Matcha is one of the world’s most revered teas and forms an integral part of Japanese tea ceremonies, where it is said to help create a perfect environment for relaxed communication between host and guests.
A new research paper1 has now uncovered the tea could be just as helpful on the running track, thanks to a unusual natural chemical, which can give you a ‘buzz without the fuzz’…
Matcha doesn’t look like the tea we’re used to seeing in Britain, but instead is a green powder made from very finely grinding tea leaves picked from plants which, for three weeks before harvest, have been grown under shade.
Growing the tea under cover results in the leaves containing increased amounts, compared to normal teas, of both caffeine and another natural chemical called theanine, which the new paper shows results in matcha’s specific benefits.
Researchers looked at a total of 49 different human studies on caffeine and theanine. As expected they found caffeine ‘to mainly improve performance on demanding long-duration cognitive tasks and self-reported alertness, arousal, and vigour’. Theanine conversely was seen to improve ‘self-reported relaxation, tension, and calmness’.
These findings back up anecdotal evidence that drinking matcha can give you a pick me up, similar to that from coffee, but without giving you the associated anxiety or ‘fuzziness’. Whilst this quirk of matcha makes it ideal for tea ceremonies it has more practical benefits for training; effectively meaning matcha can provide a caffeine pick me up, which many of us rely on to get energy levels up before early morning or post work runs, without experiencing some of the side-effects of coffee.
There are various different types and grades of matcha available. Some of the most recent additions to the market include ‘matcha tea bags’, but real matcha only comes in a powder form which is then whisked with hot water to create a tea – it’s also a great addition to smoothies or even sprinkled over cereals.
Matcha powder varies in quality due to a number of factors, ranging from where on the tea plant the leaves are picked to how they are ground. Only the very highest quality teas make it to become Japanese Ceremonial Grade matcha.
British brand PureChimp are hoping to make high quality matcha, and its benefits, accessible to everyone with their recently launched 20g serving packets of Japanese Ceremonial Grade matcha. Coming in handy re-sealable pouches, containing only 100% natural matcha and with 5% of profits going to charity, at just £4.95 for 20 servings PureChimp offer the perfect way to trial this Japanese speciality. Also available with added mint or lemongrass – www.purechimp.com
The PureChimp collection is incredible quality and as a self-confessed matcha addict, the taste is as pure as it comes. The mint and lemongrass options offer a subtle flavour that enhances the tea without losing any of the quality. I know that matcha can be considered an acquired taste, so I took a selection of flasks for a post run drink (rock and roll, I know!) and after a couple of hours on the trails, the group I was with devoured the tea. This group included two people who claim to only drink coffee for their much needed boost, and who were surprised at the noticeable energy hit. Matcha isn’t just for drinking though! If you head to the PureChimp website there are a selection of recipes to try. We made the energy balls, and they were delicious, with requests for another batch and another collection of flasks for our next trail run!