10 Good Reasons to Develop a Daily Matcha Habit

 

 

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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!

 

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.

 

 * * *

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matcha, Productivity, and L-Theanine

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Most of us agree that we feel awfully good after drinking a thick cup of matcha. Part of the reason behind feeling good is surely a placebo effect: you have this creamy, electric-green drink made of 100 percent baby green tea leaves and nothing else. It looks delicious and tastes even better. We just know on some primitive level that something that green has got to be good. So I do believe we are almost predisposed to feeling good after drinking it, even if science was on the fence about its health properties.

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“Culinary” Matcha, Anyone?

By now, most people with even a marginal interest in food and food trends have heard of matcha.This is a good thing, and its overall popularity continues to climb.

The confusing issue is that many people consider matcha to be in essence a kind of exotic spice, to be used as an ingredient for cooking and desserts (think green tea ice cream, matcha tiramisu, matcha macaroons, matcha truffles, and all manner of smoothies and blended drinks). I love how creative many chefs are becoming with it, and its color and health benefits seem to make everyone happy. 

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