The Science Behind Matcha

By: Belle Hartles |

Matcha is a powdered green tea produced through the delicate grinding of young camellia
sinensis tree leaves. The tea originated in China and soon became fundamental in Japanese
food culture. Over centuries, it has been widely consumed for its natural health benefits.
An important part of the production process is the method used to ensure that there is a
sufficient amount of l-theanine in the matcha, a powerful amino acid. This is done through
protecting the leaves from sunlight for 20 days before the day of harvest as this boosts the
chlorophyll levels in the plant, leading to an increase in the amount of l-theanine.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in matcha that provides a range of health benefits. Studies
have provided evidence of l-theanine’s ability to improve stress and anxiety. L-theanine has
been found to block the binding of l-glutamic acid to glutamate receptors in the brain,
thereby, causing anti-stress effects (Mu et al., 2015).
The anti-stress effects occur as this process alters the levels of serotonin and dopamine in the
brain, and concurrently increases the alpha-brain wave activity, causing a more relaxed state
(Rao et al., 2015). The amino acid encourages relaxation without causing feelings of
drowsiness. This is essential for experiencing a good night’s sleep, as it can provide quality
sleep without the use of sedative medication.
The powerful tea is also a source of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Consumption has been observed to result in a reduction of cognitive impairment (Park et al.,
2011). Furthermore, the amino acid has been considered to improve cognitive abilities,
through an increase in word recognition, rapid visual information processing, and attention
switching (Haskell, 2008).
The polyphenols and amino acids found in matcha are what have been considered to be the
greatest source of its health benefits. The process of extraction and preparation has been
found to produce the greatest amount of polyphenols in tea (Komes et al., 2010). Polyphenols
are naturally occurring nutrients in plants, with matcha’s polyphenols consisting of catechins.
Catechins are a potent and powerful antioxidant, able to reduce oxidative stress which plays a
significant role in the ageing process. This is mainly due to catechins acting as an effective
obstacle for oxidation by free radicals (Zhang et al., 2011). Oxidative stress can increase the
risk of developing health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease,
inflammatory conditions, and even cancer. Therefore, as the catechins found in matcha work
to balance the free radicals and antioxidants in the body, regular consumption may play a
significant role in reducing the risk of developing health problems.
The positive effects on cardiovascular health are abundant in matcha. Daily consumption of
the tea has been recognised to lead to individuals with cardiovascular health problems
becoming healthier, with less negative outcomes (Sano et al., 2004). A study conducted over
14 trials found that it has the ability to significantly lower cholesterol and balance blood
sugar levels (Zheng et al., 2011).