Matcha Has Less Caffeine, But the Caffeine Lasts Longer

 

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We get a lot of calls and emails asking about caffeine and matcha.

 

The short answer is that is has far less caffeine than brewed coffee does — about a quarter as much (roughly 25mg of caffeine for matcha, roughly 100mg or more for coffee, depending on factors such as steeping time, water temperature, and many others). Some estimates put as much as 200mg of caffeine in brewed coffee, which would mean matcha has about an eighth as much caffeine as coffee. But as a rule of thumb we can generally conclude that matcha has about a fourth the caffeine as brewed coffee.

 

The slightly expanded answer is that, even though it doesn’t have much caffeine relative to coffee, the relatively small amount of caffeine in matcha lasts a lot longer. How can this be?

 

The small amounts of caffeine in tea usually take longer to enter the blood stream than does the caffeine in coffee, which tends to be absorbed into the bloodstream just minutes after drinking.  With matcha, it typically takes several hours to fully enter the bloodstream, and can last as long as six hours. Moreover, the “crash” many people experience an hour or two after drinking coffee doesn’t happen with matcha.

 

The leading theory on why this is so has to do with the amino acid L-theanine, which we’ve discussed at length in these pages before. L-theanine and the many other antioxidants, flavanoids, and phytonutrients in matcha are thought to slow down the body’s absorption of caffeine – resulting in a gentler increase of caffeine in the system and a lengthened period of alertness and wakefulness, with no crash once the caffeine has run its full course. at the end.

 

Matcha is a rather fun ride — it feels great  to hydrate, to feel a steady stream of serene yet energizing flow, and to feel like you’re at your peak performance.

 

The Three Ms: Matcha, Meditation, and Medication

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It may seem ridiculous to some, but I think of a daily matcha habit as a cross between meditation and medication (with some epicurean fun thrown in to keep things interesting).

We’ve covered the meditation part of matcha in these pages here and here, but to recap: great matcha has large quantities of an amino acid called l-theanine. The higher the quality of matcha, the more l-theanine it has. Lots of people take a synthesized version of l-theanine to help them acquire a type of “flow” (as Mihaly Csikszentmihaly — pronounced MEE-hai CHEEK-sent-mə-HAI-ee — famously calls it), or a stream of “calm energy.”

“Flow,” he writes, “is a a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand.”  In a state of flow, you are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.

This amino acid acts to temper the stimulatory effects of caffeine — which matcha has in small amounts (about 25mg per 1g serving, or roughly one-quarter that of a cup of brewed coffee) — on our nervous systems, in effect creating a “time release” function; a bowl of matcha typically delivers a steady stream of energy for about four hours, with none of the jitteriness coffee creates for so many people.

L-theanine creates a sense of relaxation in approximately 30-40 minutes after ingestion via at least two different mechanisms. It first directly stimulates the production of alpha brain waves, creating a state of deep relaxation and mental alertness similar to what is achieved through meditation.Very experienced practitioners of meditation tend to have have elevated alpha wave states, including the Dalai Lama and his entourage of long-term Tibetan meditators, who were invited to Stanford’s neurology department to study their brains while they mediated. Lots of alpha waves.

L-theanine is also involved in the formation of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA). GABA — an inhibitory neurotransmitter — inhibits the levels of two other excitatory neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin, producing the relaxation effect

It makes sense on some level. Readers of these pages may recall the Japanese zen monks were (and remain to this day) enthusiastic drinkers of matcha and its high levels of l-theanine, though they couldn’t have known that at the time. They knew that drinking matcha helped them to stay awake during meditation for longer periods (no easy task —if you’ve ever tried siting on a cushion for eight or more hours facing a wall, you’ll know what I mean).

Which brings us to the medication part of matcha. Drinking a daily bowl of matcha IS kind of like taking a daily pill prescribed by your doctor, in that you develop a daily habit, a habit you believe (or at least your doctor believes) is good for your health.

Except with matcha, you get to really enjoy it — you get the epicurean experience of tasting and swallowing something divinely delicious, and you can make as much or as little ritual around the experience as you like. It’s an awesome daily habit that brings mindfulness, joy — Michelin-quality epicurean joy– and the blast of phytonutrients that so many dentists and physicians love. (Productivity enthusiasts love the l-theanine fueled stream of focused energy as well).

So when you think of matcha, consider the three Ms. And if anyone has read this far, and wants to try some hyperpremium, blog readers can get a 10 percent discount by typing  THE3MS during checkout. Please ask questions if you have them!

 

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.

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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