Stuff You Should Know hosts Josh and Chuck are big fans of matcha, so for this episode, they tell us all the stuff we should know about it: What it is, where it comes from, how to drink it, what its health benefits are (and there are a lot), and where the best matcha can be found. Matcha is a powdered tea made from tea leaves that are grown a very specific way in Japan. Back in the 11th century, shoguns and monks were crazy for matcha because it has a lot of caffeine in it, but doesn’t give you the jitters. They discovered that if the tea bushes were deprived of certain amounts of light at certain times of year, it would produce the absolute best matcha. That’s because manipulating the photosynthesis process allowed the tea leaves to retain their sweetness. It also makes the matcha an irresistibly bright, almost Day-Glo green.
With most teas, we steep the leaves in hot water, drink the “liquor” it produces, and toss the actual leaves. Matcha is powdered, so all you do is add some water, whisk it until a foam forms, and there’s your tea. And since we’re actually drinking the leaves themselves, we get a lot more health benefits than with other teas. We all have “free radicals” in our bodies, which are molecules that like to combine with other things. With a balanced system, this isn’t a problem, but having too many free radicals can cause diseases to develop. So it’s good to get a lot of antioxidants, because they combine with the free radicals to keep us healthier. Well, matcha “is lousy with antioxidants,” Josh says; it’s great for memory and aging, is good for all our organs, combats diseases like cancer, improves stress level and mood, and more.
Matcha is the tea used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, called “chado,” or, “the way of tea.” Tea ceremony is a very specific, exact process. “Everything from the folding of the napkin to how you sit is very planned out,” Chuck tells us, though it can be stressful to learn because “even the sound your whisk makes in the bowl matters.” But that’s for a reason: It’s meant to make you focus on the moment, and your part in that moment, so it’s very quiet and meditative. Josh says it’s “basically the opposite of coffee” because “it’s not meant to be, ‘Go, go, go, let’s get the day started!’ It’s more like ‘Let’s take some time out of that day and pause and reflect.’” Hear all about this delicious “magic green potion from Japanland” on this episode of Stuff You Should Know.
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