preposterous mixture of coffee and pizza in an effort to plonk out your final essay. Or perhaps you’ve got a case of it right now, your head swimming with garbled ideas and a deadline looming gloomily around the corner.

 

The good news is that you’re in eminent company: Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Virginia Woolf are just a few eminent names that have confessed to experiencing writer’s block now and then. They were also, as time as shown, masters at finding their way out of the murk.

 

In this blog post, we’ll explore 4 strategies to help any writer get back “in the zone” using a tool that Japanese Zen Buddhist monks and cramming students alike have used for centuries: matcha green tea.

 

Plan Ahead & Keep it Simple

 

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

- Mark Twain

 

Planning is everything when it comes to putting your thoughts in the right order and getting them down on paper (or screen). Make a list of your references, key ideas, and keywords that you want to use throughout your text. Take your time: rushing through the all-important planning steps will just add to re-working later on. For some writers, like R.L. Stine, this process can take up to a third of your writing time.

 

Meanwhile, If you feel that words are getting the best of you (hey, who hasn’t written a particularly florid sentence that seems to take up the entire paragraph), break down your ideas into one-liners: No adjectives or adverbs – just english so simple a 4-year old can understand it.

 

Avoid Coffee

 

Honoré de Balzac once wrote, “Many people claim coffee inspires them, but, as everybody knows, coffee only makes boring people even more boring.” We tend to agree.

 

Coffee and sugary caffeinated drinks tempt us with the promise of a swift burst of energy, but take heed, writers: the high from coffee only lasts about an hour or two before you’ll come crashing down. Worse than a lack of mental focus, coffee’s side effects include headaches, mental cloudiness, jitters, and a general state of agitation, prone to distraction. Not exactly a ripe state for a typing marathon.

 

“Hyperfocus” with Matcha

 

Instead of your normal pot of coffee, try a cup matcha green tea to get you into the zone. Although its roots go back over thousand years in Japanese culture as a meditation tool for Zen Buddhist monks, matcha has been proven popular in contemporary Japan for a number of years as a study aid for cramming students. Only in recent years have its effects been thoroughly studied by Western science.

 

Matcha is made of crushed tencha leaves, and is most commonly consumed as a tea by adding matcha green tea powder to hot water. Instead of drinking hot water steeped with tea leaves, you’re actually drinking the entire ground tencha leaves when you drink matcha green tea, meaning that matcha health benefits out-do even the much lauded green tea.

 

While naturally low in caffeine, matcha contains vast quantities of the amino acid l-theanine, which when combined with caffeine has been proven to prolong mental alertness. Matcha also comes with the added bonus of improved mental cognition and focus. One recent study found that the combination of caffeine and l-theanine reduced our susceptibility to distraction. Another study conducted at Oxford University, meanwhile, showed that matcha has a direct effect on the brain by increasing “alpha brain activity”, or the brain waves produced when the mind is active yet calm.

Maybe that’s why Marla Beck, the celebrated life coach for writers, calls matcha green tea powder a “vivid cocktail of hyperfocus wonderfulness”!

 

Take a Break, Then Find Your Rhythm

 

Some writers swear by the din of a busy cafe or an airport lounge to keep their creative juices flowing. Others (present company included) need absolute silence and a cozy, familiar spot. Whatever your writing rhythm, it helps to experiment before finding the routine that suits your working method.

 

Rather than shifting nervously in your seat while staring blankly at your screen the next time you feel a bout of writer’s block coming on, get up. Take a walk, practice a few sun salutations, dance, flap your arms and legs like the nut you are – then close your eyes and breath deep for a few moments to reconnect with the present.

 

Centering your focus on the present moment through meditation is a practice well-honed by Zen Buddhists, the founders of matcha green tea, thought its effects are now closely studied by scienctists. A recent study at the University of Washington found that participants who meditated regularly were able to stay on task for longer periods of time, and resist distractions. Curiously, they also felt better about their work after they had finished.

 

Combined with the relaxing and focusing power of matcha green tea powder, you’re on your way to a focused, clear, and productive writing day. Good luck with your writing, and in the meantime, we’ll leave you with a couple matcha-magic quotes from some of our writer friends:

 

“Drinking Breakaway Matcha is like passing out in a tea garden and having a tea-infused fever dream. What grabs you about this matcha is its smoothness: brew it thick, and it drinks smooth and sweet down to the bottom of the bowl. It’s hard to imagine a more satisfying matcha experience.”

Matthew Amster-Burton, Seattle-based author

 

“This tea is f*cking life changing. You’ve done an amazing thing.”

Sussu Laaksonen, Finnish screenwriter

Resources

 

The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. Unilever Research and Development

 

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

 

The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation Training on Multitasking in a High-Stress Information Environment. David M. Levy, Jacob O. Wobbrock, Alfred W. Kaszniak, Marilyn Ostergren. University of Washington.

Healing the Mind with Matcha: Why Psychologists are Discovering the Art of the Tea

matcha-at-work

In 2008, the National Institute of Mental Health reported that 13.4% of American adults sought help for mental health issues. More than just an indication of the increasing stresses of contemporary life, this statistic indicates a growing willingness of patients to seek help for a variety of illnesses that are often difficult to pinpoint. Depression, anxiety, and other common mental health issues, after all, don’t always carry the same clear-cut set of symptoms as the common cold. With this rise in mental health care use comes a need for better, more innovative solutions by mental health practitioners. Far from the intimidating Freudian chaise lounges and grim mental health institutions of years past, a psychologist’s office is now conceived of as a calm, relaxing place – one that promotes calm and focus over interrogation.

 

Lauded for both its mental and physical health benefits, matcha green tea is quickly finding its place within psychologists’ and mental health practitioners’ offices and treatment spaces. Rich in catechin antioxidants and amino acids yet low in caffeine, matcha green tea has been found to actively promote feelings of calm alertness, lending itself to a relaxed, focused, and mentally centered environment for both mental health practitioners and their patients.

 

Staying in the Present Moment

 

A patient’s first visit to a therapist’s office can feel like a blind date: Questions abound, unfamiliarity fills the air, and pressure to find “the right fit” looms. Making a patient feel at ease during these first tense moments is crucial to initiating a good patient/specialist rapport for months to come.

 

Imported to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks in the 12th century, matcha green tea emerged early as a source of calm and an aid to contemplation. As the central aspect of the Japanese tea ceremony, matcha is traditionally shared among participants as a way to bring all members of a group together on an equal plane, one that exists very much in the present moment.

 

In therapy, matcha has much the same effect. While the intense bright green color and powerful umami flavour of matcha green tea provide an initial “wake up” at the beginning of a session, its subtle combination of active ingredients promote a subtle sense of calm awareness until the time is up, allowing conversation to go deeper, and therapy to proceed more fluidly.

 

Calm Focus During Therapy

 

Matcha gains its power through one psychoactive property in particular: the amino acid l-theanine. When combined with matcha’s small dose of naturally-occurring caffeine, l-theanine has been found to increase alpha brain wave activity – known to promote a sense of calm mental alertness – while reducing heart rates. In this way, matcha actively reduces physiological and psychological stress, while augmenting mental clarity and a general feeling of well-being.

 

A recent EEG study conducted by Unilver, meanwhile, found that the l-theanine in matcha increases focus while reducing susceptibility to distraction. This is particularly beneficial for young patients who find it difficult to focus, as well as mental health specialists themselves, who must balance a large variety of information from different patients.

Matcha After Therapy

 

Integral to mental health treatment is life outside of a psychologist’s office. Patients need to be able to find lasting routines that continue the positive effects of therapy, and that help to center their minds in even the most stressful of situations. Many caffeinated drinks, like coffee and sugary sodas, play games on our insulin levels and subsequently our moods, rapidly increasing hormones and blood sugar for a short period of time before crashing an hour or two later. Caffeine dependency, after all, is a culprit of a number of mental health issues, from anxiety sleep disorders.

 

Matcha green tea powder is low in caffeine (up to three or four cups can be consumed throughout the day without any side effects), but rich in the catechin antioxidant EGCG, known for its myriad health benefits. Among them, EGCG is known to balance insulin and hormone levels, which in turn aids in regulating moods and leading to a more consistent feeling of well-being.

References

 

Use of Mental Health Services and Treatment Among Adults. National Institute of Mental Health, 2008.

L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. Nagoya University Department of Psychology

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. Unilever Research and Development

Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and other flavonoids reduce Alzheimer’s amyloid-induced mitochondrial dysfunction. Dragicevic N, Smith A, Lin X, Yuan F, Copes N, Delic V, Tan J, Cao C, Shytle RD, Bradshaw PC. Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology, University of South Florida.

 

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) attenuates high glucose-induced insulin signaling blockade in human hepG2 hepatoma cells. Lin CL, Lin JK. Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University.

Pamper Yourself At Home: Your Own Personal Spa with Matcha Green Tea

How to stay focused at the photo shoot with matcha

Treat yourself to Matcha Green Tea.

Ah, wintertime. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in Southern California or, well, anywhere south of the equator, the predominant color of your world right now is probably “grey”. Dry and cracked skin, soggy feet, a runny nose, and a persistent cold are all symptoms that you need a break from winter. For those of us unable to hop on a plane to the tropics, there are ways to boost your mood, energy, and general sense of well being during these short, dark months. The secret ingredient? Matcha.

Matcha the Superfood

Matcha green tea powder has been making waves lately as the newest member of the illustrious “superfood” club. Rich in antioxidants, amino acids, chlorophyll, and other health-giving properties, the health benefits matcha green tea bestows on its fans seem to go on and on.

But what exactly does matcha do? And wait, what’s an antioxidant anyhow?

Anti-Aging Antioxidants: Matcha green tea powder is teeming with EGCG, the catechin antioxidant found only in tea that is known for its ability to improve the immune system, boost the metabolism, and fight a variety of diseases and age-related problems. Antioxidants work by counteracting a process called “oxidation” in the body, whereby electrically-charged oxygen molecules called “free radicals” replace healthy electrons in the body. The production of free radicals is a natural part of aging, but is helped along by the pollution, heavy metals, and UV rays that batter our bodies every day.

Antioxidant levels in food are measured in ORAC (or “oxygen radical absorbance capacity”) units. While other superfoods like goji berries and dark chocolate hover 253 and 227 ORAC units respectively, matcha green tea powder contains a whopping 1440 units, meaning that a single cup of matcha helps to:

  • Improve the appearance of skin and hair

  • Prevent acne

  • Balance hormones

  • Boost the immune system

  • Regulate the metabolism and insulin levels

  • Fight the growth of cancerous cells

  • Fight age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s

  • Improve cardiovascular health

Amino Acids are Brain Food: Significant scientific research has been dedicated to powerful effects of the amino acid l-theanine on the human brain. Abundant in matcha green tea, l-theanine has been clinically proven to improve mental awareness, promote mental clarity and focus, reduce stress and irritability, and augment our ability to resist distraction. As a result, sipping matcha green tea leads to a general state of calm – exactly what is needed to relax into your next home spa day.

A Spa Day in a Cup of Tea: 4 Steps to Matcha Bliss

These days, it can be hard to imagine a day that doesn’t include your phone permanently fixed to your ear and your eyes glued to your computer screen; life these days is all about the “on” switch being lit up 24/7. Unfortunately, this pervasive feeling of “staying connected” to the world around us has left an understanding of what’s going on the inside lacking.

Here’s a 4-step guide to getting in touch with yourself on your next day off:

  1. Turn off technology: Making time for yourself by “shutting off” from the digital world is the first step to relaxing into your own personal spa day. With your cell switched to silent and your computer put to sleep, your mind will have the freedom to turn elsewhere for stimulation. All of a sudden, you might find yourself thinking of your next great idea, or piecing together a problem that’s been weighing you down for weeks.

  2. The art of the tea: In Japan, matcha is traditionally given the attention it deserves through the immersive tea ceremony, a centuries old ritual meant to unite its participants together as one as they all share in experiencing the “present moment”. Japanese tea ceremonies often last several hours, as each aspect of matcha preparation is performed with the utmost sense of purpose. At home, preparing a cup of matcha green tea to inaugurate your own personal spa day needn’t take hours, but it is helpful to think of it as the start of a mindful day. After all, this is your time to slow down, enjoy life, and make every little moment count.

  3. Meditate: As you sip your beautifully-prepared cup of bright green matcha goodness, sit still and meditate. Enjoy the rare calmness you’re giving yourself, and relax; this is your time to center yourself.

  4. Pamper: Once you’ve sipped the last drops of your matcha green tea and basked in the calm focus its provided you with, it’s time to pamper yourself. Take a long, hot bath, prepare a simple skin mask with natural ingredients, and enjoy what the Taoists (who are some of the earliest fans of green tea) call “Wu Wei” – doing without doing.

Matcha Skin Mask

While high-quality organic matcha powder is popularly enjoyed in tea form, culinary matcha green tea powder has all kinds of uses, including its use as an active ingredient in skin masks. Naturopathy blogger Talia Marcheggiani has a great recipe for a matcha green tea powder skin mask that helps to boost the skin’s glow and help fight acne:

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp matcha green tea powder

2 tbs shea butter

1 tbs coconut oil

10 drops vitamin A (optional)

Directions: Combine all of the ingredients and, either in a double boiler or microwave (if you’re pressed for time and/or patience), apply heat until all of the ingredients have melted into a homogenous mixture. Mix thoroughly and set aside at room temperature until the oils harden. Apply topically all over the face or problem areas of the skin before bed (it won’t turn your skin green!). In the morning cleanse face normally. This also makes a great antioxidant-rich anti-aging moisturizer for mature, dry or damaged skin.

References

 

L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. Nagoya University Department of Psychology

L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. Unilever Food and Health Research Institute

The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood. Owen GN, Parnell H, De Bruin EA, Rycroft JA. Unilever Research and Development

Green tea epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and other flavonoids reduce Alzheimer’s amyloid-induced mitochondrial dysfunction. Dragicevic N, Smith A, Lin X, Yuan F, Copes N, Delic V, Tan J, Cao C, Shytle RD, Bradshaw PC. Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology, University of South Florida.

Mechanisms of Growth Inhibition of Human Lung Cancer Cell Line, PC-9, by Tea  Polyphenols. Yoshizawa, S., Horiuchi, T., Fujiki, H., Yoshida, T., Okuda, T. and Sugimura, T. Antitumor. Cancer Science. Volume 88. Issue 7. July 1997.

Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) attenuates high glucose-induced insulin signaling blockade in human hepG2 hepatoma cells. Lin CL, Lin JK. Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University.

Effects of Green Tea and EGCG on Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health. Swen Wolfram Phd. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Volume 26. Issue 4, 2007.

Epigallocatechin-3-gallate improves acne in humans by modulating intracellular molecular targets and inhibiting P. acnes. Yoon JY, Kwon HH, Min SU, Thiboutot DM, Suh DH. J Invest Dermatol. 2013. Feb;133(2):429-40.

Matcha Hack-a-thon – Why programmers drink matcha

Why programmers drink matcha

Why programmers drink matcha

The outside world tends to have a fairly surreal view of computer programmers: Vampiric creatures who stare at screens until sunrise, punching in a mysterious language of numbers and letters that are indecipherable to laymen. While the reality of programming is well…slightly different, few professions champion the “all-nighter” like programmers do. Whether at a conference, the office, or a hack-a-thon, few professions are so loyal to their caffeinated drink of choice.

Although Club Mate has achieved a cult status in the programming world, a new late-night revolution is brewing: Matcha green tea – the ancient Japanese green tea powder used for over 1000 years by Buddhist monks to stay focused during meditation – is beginning to make the rounds in Silicon Valley and abroad. iOS developer and founder of RealSelf Eric Kennedy is a big fan of matcha, so are the creators of LifeHacker. In this blog post, we explore some of the popular and scientific reasons why.

6 Hours of Calm Focus – Without the Crash

On the grand scale of caffeine quantities, matcha green tea scores fairly low. While a single 8 oz. cup of brewed coffee tops the caffeine charts at a whopping 107.5 milligrams (300 mg per day is considered a healthy caffeine intake), matcha only contains about 25 milligrams per gram (or the equivalent of about one cup of matcha green tea). However extreme their differences are, the caffeine levels in matcha as opposed to other caffeinated drinks may not be the deciding factor of what keeps us awake longer.

In most caffeinated drinks, caffeine is released into the bloodstream and expelled quickly. Matcha, however, contains large amounts of an amino acid called l-theanine, which works together with caffeine to slow its release into the bloodstream, leading to smoother caffeine buzz that usually lasts for between 4 and 6 hours. Not only this, but l-theanine is also clinically proven to reduce stress and promote a mind and body sensation of calm alertness by inducing alpha brain wave activity, associated with a state of relaxed awareness.

The Sugar High Then the Sugar Crash

Not only are sugar-filled drinks your teeth’s worst enemy, they also wreak havoc on insulin levels, your liver, and ultimately, your waistline. As a result, sugary drinks have been found to be one of the worst culprits of diabetes, with a single can of soda a day augmenting the risk of Type 2 Diabetes by 18%.

When we consume sugar-filled drinks like Coca Cola, Club Mate, or juice, our bodies immediately begin to absorb their sugar by transforming all existing sugar in the body to fat and storing it for energy later on. Blood sugar levels start to rise, and insulin is produced at a faster rate than normal. Meanwhile, as caffeine levels in the body rise, so does our blood pressure, requiring the liver to process sugar at an even higher rate. Within a couple hours, this caffeine and sugar juggernaut comes to a crashing halt, as the diuretic properties in caffeine begin to expel liquid and along with it, their nutrients. In effect, the body will crash twice, first from sugar (within about an hour), and then from caffeine (by about hour two). The body is left feeling listless, jittery, irritable, and in a slightly masochistic turn of events – craving another dose of sugar.

Matcha green tea, on the other hand, is very different. While some matcha lovers enjoy a teaspoon of honey in their tea, most matcha green tea drinkers find that the umami taste sensation they experience removes the need for sugar. The result is a long-lasting, crash-free buzz, perfect for your next all-night programming session.

How to Choose the Right Matcha

Like wine, matcha green tea powder comes in varying qualities, from the neon green hue and smooth, rich flavor of the best organic matcha powder, to the pale celadon and rougher after-taste of culinary-grade matcha powder. Breakaway Matcha founder and matcha expert Eric Gower wrote an informative blog post all about what makes good matcha, but here are a few quick tips for beginners:

  • Color: Color is the #1 indicator of high-quality matcha powder. Good matcha should have be bright green (as if you were to hold a leaf in front of the sun)
  • Smell: Smell is a good indicator of the freshness of matcha powder. Eric Gower recommends taking a big whiff, if it smells of earthy green vegetables, it’s fresh. If it smells like hay and dust, it’s stale.
  • Packaging: Matcha tea leaves are grown in the shade, which is why matcha is so rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and chlorophyll. Once the green tea is ground into matcha powder, the powder should always be stored in air-tight, light-sensitive packaging.

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.

Why I Take My Time With Matcha and Meditation

Why I Take My Time With Matcha

Why I Take My Time With Matcha

Few would deny that we’re living in strange times. The weather is turning seasons in circles, technology is moving us all at a mile a minute, and war is rearing its ugly head in more than one place.

Throughout it all, it seems the one thing the entire world is missing are a few moments each day where we can sit back, reflect, and feel the ground under our feet.

 

Learning to Adapt and Adopt

I’m a young man, but I feel as if I’ve lived many lives. Growing up under a military government in Argentina, I know the terrible conditions we as humans are capable of putting each other through – and the true meaning of calm in the midst of chaos and destruction.

I have also seen our extraordinary ability to adapt, and learn from ourselves and the people around us.

I see it with my kids, who overcome one challenge after the next. I see it with my friends and colleagues, who are learning how to take time out of their day – even if it’s just for a few moments when they wake up or before they go to bed – to think about who they are, and who they want to be for their family and their community.

For me, adopting the ritual of preparing and drinking matcha during my day has become my daily survival secret. A few times a day, I take time to measure out a bamboo scoop-ful of matcha powder (from Breakaway Matcha, of course), add hot water, whisk, and sit back to relax with my little ceramic cup. As I sip the creamy green mouthfuls of umami-rich matcha, I feel the most amazing sensation of calm wash over me – as if all the stresses of the day are being lifted over my head.

These moments are my time to look inside, and to become aware of my mind, my body, and my surroundings.

 

Liquid Meditation

Breakaway Matcha founder (and proud dad) Eric Gower often refers to matcha as “liquid meditation”. As he points out, matcha is a drink whose entire history is based on the art of meditation (the process of making matcha powder was originally imported to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks). The star of Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha has been used in Japan for centuries as an aid to bring about self-awareness and purposeful action.

Sure, there are dozens of scientific studies relating to the positive effects of l-theanine, an amino-acid found in matcha that helps to elongate the release of caffeine and relieve stress, and about the huge levels of age-fighting antioxidants in matcha. But at the end of the day, most of us matcha drinkers tend to put the science and talk more simply about how matcha makes us feel inside and out.

Self-awareness is a process, and matcha is one part of mine.

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.

Why Yogis Are Drinking Matcha

Matcha before and after Yoga

Matcha before and after Yoga

Not so long ago, yogi, Nike’s Global Ambassador for Yoga, and author of From Office Hell to Yoga Heaven Leah Kim wrote words that made us here at Breakaway Matcha blush:

“With matcha in my life, my energy levels are consistent and more abundant, and no matter how late I have a serving, it never affects my sleep the way other caffeinated drinks do.”

Leah is one of scores of dedicated yogis turning to matcha as a simple, satisfying way to make the most of their practice. Here’s why…

 

The History of Matcha and Yoga

Historically speaking, matcha and yoga aren’t so different. The practice of whipping tea powder and hot water together first emerged during the Song dynasty in China (around 960-1269), before it was brought along with Zen Buddhism to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai as an aid for zen meditation.

Yoga, meanwhile, is a comparatively older tradition. While hotly debated, the first mentions of yoga probably emerged in Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu texts around 500-200 BC, and since then has become an integral part of Indian culture. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that yoga arrived in the West, while its enormous rise in popularity in Europe and North America can be attributed to the last 50 years.

Matcha Before Class, Matcha After Class

It’s only recently that yoga and matcha have come together as a particularly awesome pairing, as seasoned yogis are choosing matcha over tea or coffee to help them and their students practice more calmly and purposefully.

Drinking matcha tea before a yoga class helps us ease gracefully into an alert yet mindful meditative state – the “tuned in” feeling that we search for. The transition from office cubicle to sun salutation is made all the more fluid as a result of matcha’s powerful combination of amino acids, antioxidants, and a touch of caffeine.

Sipping a cup of matcha after class, meanwhile, helps lengthen the unmistakable sensation of mind and body awareness we feel after a great yoga class, and provides us with an extra dose of focus and clarity needed to peacefully shift gears into the “real world”. A matcha break after class is also a great way to build a sense of community amongst other yogis, and share a few words, smiles, and laughs about your lives and your yoga practices.

What Matcha Does For Your Yoga Practice

If you’re familiar with matcha (and with this blog), you’ll already have an idea of the science behind why matcha works so well as a tool in creating mind-body balance. For the rest of us, here’s the short story:

  • Matcha is packed with amino acids (such as l-theanine) that are clinically proven to improve focus and reduce stress.

  • Although matcha contains caffeine, the amino acids in matcha prevent the energy hole that coffee and black teas usually create, while removing all traces of jitters or irritability.

  • The potassium in matcha helps to reduce joint pain and smooth muscle contractions.

  • Matcha contains more antioxidants by weight than blueberries, broccoli, and chocolate combined, which helps to to rid our bodies of toxins, reduce cholesterol, and promote healthy skin and hair.

  • While the quality of matcha powders vary, the best matcha is packed with “umami” the fifth taste on the taste spectrum. As a result, matcha tea is best consumed pure, just like that first deep breath during meditation.

 

The Business of Matcha, The Business of Yoga – And You

The Yoga Journal recently released a statistic about yoga in America that surprised even us: 20.4 million people in America practice yoga regularly. The industry surrounding yoga, meanwhile, has grown at such an exponential rate that about $10.3 billion (twice as much as in 2008) was spent on yoga classes and yoga-related products in 2012. From leggings, to magazines, to mats, to incense burners, companies have been popping up at an explosive rate to keep up with the yoga boom.

And yet, amidst this burst in everything yoga-related are millions of individuals quietly, diligently practicing asanas. Yoga is a deeply personal experience, and at the end of the day, it’s more about you, your mind, and your body than a mat, a headband. Much the same can be said about matcha. Set aside the hype, and you’re left with a simple cup of pure, creamy green tea, albeit one that helps us to achieve the same goal as yoga: nothing short of total mind and body awareness.

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.

Detoxing on Matcha

Detox and matcha

Detox and matcha

It’s happened to the best of us. You look in the mirror and grimace: You look tired, your brain is foggy, your skin is grey, and you seem to have gained 10 pounds overnight.

Oh yes, it’s time for a detox.

Luckily, this time around your detox doesn’t have to solely consist of a week’s worth of celery and lemon water. Sipped during a cleanse (and after), matcha powder and matcha tea work wonders at getting rid of toxins, speeding up your body’s metabolism, pumping your body with anti-aging antioxidants and amino acids, and even helping to burn fat.

The secret to matcha’s detoxifying power lies in two of its health-giving properties: the antioxidant catechin EGCG and chlorophyll.

 

1). Antioxidants

Matcha is teeming with antioxidants, the little molecules that defend against free-radicals and are essential to fighting age-related problems, from skin elasticity to alzheimers. One special antioxidant in particular called EGCG is found only in tea, and is particularly abundant in matcha green tea.

Among its many, many benefits, EGCG helps to…

  • Lose weight: EGCG increases thermogenesis, whereby the body will burn fat in order to generate heat. By drinking beverages like matcha tea that contain a combination of EGCG and caffeine, thermogenesis has been found to increase by a whopping 28%, leading to faster and more efficient weight loss. EGCG has also been found to increase fat oxidation and boost the body’s metabolism. Meanwhile, the caffeine in matcha acts as a mild diuretic, helping to flush out excess liquids and reduce bloating.

  • Make skin look healthier: The antioxidants piled into matcha help to fight free radicals that arrive from the daily chemicals, smog, and toxins our bodies breath in, as well as from nasty habits like smoking. Antioxidants have been found to keep skin looking elastic, fresh, and radiant, especially when absorbed in the body through food and drink.

  • Fight off cancer: EGCG produces GST enzymes, which are a powerful defense against cancer-causing chemicals. Furthermore, this study in the Oxford Journals found that EGCG suppresses the growth of lung cancer cells.

  • Balance insulin levels: This study from the American Journal of Physiology found that a diet rich in EGCG antioxidants helps to improve and regulate insulin levels, and to increase glucose tolerance.

  • Prevent cardiovascular diseases: Meanwhile, research suggests that EGCG found in matcha green tea helps to prevent heart disease, which remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide.

 

2). Chlorophyll

Chlorophyll is a naturally-occurring pigment that makes plants green, an integral part of photosynthesis whereby sunlight is stored and converted into plant energy. Because it is grown in the shade, matcha must produce more chlorophyll than most other plants in order for photosynthesis to occur (this is also what gives your matcha such a vibrant green color). Because the tea leaves are ground, we’re consuming the entire leaf when we use matcha powder, meaning that the goodness of chlorophyll enters our bodies more plentifully and directly.

Among its many touted benefits, chlorophyll helps the body to:

  • Absorb and expel heavy metals such as aluminum, lead, mercury.

  • De-acidify the body and restores its natural pH balance.

  • Clean and purify the blood.

 

How to Detox With Matcha

Green tea detoxes have enjoyed a fair bit of attention recently, though you’ll be hard-pressed to find a doctor out there willing to support green tea extract in pill form or as part of a costly and filler-packed detox kit.

While drinking matcha green tea and nothing else is not recommended as a detox diet, matcha does figure nicely into a plan that includes lots of raw fruits and vegetables, water, and a temporary ban on refined sugar, salt, and cigarettes. Check with your doctor to find out about a detox that works for you.

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.

Meditation & Matcha: The CEO’s New Secret Weapon

businessmen and meditation with matcha green tea

businessmen and meditation with matcha green tea

Ask any CEO, CFO, CMO or founder how they’re doing, and you can bet your last dollar they will answer, “busy”. For years, a Mad Men style work ethic of whisky-fuelled all-nighters and cut-throat meetings was understood to be the path to professional success.

Luckily, things are changing. In 2014, entrepreneurship is all about meditation over “the grind” – and matcha over martinis.

Senior management at some of the world’s largest and most innovative companies are coming out in favour of taking time to be still, to reflect – and to resist the urge to check their smart phones every other minute. While scores of up-and-coming entrepreneurs are following suit (and reaping the benefits), meditation often doesn’t always come easy at first. As a caffeine alternative, matcha works wonders at keeping energy and focus up (and the jitters at bay). But its original calling as an aid in meditation gives away its inherent power to create a sense of calm and awareness needed to get in – and stay in – the zen “zone”.

 

Boardroom Machismo: Meet Meditation

Once shrugged off as a passing fad, meditation has only recently become the subject of mainstream scientific research: Inc.com recently reported on a study by Harvard Medical School and the University of Massachusets Medical School on the positive effects of meditation. The results showed that even amongst a group of 16 people who had never meditated before, brain activity significantly changed in only 8 weeks of daily quiet reflection: “Among the enhancements,” wrote Inc.com, were “learning and memory processes, emotional regulation, and perspective taking.” Needless to say, CEO’s are listening.

Panda Express’ Andrew Cherng takes time out of his busy schedules to meditate everyday (a recent Business Insider report suggested that Cherng “once paused a business meeting to encourage a frazzled business manager to meditate”). FastCompany recently reported that HootSuite CEO and founder Ryan Holmes is so dedicated to his daily yoga practice that he installed a yoga studio in HootSuite’s headquarters.

 

Matcha: The Secret to Letting Go

A staunch advocate for the benefits of meditation, efficiency expert and regular Harvard Business Review columnist Peter Bregman argues that nobody is too busy to meditate. Rather, he says, meditation helps us to resist outside distractions, which in turn helps us to learn new skills, to make more informed decisions, to improve relationships with co-workers, and most importantly, to follow through with our goals.

For many businessmen and women, the hardest thing about meditation isn’t just finding the time to meditate, it’s finding the willpower to stay in the lotus position for more than a minute or two.

Used in zen meditation by Buddhist monks since the 12th century, matcha is a tried and true way to ease the transition from a mile-a-minute schedule to mindful relaxation. The reasons matcha works wonders at washing a sensation of calm and focus over the body when nothing else seems to do the trick are once again rooted in science. Studies show that the amino acid l-theanine abundantly present in matcha helps to create a state of calm focus through the promotion of alpha brain waves (or the brain waves associated to alert yet unagitated thinking).

Most teas contain some amounts of this powerful amino acid, but because matcha tea powder is consumed whole and not steeped like in other green teas, a cup of matcha green tea is absolutely packed with l-theanine.

 

6 Reasons Why CEO’s Are Drinking Matcha

  1. Matcha is a brilliant coffee alternative: The levels of caffeine in matcha are relatively low, but a single cup of matcha green tea is packed with amino acids. When combined, the amino acids in matcha slow the release of caffeine, leaving us feeling focused, energetic, and mentally alert for hours with none of the side-effects of other caffeine beverages.

  2. Matcha helps us meditate: Matcha tea can be consumed throughout the day, but it works wonders as a meditation aid. Meditation has been clinically proven to improve memory, productivity, and information absorption, while matcha promotes the calm and focus needed to remain in a meditative state for longer periods.

  3. Matcha actually improves cognition: This study suggests that matcha’s combination of caffeine and amino acids actually improves the accuracy and reaction time of mental cognition, meaning that information can be diverse processed more efficiently.

  4. Matcha keeps your brain healthy: With several times more antioxidants per weight than almost any other “super food”, matcha works wonders on getting rid of pesky free radicals from our bodies. Foods that are high in antioxidants like matcha help protect brain cells and guard against age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s.

  5. Matcha makes city-living easier: Antioxidant-rich foods also help to fight the signs of aging brought on by city-dwelling, as the smog and chemicals we breath in contribute to free radicals. The stress-reducing amino acids in matcha, meanwhile, help keep you calm during your daily commute.

Matcha only takes minute to prepare: Sure, the chado or Japanese Tea Ceremony that matcha is traditionally used in can last several hours, but making a cup of matcha green tea at home or at the office needn’t take more than a minute or two. Check out one of Eric Gower’s helpful “how-to” videos to learn how to prepare your next cup of matcha fast.

 

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.

How to stay focused at the photo shoot

How to stay focused at the photo shoot with matcha

Focus at the Photoshoot: How Models Stay Fierce with Matcha Tea

Any model will tell you that the greatest misconception about his or her job is that it’s as easy as just, well, standing around.

At any given moment, stress levels are at a maximum. The makeup artist is telling you to look up as she comes at you with a makeup brush. The photographer is instructing you to turn your body in five ways at once. The stylist is pricking your back with pins. And amidst all this bustle, there you are, expected to remain poised, attentive, beautiful – and to follow instructions. Staying focused on a photoshoot is difficult enough without assistants offering caffeine and sugar-filled uppers and downers in the form of sodas, coffee, or alcohol.

With its incomparable quantities of antioxidants and amino acids, its high levels of potassium and dietary fibre, and its perfect dose of caffeine, matcha tea is what the fiercest models are sipping on long photoshoots. Not only does matcha provide long-lasting energy and its own particular brand of stress relieving properties, it can also help keep your skin and hair looking gorgeous and your belly feeling full (even when there’s no time for a snack break).

Energy, focus, and calm alertness for hours from a cup of matcha tea

On the day of the shoot, the last thing a model wants to feel is cloudy-headed and lackluster. Sodas, coffee, and even a glass of champagne (or three) might provide a brief kick of energy, but the comedown soon leaves you wilting.

Matcha convertees often speak about the long-lasting sense of calm alertness that matcha tea provides. The “zen” feeling is no accident: The history of matcha in Japanese tea ceremonies and as a Buddhist meditation aid is centuries old, but it’s the science behind its stress-relieving, energy producing properties that has become the subject of countless studies.

The key to matcha’s brilliance as a caffeine alternative is its high levels of amino acids. When combined with caffeine, amino acids slow the release of caffeine into the body, helping us to feel alert over longer periods of time. While sipping coffee or soda throughout the day leads to jitters, stress, and irritability, matcha’s moderate dose of caffeine (a cup of matcha tea contains about a quarter the amount of caffeine as in a cup of coffee) allows you to drink three or four cups of matcha tea throughout the day without any caffeine-related side effects.

Better yet, matcha tea is particularly high in an amino acid called l-theanine. Studies have shown l-theanine to help in reducing stress levels and maintaining an active calm by promoting alpha brain waves. The science behind brain waves is complex, but suffice it to say that our brains function on four waves: Alpha, beta, delta, and theta. While delta and theta waves are related to resting states and beta is related to an excited (and often stressful) state, the alpha waves that matcha helps create signify a relaxed yet active state of mind, the kind associated with feeling calm, aware of your surroundings, and full of energy.

Keep your energy high at the photo shoot with matcha

Matcha tea contains more antioxidants than blueberries, goji berries, and chocolate combined

By now everyone and their grandmother has heard of antioxidants, but few of us actually know why they’re good for us, and what they do.

Here’s the 15-second answer: As we get older, electrically-charged oxygen molecules – or “free radicals” – replace electrons in our body. This replacement is a process called “oxidation”, which is known to cause damage to our cellular DNA. The older we get, the less capacity our bodies have to fight against free radicals on their own. By eating foods rich in antioxidants, our bodies are given a hand in fighting age-related diseases and cellular breakdown.

Enter matcha. A single teaspoon of matcha contains several dozen times more antioxidants than other known powerhouses like spinach, blueberries, goji berries, and pomegranates. The catechin antioxidants in matcha help fight the harmful effects of pollution, UV rays, and chemicals, which can help promote healthier, more vibrant skin and hair.

Matcha powder’s fiber and potassium keep you feeling full

It’s always surprising how much time goes and stress goes into taking a few good pictures. Photoshoots run on such a tight schedule that there is hardly time to sit down and take a break, let alone have a snack. That’s why it’s important to eat and drink the right fuel before and during a shoot, including foods that are low in sugar and salt, and high in dietary fiber and protein.

While a cup of matcha only contains about 3 calories, it contains 0.3 g of dietary fibre and about 27 mg of potassium. Both fibre and potassium help to regulate blood sugar (making us feel fuller longer) and also to regulate your metabolism. Potassium in particular is an under-appreciated mineral; not only does it help to regulate water and bodily fluids, it also helps to balance blood pressure, maintain electrical conductivity in the brain, and improve the strength of our bones.

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.

All-Nighters, Meet Matcha

Matcha and caffeine. All nighters

5 Reasons why Growth Hackers should put down their other caffeinated drink and get into the way of the tea

It’s 3am, and you need to launch your latest project in t-minus four hours. Your eyes belong only to your screen, but your brain is foggy, and your hands are vibrating like an iPhone. An array of empty bottles, cans, and mugs are strewn across your desk – testaments to the lengths you’ll go to stay up all night in the name of growing your company.

Maybe that last Club Mate wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Growth hackers swear by the liquid kick that helps maintain the focus and energy needed to stare into the depths of a screen long into the night. We all have our poison: In Seattle it’s a double americano; In London it’s a cuppa’; In Berlin it’s Club Mate; in New York it’s Red Bull.

Here’s the thing, though: these beverages we turn to when we need a late night pick-me-up might not be as effective as we keep telling ourselves they are. The levels of caffeine in coffee and tea make us jittery before we crash. Although Club Mate’s active ingredient, yerba mate, is known for its longer burning buzz, the amount of sugar in this and other carbonated drinks plays yo yo with our blood sugar levels. A single can of a typical energy drink, meanwhile, contains more caffeine and sugar than is recommended to consume in an entire day.

Then there’s matcha. For startups that live and die by efficiency, the way of the tea may at first seem more appropriate for a monastery than a hack-a-thon. Those startups couldn’t be more wrong. Packed full of antioxidants and amino acids but with moderate levels of caffeine and no sugar, matcha’s place as a startup’s secret weapon is out.

1) Matcha tea keeps you alert, awake, and focused for longer – without the jitters

We all know to turn to caffeine when we need our neurons to shoot faster. What many of us may not know, though, is that consuming more than 300mg per day can cause caffeine dependence, which leads to symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, headaches, and insomnia. If you’re drinking more than a couple cups of brewed coffee or even one energy drink a day, these symptoms will sound familiar.

What makes matcha different from other caffeinated drinks, though, is its strikingly high content of amino acids. When combined with caffeine, amino acids smooth out and lengthen the jolt of energy other caffeinated drinks provide by releasing caffeine into the body at a slower rate. The result is longer-lasting energy uninhibited by jitters, irritability, or nervousness. Best yet, while your average shot of espresso contains upwards of 100 mg of caffeine, a cup of matcha tea only contains about 25 mg, meaning that you can enjoy more throughout the day (about three cups is recommended).

2) Matcha actually helps you absorb information

Matcha is extremely high in l-theanine, a rare amino acid with psychoactive properties known to improve mental focus and cognition while reducing stress levels. According to a recent study at the University of Northumbria, a combination of l-theanine and moderate doses of caffeine improve cognitive reaction times, numeric working memory, and sentence comprehension. While l-theanine is found mostly in teas, matcha tea contains about five times as much as your run-of-the-mill black tea found in a cup of English Breakfast.

3) Matcha relieves stress and promotes mental clarity

Matcha has its roots in Japanese tea ceremonies, and has been used by Japanese Buddhist monks for centuries as an aid in meditation and to create a sense of “mindful alertness”. While l-theanine has been shown in studies to promote and reduce stress, the incredibly high levels of antioxidants in matcha tea help to shield the brain from aging. As a result, matcha has a stellar reputation for promoting feelings of mental clarity, which is just what we crave when a million ideas are zipping through our heads in the middle of the night.

4) Matcha won’t give you hunger pangs

Hunger and fatigue tend to go hand in hand. When our blood sugar levels are low, we feel tired and crave a quick solution. Sugary drinks like Club Mate, Coca Cola, and energy drinks may seem like the answer, but they end up confusing the pancreas, forcing it to produce insulin faster than normal in order to regulate your blood sugar levels. Before long, messages reading “HUNGER” are shooting to your brain as your blood sugar plummets.

Because matcha powder is simply ground tencha leaves, the matcha tea we drink is high in dietary fibre, which is known to regulate blood sugar levels. Even a swirl of honey (which amounts to about 10 mg of sugar) in your matcha won’t induce the comfort food cravings that a sudden drop in blood sugar causes. As a result, a cup of matcha tea leaves you feeling sated over longer periods of time.

5) A cup of matcha takes about 30 seconds to make, tops.

As this handy video by BreakAway Matcha founder Eric Gower explains, making matcha is no more time consuming than preparing a cup of very hot water, sieving a scoop of matcha, and whizzing the mixture with a milk frother. Really, it’s that simple.

About the author
Pablo Povarchik is a Breakaway Matcha‘s fan, father of 5 and daily matcha drinker that loves writing about it and all wellness-related topics.