10 Good Reasons to Develop a Daily Matcha Habit

 

 

Powerofhabit

 

This week I’ve been rereading Charles Duhigg’s utterly absorbing book, The Power of Habitsand am struck by how increasingly sophisticated the scientific understanding of habits has become — how they’re formed, and how they can be disrupted and changed. For anyone interested in developing excellent ways to change old habits or start new ones, you won’t find a better book.

 

Like a lot of people reading this, matcha for me has become a daily habit.I have a fairly robust matcha habit that includes a bowl or two of hot, hyperpremium matcha, several 16oz bottles of coldbrew, and, often, some kind of culinary matcha snack or at least a sprinkle of matcha salt over my beloved poached eggs. (I recently saw a recipe for matcha granola by my friend Chika that looked interesting, one by Cheryl Malik that looked great, and yet another tasty-looking one from Vanessa — time to make some matcha granola.)

 

All this adds up to roughly five or six 1g-servings of matcha  a day. For me this was a conscious decision, since I wanted to radically increase my intake of whole green tea (leaves and all), for all the usual reasons:

 

1) replenishes phytonutrients needed for next-day alcohol recovery — important for wine drinkers like myself!

2) boosts metabolism — I need this for the crazy amount of food I seem to eat.

3) keeps me maximally hydrated — I’ve always had a problem drinking enough water.

4) employs plaque scrubbers  — matcha is great for your teeth and gums!

5) antioxidant blast repairs free radical damage caused by oxidation of cells.

6) huge l-theanine intake creates a super-relaxed yet intense focus for work.

7) fights fatigue — caffeine + amino acids = dynamite energy.

8) sweetens your breath — pretty much the opposite of coffee.

9) great for skin — matcha’s high polyphenol content can inhibit UV radiation-induced skin damage. Why did I get so many sunburns as a teenager? Ugh.

10) detoxifies the body — matcha’s massive chlorophyll  content helps to naturally remove heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body.

 

Here’s yet another reason to give matcha a shot — readers of the blog can take an additional 10% of any order by typing BLOG10. Not sure how long that will last but for now it works!

 

So many habits are unconscious and somewhat destructive. Read Duhigg’s book to understand how you can make healthy habits work for you.

Why Dentists LOVE Matcha

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“Would you care for a cup of matcha?” asked my DENTAL HYGIENIST the other day at the end of my cleaning. As you might imagine, this piqued my interest.

 

My dentist, it turns out, has had a lengthy love affair with matcha. He loves all the usual things many of us love about matcha, but he especially loves what matcha does for overall dental health.

 

The exceedingly high catechin (notably EGCG) content of matcha is what interests him most. These catechins have antibacterial effects, and in essence they act as microscopic plaque scrubbers that can help prevent cavity formation and periodontal disease.

 

Because they inhibit the growth of the bacteria that cause plaque, this dentist has come to think of a cup or glass of matcha after a meal as a delicious liquid floss. And, for that matter, a mouthwash, since these catechins inhibit the bacteria that cause bad breath as well. Unlike coffee, matcha won’t stain your teeth either. Not bad added bonuses for a delicious postprandial shot of matcha.

 

So if oral hygiene is a priority for you, you now have yet another reason drink it!

 

Matcha and Water

 

pouring matcha in eggshell cup

 

Oddly, I haven’t given much thought to the role that water plays in maximal enjoyment of matcha. I’ve written about matcha and water temperature before, but not much about water itself, and what kind of water we drink on a daily basis.

 

I feel fortunate to live and work in Marin County, CA, with its supply of lovely rain runoff from the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. Marin is host to California’s very first municipal water district (the mighty MMWD, Marin Municipal Water District); we’ve been thinking about quality water and water management for a long time.

 

Nearly 75% of MMWD’s water comes from more than 20,000 acres of protected watershed on Mt. Tam, in the grassy hills of gorgeous west Marin, into seven large reservoirs (which are themselves lovely places to visit and hike around). These areas are mostly forested MMWD-owned lands and other undeveloped rural lands. Water from these reservoirs is treated and filtered before delivery into my and my neighbors’ homes.

 

And yet: despite having some of the cleanest, most carefully tended water in the country–and Marin being Marin–many of us still filter our water. In fact the Brita-type carbon filter (which my family personally uses) doesn’t do much except remove some of the chlorine in the water, which can also be achieved by simply filling up pitchers of water and letting them sit out (all chlorine in the water will, apparently, evaporate in about 24 hours). Could it be placebo, that I just think filtered tastes better, therefore it actually does?

 

In blind water tastings –some of you will recall that I’ve never met a blind tasting, of any substance, I didn’t like — I show a clear preference for filtered. It tastes somehow “softer” and easier to drink. Tastier. It might take a few hundred double-blind tastings to really determine a preference, but does anyone on earth in 2014 actually have time for this kind of thing? I’m going with my preference for filtered, biased or not.

 

So it was with some trepidation that I tasted some “ionized” water recently at a matcha tasting event we did at Yogaworks. They had a trippy-looking ionizing machine by AlkaViva that filtered and ionized the water to some insane degree. Color me skeptical!

 

But it did taste pretty damn good. I did a quick blind test using water from the fancy machine and from the filtered tap. There was no comparison, it actually tasted better from the machine. “Better” meaning no hints of metal or gas. Just some incredibly pure substance that my body wanted more of.

 

So of course I wanted to taste some matcha made with this water. Whipped up two bottles of Coldbrew to taste blind as well, one with water made from the machine and one from the filtered tap. Again, no comparison. I didn’t think it was possible for Coldbrew to taste any better, but it did.

 

Does that mean I’m going to rush out and buy a $2,000+ machine to give me the cleanest possible water?  No, of course not. But it did get me thinking: how much is all that extra pleasure worth? How much is the knowledge that I’m drinking heavy-metal-free water worth? Does the placebo effect kick in? Will I drink more matcha if it tastes so much better with better water? Should my daughter be drinking purer water, and if so, how much is that worth?

 

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions. Would love to hear from you if you do!

 

Hara Hachibu, Umami, and Matcha (Plus a Recipe for Matcha Truffles)


matcha truffles

 

Human beings crave the sense of being satiated. It’s a delightful feeling to be “full” in the best possible sense of the term. For many of us (including greedy-monster me), we keep eating AFTER reaching that optimum place where it feels just right to be perfectly full and not excessively full. How to hit that sweet spot of just-right full, and avoid going over?

 

There’s a wonderful expression in Japanese that captures one way to think about this: “hara hachibu” literally means “stomach 80%,” but, more accurately, it means “you should stop eating when you’re 80% full.”

 

How do you know when you’re 80% full? By mindfully checking in every time you put something in your mouth. And you keep up the mindfulness throughout the meal or snack. You basically keep a “how full am I?” mindfulness meter running throughout the meal.

 

This is impossible if we wolf down our food. Some deep-DNA autopilot takes over with the message, “don’t stop! get your maximum calories while you can!” and it tastes great and you just keep going. You don’t stop and ask yourself, “how full am I?” and assign a percentage, you just don’t.

 

In the beginning I might suggest just two mindful interventions, one at 50% full, and the other at 80% full. After some conscious practice, you can begin to notice subtler percentages like 10% full and 25% full.

 

But 80% is the main one. The same deep-DNA / limbic system / reptilian brain doesn’t want you to stop at 80%, it’s going to insist you keep going. But food in an 80%-full stomach continues to expand, and if you simply put the chopsticks down when you think you’re at 80, five minutes later you’re likely to feel 100% full.

 

You can always eat more if you’ve misjudged, and still feel peckish at what you thought was 80%. But stopping when you think you’ve hit 80 is a wonderful practice, as is the mindful practice of assigning a percentage fullness AS you eat.

 

And no, it doesn’t ruin the pure animal pleasure of eating great food. In fact it adds to it, because turning on the mindfulness “how full am I?” meter has a wonderful side effect: everything tastes better, and you notice more flavors and textures. You notice everything in great detail. It’s like taking a food-pleasure bath.

 

So where does matcha come in?

Matcha has a very special satiety property. It’s one of matcha’s more interesting and pleasurable aspects (one of many).

 

Because the tea is so rich in amino acids, it absolutely pops with umami, that brothy, meaty, mushroomy, oceany flavor that’s packed with glutamates. When you drink a cup or bowl of matcha, you feel sated and happy. You’re not jonesing for anything, you’re just …. sated. You rarely feel and kind of between-meals jones to snack or to mindllessly eat something.

 

This is in stark contrast to coffee, for me at least — i NEED to have nibbles of coffee-friendly foods when I drink coffee. So for anyone looking to cut overall calories, there are many worse ways than a daily, or twice a day, matcha practice.

And on that note, and speaking of tempting nibbles, try these matcha truffles sometime. They’re easy to make and disappear rather quickly wherever they make their appearance.

MATCHA TRUFFLES

These little gems take only a few minutes of prep time, then some cooling down time in the fridge, then a few more minutes to shape the chocolate into balls. They make beautiful gifts for friends, wrapped up in a pretty box. Makes about 50 truffles.

 

  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped finely
  • 8 ounces heavy cream
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ cup or so Dutch cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon matcha
  • pinch of fleur-de-sel, Malden, or other fine sea salt

 

1) Using a large sturdy knife, chop the chocolate finely and place it in a large mixing bowl.

2) Bring cream to a simmer over gentle heat, add the maple syrup and brown sugar, and stir until dissolved, about one to two minutes.

3) Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate, mix thoroughly until smooth, and pour/scrape into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat (silpat), and smooth it out with a rubber spatula. Cool in the refrigerator for about an hour.

4) On a cleaning cutting board or other large surface, spread several tablespoons of cocoa out.

5) Using a spoon, scoop out about a heaping teaspoon of the cooled chocolate, roll it around in the cocoa with your fingers, and make a chocolate ball, using the palms of your cocoa-dusted hands. Repeat until all the chocolate is used – you should wind up with about 50(ish) truffles. Smaller tends to be better than larger.

6) Line them up on a tray or plate, and, using a fine sieve, dust them generously with the matcha. Roll around some more in the matcha, and dust them again. Top with a very light sprinkling of good salt (Malden-type salt works well here).

The Breakaway Guide to Purchasing Matcha

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Confused about which matcha to try? You’re not alone.

 

The first step is to figure out why you’re interested in matcha. It basically boils down to two reasons for most people: health benefits, and incredible taste.

 

If you’re looking for health benefits only, and exquisite taste isn’t your primary concern, then the culinary matcha is far and away the best bang for the buck. It’s very good as cold-brew, and it’s fantastic in smoothies and as an ingredient in all desserts. It even makes a good latte, since the fat and (often) sugar in lattes essentially mask the minor flavor flaws of the tea (and when I say flavor flaws, I’m being picky; it tastes great, but doesn’t deliver the natural sweetness, umami blast, and long stunning finish of the hyperpremium blends). You of course COULD use one of the hyperpremium sipping matcha in milk-based sweetened matcha drinks, and it would certainly be very, very good, but it’s highly unlikely you’ll get 10x the enjoyment as you would the culinary, since fat and sugar coat the palate and render your ability to detect flaws in the matcha inert — it will just taste like a milky sugary matcha, and that’s ok if you like it that way!

 

If you care about the health benefits AND are after more sophisticated flavor profiles, then you should try one of the hyperpremium sipping blends, which have even more health benefits than the culinary matcha (and are especially loaded with l-theanine) in addition to increasingly levels of epicurean nirvana, The scale of tastiness and overall desirability– and by that I mean the five pillars of great matcha:

 

  • electric color
  • maximum umami
  • lack of bitterness and plethora of natural sweetness
  • good/balanced acid structure, and
  • extra-long, beautiful finish

goes up with each Blend, although rarity is a factor too.

 

Truly great matcha is such a labor-intensive process; it requires tea plants that are a minimum of 50 years old, it’s completely unscaleable, and it needs serious knowhow from obsessive farmers who tend to be at the helm of farms that go back 20+ generations of family farmers working the same plot of land.

 

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There’s a big jump in quality from culinary to Blend 94, which is lovely to sip on its own, nothing added. And the quality scale continues upward, with another large leap in quality from the 94 to the 97; they’re almost totally different matcha with different flavor profiles, each comes from a specific terroir in Uji, just outside of Kyoto. I’ve served the entire line up, blind, to lots of Japanese matcha connoisseurs, and almost everyone likes the 94 best. It’s the one they’re most used to drinking, with faint twinges of bitterness and a real sass to it. This quality of matcha is most common in the tea schools that teach proper ceremonial matcha etiquette. It has the most bitterness of the four sipping matcha.

 

The 97 is a rare matcha that lacks even faint whiffs of bitterness — its natural sweetness stuns most people the first time they try it. It is a tremendous value priced at just $1.75 per serving, considering its rarity and sweetness. How much is a serving of Italian truffle? How about fois gras? How much is a glass of decent wine? How much is a glass of BAD wine? $1.75 for this level of epicurean experience is unheard of. What can one buy for $1.75? Gum? A candy bar?

 

Fanatical matcha connoisseurs tend to go for Blends 100 and 99. They’re grateful for the health benefits, but they’re primarily driven by taste and epicurean experiences.

 

With the 99, things go ethereal. Same farmer/producer of the 97, a youngish man who’s into experimenting with his wonderful crops. The 99 is his “reserve” matcha, and this is the one I want for my final sip of matcha — hell, final sip of anything. Exceedingly rare matcha for a mere $2.25/serving.

 

The Blend 100 is the rarest of all, so refined that it feels almost lighter than air. I might argue that it has less character than the 99, but it has such finesse that all matcha connoisseurs should try it at least once just as a glimpse into the heights matcha can soar on an elegance scale. Quantities are small, and much of the annual allotment is already spoken for from our chefly friends.

 

Curious connoisseurs should try them all, and figure out which one offers the most special delight. And regular drinkers should take advantage of the discounts offered with the larger quantities.

 

As always, we aim for stellar customer service — we specialize in unusual requests!

 

The Many Joys of Coldbrew Matcha

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Coldbrew matcha. Really?

 

Really. We’ll talk about the pleasures of drinking icy-cold matcha in a second, but first: what do I mean by coldbrew?

 

Coldbrew matcha simply means matcha prepared with cold water; as with coldbrew coffee, the water for making coldbrew matcha is never heated; we use icy cold water to start. But unlike coldbrew coffee, coldbrew matcha doesn’t require any lengthy or complicated extraction technique. We simply add matcha to a water-bottle, large water-dispensing unit, or even five-gallon pony keg, add cold water, and shake the hell out of it. That’s enough to temporarily suspend the matcha particles in the cold water long enough to actually drink it. As with warm shots of matcha, It never fully dissolves, it simply suspends in water. If you leave it alone for a few hours, the undissolved matcha will eventually settle on the bottom of the vessel.

 

One can play with proportions of matcha to water but I’ve found that 1g of matcha (half teaspoon) to 8 ounces of cold water is just about right. If you like it thicker, use slightly more matcha.

 

Here’s the exact procedure:

 

1) Fill a 16 oz water bottle almost to the top with ice water (leave a little room to make shaking easier). You can use either icy-cold water without actual ice, or simply add ice cubes and water and let it get cold — either way works well. You can also use a mason jar, or any tall skinny jar with a lid.

 

2) Scoop 2g matcha (about a teaspoon) into the bottle, and shake hard! You’ll see billions of tiny bubbles start to float up and form a gorgeous crema on top. Let it sit for just a minute to allow the crema to build.

 

3) You’re done! You can drink it directly from the bottle or pour into smaller glasses.

 

You can also use a Vitamix or other powerful blender to prepare coldbrew matcha, especially if you like it slushy-cold. Simply add a small quantity of ice and use the 1g matcha to 8 ounces water formula, and blend thoroughly.

 

Note that coldbrew matcha isn’t “iced matcha” — iced matcha is typically matcha prepared with hot water, and then ice is added.

 

There’s nothing quite like coldbrew matcha on a hot day; it seems to go directly to the brain’s key satiation spots as it hits all the right notes. for thirst quenching. It also looks amazingly tantalizing in a tall glass!

 

The cool thing about coldbrew: you can brew any grade of matcha, and they all taste great. Drinking Blends 97, 99, and 100 in this form is an ethereal experience like no other. The 94 makes a beautiful coldbrew matcha; its ever-so-slight bitterness when prepared hot isn’t detectable at cold temperatures.

 

But the best part is that we’e specially formulated several new blends especially for coldbrewing. They are priced quite a bit lower than our hyperpremium blends because more of the tencha leaf is used, giving us larger quantities, hence the lower price. Also, because the freezing temperature of the water slightly numbs the palate and top of the tongue, we can get away with using larger leaves (as opposed to new-growth-only for our hyperpremiums), which would impart a slightly bitter quality if prepared hot. It’s simply not an issue — the coldbrew blends are quite sweet — when icewater is used. We’ve even found two organic blends that work well as coldbrew, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

 

So if you’ve never tried coldbrew matcha, here’s your chance! If your experience is anything like mine, the delicious taste and delightlful health benefits will turn you into a daily drinker pretty quickly.

 

We’re also developing some single-serve packets of coldbrew that I hope to have up on the site by late fall, perfect for on-the-go use — just stick a few in your car, purse, backpack, or suitcase and empty one into any cold bottle of water and shake. Heaven on the road. Stay tuned for those!

 

 

Building Trust with Matcha

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Natural selection has equipped human beings with exquisite bullshit alarms.

We use them all the time: when meeting someone for the first time, when watching movies, when trying a product, or, especially, when we encounter advertising. The brain will light up in red blotches when it perceives possible deception or downright danger. One would assume that brains that didn’t develop this important trait didn’t make it very far into subsequent generations . . . .

How do you get someone to trust you, especially if you’ve never met before and are meeting for the first time on the internet, through a website or email?

One way is to show that *other* people — presumably trustworthy people — trust you, and therefore the odds are in your favor. “Borrowed” trust is indeed important, and it’s why we here at Breakaway Matcha HQ show quotes from people we feel are very trustworthy indeed, including wellness experts, sommeliers, yoga ambassadors, writers, cookbook authors, well-known chefs, and of course everyday people too.

But the only way, ultimately, to get someone to trust you is to do so one-on-one. It’s why we like to get to know the special people who purchase matcha from us. We are this pretty awesome tribe of people who have taken charge of our own health and well-being. And I’ve always got the time to get to know my fellow tribers. It’s also fun to profile, in this space, some of our tribe.

If anyone knows some good proven ways to increase trust, please let us know! Because in the end, it really is all about trust.

The 10-Minute Matcha Meditation Practice

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This simple and delightful morning ritual will change the quality of your day — and hence your life. Try it for just a week; there is absolutely nothing to lose. It might even give you the power to create other changes you’d like to make. It works for me. 

1) Get up earlier than everyone in your household – you’ll need about 10 minutes of solitude, but you might prefer 20 or longer. But you only NEED about 10. 

2) Don’t shower, just go to the kitchen and pour yourself a glass of  water. Drink a medium size glass of water, ideally with a squeeze of citrus in it. The body needs this rehydration after sleep, so make this a daily habit.

3) Take five minutes to prepare a beautiful bowl of matcha, doing it as mindfully as possible. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t, especially after you’ve done it a few times, after which it oddly becomes quite automatic. These actions go into muscle memory in no time flat. 

    Set a small amount of water to boil. While it heats up:

* Get the matcha out of the fridge, and grab your matcha toolkit (sieve, scoop, and frother) Ideally these items just stand vertically in a tall pretty cup, and just live unobtrusively on the counter someplace easily accessible. You’ll also need a small matcha creamer or a mug, and a gorgeous bowl. The bowl can be anything at all, but ideally it’s a bowl you especially like.

* Grab a hefty scoop and sieve your matcha into the creamer

* Pour two ounces boiling water into your bowl (not the creamer), and let it sit for 10 seconds or so.

.* Transfer that cooled but still quite hot water into the creamer (bowl should now be empty and hot)

* Vigorously swirl creamer as if it’s a wine glass, and use the frothing tool to create crema

.* Pour tea into bowl

4) Take your bowl of tea and go sit someplace for five minutes, ideally with some kind of view of nature, no matter how modest.

5) Sip your tea and really taste it. Try to inhale when you’re “chewing” it, and exhale as you swallow, and notice how long it finishes. You can often still taste the tea a full 30 seconds after swallowing it.

6) Try to wish yourself and your body well, and just feel grateful to be awake, as awake as it’s possible to be.

7) Start your normal day.

8) Try to start most days like this. You’ll totally miss them when you don’t do it.

Profiles of Hardcore Matcha Drinkers–Dave “Yeah Dave” Romanelli

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It’s a complete pleasure to introduce the inimitable Dave Romanelli as a hardcore matcha drinker. Dave’s energy is utterly boundless and utterly contagious. He has helped thousands of people educate themselves on the wonders of yoga and the awakened life. He has no problem teaching classes with titles like, “Yoga and Chocolate,” and “Yoga and Wine.” We need more iconoclasts like him, and we couldn’t be happier about his mission to get everyday mortals to live more fully in the moment. We of course also love him for switching his obsessive coffee habit to an obsessive matcha habit. Dave is an original!

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I have to ask: why does everyone call you “yeah Dave?”

In college, I had a penchant for asking hypothetical questions that didn’t have answers (think Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High). My friends gave up on answering the questions and would just say “Yeah Dave.”

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I absolutely LOVE your mission to make meditation — dare I say inner peace? — accessible to everyone, especially young(ish) hip urban people. Give us your best tip on how to incorporate a simple meditation practice into our daily lives.

Once you get it, meditation is the most wonderful thing in the world. Until then, it can be painfully boring. So here’s a good way to start. instead of sitting with your eyes closed, set an alarm for 1:11pm. When it goes off, take a minute to chill out, to breathe, to push back from the computer and relax. Once we start to connect “meditation” to “feeling amazing,” we are more likely to try it. And once you make it a habit, everything changes. They say “meditation creates more time than it takes.”

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What does wellness mean to you? what simple things can an average person do to feel at her best?

Wellness is who you are in your natural state, when you relax, when you are savoring matcha, watching a sunset, indulging in the simple pleasures that form your most lasting memories. from that foundation of peace and joy, health can root down and blossom. But without that foundation, health will always be elusive.

An average person should start by taking at least one moment each day to really savor life. By that I mean, no worries, no work, just do something for yourself that you will remember when you put your head on the pillow at night. So many days go by where we don’t remember a single thing that happened and that is a global sociological epidemic. But the solution is simple. ENJOY YOUR JOURNEY

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How does matcha fit into your daily routine?

Matcha changes everything. It’s the way i start almost every day. Gives me energy, it’s a ritual, it’s supremely healthy, just a magical way to get started on the right foot.

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Why are you so damn happy all the time?

MATCHA MATCHA MATCHA

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The Triple Matcha Shot, Gateway to All Good Things

 

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Happy new year to all matcha fans (and to everyone else, for that matter). There’s something special about the first week of the year — the holiday madness has ebbed and we get back to work, but thoughts toward the possibilities of the new year flit about. It’s a time to THINK BIG, to really ask yourself how you’d like to spend your energies during the year, and to imagine how you’ll feel at this time next year. You’ve got an entire year to make something happen. And the way to make big things happen to is break them down into small — tiny,  even — things.

In the end, we really need to concentrate on the day, the 24-hour cycle. We can only do so much in any given 24-hour stretch, but when you stack 365 of them in a row, an enormous amount can be accomplished. This is where daily habits come in.

A daily habit of stopping to prepare a beautiful cup of matcha is one that creates so many good things:

* you practice being mindful while you prep the tea

* you enjoy matcha’s remarkable visual appeal and taste

* you get an antioxidant and phytonutrient blast

* your focus sharpens as you become fully awake

* you hydrate

* you enter “the zone” of productivity

* you flood your body with brain fuel

There are many others but I’ll show some restraint.

Lately I’ve been preparing matcha in a slightly new way — it’s highly recommended.

Instead of the usual prep in a creamer and pouring the shot into one our lovely Aletha Soule cups, it’s both convenient and fun to make the matcha in a single vessel, typically a tall-ish cup that can accommodate the vigorous whisking (with the Aerolatte) we’re about to do.

What’s really fun and tasty is to make a triple shot. You’ll need about three grams of matcha (about 1.5 teaspoons) instead of the usual one gram (half teaspoon). Sift that amount into the cup using a strainer/sieve, and pour about 2 ounces of hot (180 degrees F, and not hotter please, or you’ll ruin it) water into the cup, and do our usual frothing technique. You’ll make some marvelous crema, truly world class crema, with these proportions. You can then pour some more hot water into the cup to thin it out a bit and to create a larger cup of matcha. You can even create some matcha barista-like art — notice the outer circle in the crema — simply by pouring additional hot water in thin streams.

I often have one of these after breakfast. There’s no better way to start the day. Or the year!

Matcha and Stress Reduction

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Stress is probably the most pernicious force of our modern age. It diminishes quality of life, and can lead to all kinds of unpleasantries, including depression, auto-immune diseases, anxiety …. ugh, who wants to list them all. And then there’s chronic stress, which *really* wreaks havoc on the immune system.

And let’s face it: holidays increase stress for just about everyone. It’s as if we have to pile a year’s worth of living, relaxing, and UNstress into a few days, a week at best. We’re expected to make these days off meaningful, but expectations of heightened meaning create …. stress.

What to do? If all the usual things we should be doing anyway–a decent diet full of real, wholesome food, some modest but regular exercise, treating everyone in our orbits with more kindness–sometimes seems like too much, you might consider how a regular cup of matcha can help alleviate stress.

Part of the stress-relieving aspects of matcha are, of course, placebic. We decide to take a few minutes for the mindful exercise of preparing, and sipping, a gorgeous cup or bowl of green tea, and it ipso facto becomes an anti-stress endeavor . The very act of deciding to make it a mindful experience, and then to actually do it, are bound to create feelings of serenity and stillness.

But the data-backed aspects of stress reduction and matcha consumption have to do with one of its major components, an amino acid called L-theanine that has been linked to both psychological and physiological stress reduction in several medical studies, including this one. Apparently it works by attenuating sympathetic nervous activation and blocking certain glutamate receptors in the brain.

Matcha is absolutely teeming with L-theanine. Regular green tea has some too, but matcha has much more due to its unique growing conditions, especially the final shading stage.When the tea plants are deprived of light, they compensate for normal photosynthesis by cranking out chlorophyll and L-theanine. And we consume them in spades when we drink matcha.

This is especially relevant to us here at Breakaway Matcha because, it turns out, the higher the quality of matcha, the more L-theanine it has. Which is a good thing if we could use a little stress reduction in our lives.

So during the next few weeks, if you’re feeling a little stressed by all the forced holiday cheer, try having a cup of matcha and observing how you feel afterward. And the first few cups are on us: get an instant $10 discount on any matcha by ordering online and typing STRESSLESSXMAS during checkout from today through the end of the year.

Happy holidays, folks. And here’s to a brilliant, and stress-free, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profiles of Hardcore Matcha Drinkers: Jeff Jacobson

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One of the greatest pleasures of the matcha business is getting to know the people who make it all possible — our illustrious and fascinating customers. I’m not exactly sure what I expected when I started this business, but I continue to be bowled over by how interesting and unique this group is. So I thought it would be fun to introduce a few them here from time to time.

It’s hard to summarize Jeff Jacobson, but let me try: he’s a Beijing-based American life and businesss coach, hell-bent on improving the lives of just about everyone he meets. He’s a master storyteller — I once had the pleasure of seeing him perform a monologue live in San Francisco–and a polyglot with what seems like an equal mastery of both Chinese and Spanish. He’s on the faculty of the San Rafael-based Coaches Training Institute, and trots around the world leading workshops helping people first define, and then achieve, what they most want out of life.  He just published his first novel, a young adult story, on Kindle: The Boy Who Couldn’t Fly Straight

Here’s the short version of our email interview.

What is a life coach, exactly? Mentors have always been around, so what’s the difference between the two? 

Both mentors and coaches help you to achieve what you want. Mentors have more experience than you, and show you how to accomplish what they already have. Coaches teach you how to be your own mentor, basically making sure you heed your own advice. I’ve used both coaches and mentors throughout my career, and both have been really helpful.

Why China? And how did you get so damn fluent in Chinese? 

I fell in love with Mandarin while studying in college in ’88. I studied it for years, including living in Taiwan. In ’95 I started coaching, so for a long period of time, Chinese was more like a parlor trick. But in ’08, right before the Beijing Olympics, the Coaches Training Institute sent me to China to teach coaching to managers in a multinational corporation. Since then, I’ve been able to wed two of my greatest passions: coaching, and Chinese culture. I’m currently in Shanghai training local talent to do what I do.

What’s the most powerful thing about storytelling for you? 

You can listen to a story on so many levels: just the plot, or the arc of the story, or the deeper messages worth pondering. That’s why so many people love stories: no matter your mindset at the time, a good story draws you in, entertains you, and teaches you something.

Any good matcha stories? 

A Chinese airport official once searched my bag. She held up my chashaku (bamboo scoop), my frother, and my traveling tin of matcha, looking at me with great suspicion. Panicking that she might not return my beloved matcha to me, I used what seemed like mind control, looking into her eyes and saying, “It’s delicious, quite healthy, and, and, (trying to remember the benefits from the Breakaway Matcha site), it gives you good breath.” She started laughing, handed everything back to me, and said, “Enjoy!”

 

5 Reasons to Drink Matcha Instead of Coffee

raw and as tea

I’ve said it many times before, but I’ll say it again: I have always loved good coffee, still love it, and will likely always love it. But I don’t love it nearly as much as I love matcha. Here are five reasons to kickstart your day with matcha:

1)  Matcha has a better caffeine high. By “better” I mean that coffee’s caffeine high wreaks more havoc on the body. It starts off with a blast, and ends in a crash. Coffee causes spikes in adrenaline glucose and insulin levels, which in turn create jitteriness, nervousness, and, at least for me, often crazy hunger pangs.

Matcha, in contrast, does a better job of creating a calm alertness, with just a quarter the caffeine. There are no spikes and crashes, it just comes on gently and leaves just as gently. No adrenal weirdness, no glucose spike, and no need for pastry; it satiates like nothing else, making it the perfect treat for anyone worried about their weight. The 25 mg (or so) of caffeine bind with matcha’s phytonutrients (especially L-theanine) in a way that slows the body’s absorption of the caffeine; it typically lasts at least three hours, though some people report feeling it for as long as six or seven.

2) Better breath. There really is no comparison here. Matcha is also better for your teeth: it thwarts the bacteria that causes plaque, making it a powerful ally for everyday oral hygiene. Coffee breath and enamel staining? This is a no brainer.

3) Better skin. Ever notice the skin of hardcore coffee drinkers? Matcha helps clear up acne, and has been used for centuries by Japanese women as a facial mask. Matcha’s antibacterial properties help to give skin a natural glow.

4) More antioxidants. Matcha is ridiculously full of catechins, flavonoids, and polyphenols, especially the mighty epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which has been linked to so many health benefits and has therapeutic applications to the treatment of so many disorders, including cancer.

5) Great matcha is WAY easier to make than great coffee is.

Matcha has the reputation of being difficult to make, but seriously: scoop sifted tea into cup, add hot water, froth. All of 30 seconds to perfection (assuming you’re starting with great matcha, of course). Great coffee should be measured (20 grams seems to be the most common weight), freshly ground, then steeped or steamed, using a variety of complicated and expensive machinery. And then there’s the waiting for the machine to do its thing.

Needless to say, matcha is not intended to prevent, treat, or cure any disease; it’s just green tea, albeit a very special one that has all kinds of interesting health properties. And because there are no known downsides or side effects to regular consumption of matcha, there is little to lose in making the switch from coffee to matcha, at least some of the time.

You needn’t give up coffee altogether (unless your doctor tells you to, of course) — I sure don’t plan to. But do give matcha try; you have nothing to lose but stained teeth, bad breath, and heart-pounding jitters. And you might have a whole new world of wellness to gain.

Matcha Shot, Glass of Water

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By now everyone knows that you need to drink more water than you think you need. It’s amazing what a cool glass of water will do for a fatigued mind; the pep-up is near instant, and everything suddenly feels better. I’ve taken to drinking a large glass with a squeezed lemon half upon waking, and there’s nothing like it to jumpstart the day.

But It’s even better with a shot of matcha. One two-ounce cup, chased by a tall glass of agua, is big hydration and big nutrition. I also like pouring water into my matcha cup when I’m finished with the matcha; it not only gets every last bit of matcha in the cup, it rinses out the mouth and leaves a tasty trail of goodness going down. This is a ritual I repeat several times a day.

I also keep a little “mindfulness bell” near the matcha tools. A light tap of the bell keeps it singing for a good 20 seconds. There’s nothing like morning quiet, a fading bell, matcha, and plenty of water. Simple, powerful, and immensely enjoyable.

7 Ways Matcha Will Change Your Life

 

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People are constantly asking me what matcha can do for them. Here are just seven benefits of regular matcha drinking.

 

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Fights fatigue. Matcha is a powerful ally in fighting fatigue. The combination of naturally occurring amino acids plus small amounts of caffeine tend to give an instant boost to personal energy levels. Most people feel the stimulative effects of a cup of matcha for at least two hours, but they last as long as six hours for some people

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The Breakaway Matcha Ceremony

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The Japanese tea ceremony is a thing of unquestionable intrigue, beauty, and sheer historical awesomeness. It is triply so when performed and enjoyed within the context in which it arose: in some lovely wabisabi spot in Japan, ideally at a zen temple, which is where the whole thing really started.

It was an extremely simple affair in the beginning:  a homely little hut, built expressly for making and enjoying tea. Nothing fancy, no excess anything, just four and a half tatami mats, a small charcoal brazier to boil water, a kettle, some matcha, a few basic tools. That’s it. You drank the tea and it was all about being in the moment, that moment, and noticing things. Noticing the surroundings, noticing your breath and palate, noticing the beauty and simplicity of the matcha and whatever else was in view, including the good fortune of being alive at that moment.

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The 5-Way Matcha Tasteoff

I recently got a pretty delightful email that I can’t help sharing. It was from Tynan, with whom I sipped matcha in his incredible RV several months back.

Tynan and the ever-inspiring Leo Babauta (I also had the chance to sit down with Leo and talk about flow and productivity over matcha). and Leo’s wife Eva, did  5-way double-blind tasting of Blends 100, 99, 97, and two matcha that they picked up in Uji on a recent trip there. Without conferring before deciding favorites, they all picked 99, 97, and 100 in that order. Wow. My kind of afternoon experiment!

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The SF Chronicle Discovers Breakaway Matcha!

We were thrilled to find Breakaway Matcha on the cover of last weekend’s SF Chronicle! (Marin edition) Full article is below — click a panel to blow it up for easier reading. Thanks to Carey Sweet and everyone at the Chronicle who made this happen!

Chron Matcha Cover

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