Matcha and Stress Reduction

matcha hands bowl male 9 lower res


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

Jeff scooter

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

matcha near iron grate


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


matcha white bowl 3

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



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

Continue reading

The Breakaway Matcha Ceremony

outdoors office matcha 3 with logo 600

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.

Continue reading

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!

tynan matcha 1

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Matcha, Productivity, and L-Theanine


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.

Continue reading

Matcha and Addiction

If you don't treat your body well

Am I addicted to matcha? Probably. But what does this mean exactly?

The most common definition of addiction is probably something like: the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse consequences. The most obvious addictions that fit this definition for many people are abuse of drugs and alcohol, sex, gambling, and even exercise.

But what do you call the continued use of a mood-altering substance that brings about excellent consequences? Do we even have a word for that?

Continue reading

Matcha — Drinking a Plant

tea fields

When we drink matcha, we’re actually drinking a plant. Not the extract of a plant, mind you: the actual plant itself.The leaves of this gorgeous plant are plucked by hand, then steamed to preserve their brilliant color, then dried, then finely ground using specially designed grooved granite wheels. We then simply combine this ground tea (the characters for matcha, literally mean “ground tea”) with hot water, whisk it up a bit, and drink it. We thus ingest the actual leaves, the actual tea.

Continue reading

Matcha and Water Temperature


matcha in parchment creamer

For most of us, it’s common sense that tea is made with boiling water. Plonk tea bag in cup, add boiling water, steep, toss bag, drink.

The end.

How do we break free of fixed ideas like these? The brain has many ingenious ways of dealing with complexity, and a prominent one is to categorize information into easily memorable chunks. Tea equals boiling water.

But sometimes the rule is wildly off, and employing it gives highly undesired results. Matcha is one of the cases.

Continue reading

Matcha With Tynan

I recently had the opportunity to have a cup of matcha with the fascinating and inspiring Tynan, a young entrepreneur who’s obsessed with living a fulfilling and adventure-packed life. We hung out in his remarkable RV — parked behind a gas station in SF — which he has customized to an almost unimaginable degree. He managed to install some beautiful tatami mats, mainly because he likes to prepare and serve tea so much (tatami of course also makes a terrific flooriing for a futon).  He’s also written several books, including one called The Tiniest Mansion: How To Live in Luxury on the Side of the Road in an RV. We talked for a few hours, and here is the tiniest slice of it.


Continue reading

From Red Rose to Rarefied Matcha


I grew up with Red Rose tea bags, a blend of black and orange pekoe teas  My mother liked to make a cup in the evenings, after dinner, and I felt sophisticated whenever I joined her for a cup. She bought the 100-bag box at our local grocery store, and couldn’t have (wouldn’t have) paid more than five dollars for it (and this was 1970s dollars). Pennies per bag was my frame.

Continue reading

Leo Babauta on Focus, Flow, and Matcha

I recently had matcha in SF with the inimitable Leo Babauta. This guy, despite having created an army of fans who love his musings on productivity, happiness, minimalism, frugality, vegetarianism/veganism, health and fitness, setting goals, and many other topics has clearly digested the concept of humility. He has a long list of impressive achievements, yet he’s one of the humbler and most self-effacing people I’ve met in a long time. Check out what he has to say below about “best practices” concerning concentration, focus, and flow. And by all means check out his delightful blog at Zen Habits.




“Going Quiet” with Matcha

There are lots of metaphors about the incessant chatter going on in most our heads, that datastream of conversations, impressions, admonitions, and other mental events that seem to occupy most of our waking moments, but I like one best. The most awake zen guy I’ve ever met, the great zen teacher and artist Kakinuma Ninsho

calls it “the movie”: it’s one big chaotic cinematic stream that basically doesn’t shut off; the best we can do, says Ninsho, is just to note what’s playing, without identifying with or liking/disliking the characters and scenes. Once you know it’s a movie, he says, it’s a lot easier to hit the power button. The movie will likely go blank for a few seconds, and then simply restart. What then? “Just watch for a while, and shut it off again whenever you feel like it.”

Continue reading

Thick Matcha, or Thin Matcha? Why No In Between?


Even the most cursory inquiry into the literature on matcha will bring up a reference to the basic two traditional Japanese styles of matcha preparation: usucha (“thin tea,” literally translated) and koicha (“thick tea”). We’ll first describe the traditional meanings of these, then serve up a blending of the two.

Continue reading