The Science Behind Matcha’s Mental Magic

Zen Matcha

You may have heard that Zen Buddhists drink matcha to enhance mindfulness practices. And you’re probably aware that matcha can help you stay focused throughout the day. But exactly how does matcha tea work its mental magic?

If you’ve ever seen live green tea plants grown for matcha, you were probably struck by their beautiful green leaves. Matcha leaves get their nearly neon pigment from a special cultivation process and a unique amino acid called theanine. Known for its mental health benefits, Theanine also increases the concentration of chlorophyll. Like all plants, chlorophyll in matcha absorbs sunlight and turns it into energy. Matcha farmers use a simple trick to capitalise on the relationship between theanine and chlorophyll. About a month before harvest, our tea farmers cover the plants with black shade cloth. Shaded matcha plants kick up their theanine production to increase chlorophyll and absorb more sunlight. When harvested, the unmistakably green leaves of the tea plant contain about as much theanine as they do caffeine, about 2% by dry weight.

When you drink a cup of matcha tea, you ingest the whole theanine-rich leaf (minues the stems and veins of the leaf). Eventually, theanine is absorbed by your small intestine. From there, it passes into your bloodstream and is routed to your brain. Within 30 minutes, theanine molecules reach your blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier is like a bouncer at a crowded concert. It blocks harmful substances trying to get backstage to the brain. But theanine has a backstage pass. It slips past the blood-brain barrier and begins to work its magic inside the brain (1).

Theanine in matcha tea pumps up alpha brain wave activity, enhancing your ability to find flow. Billions of nerve cells in your brain use electrical pulses to communicate with each other. When these electrical pulses fire rhythmically, brain waves form. Alpha brain waves put your mind in a relaxed, yet alert state. If you’re a runner or practice yoga you might be familiar with the feeling of alpha waves. They’re present during activities commonly associated with a “flow state,” like aerobic exercise and meditation. In one study, brain scans of people who ingested one dose of theanine lit up with alpha wave activity for nearly two hours (2).

Go ahead, reward your brain with a cup of Mista Matcha premium green tea powder today. It’s packed with theanine to get you into a groove and keeps you focused all day long.

References

  1. Cho, Hong-Suk, et al. "Protective effect of the green tea component, L-theanine on environmental toxins-induced neuronal cell death." Neurotoxicology29.4 (2008): 656-662.
  2. Nobre, Anna C., Anling Rao, and Gail N. Owen. "L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state." Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition 17.S1 (2008): 167-168.



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