Matcha is growing and becoming increasingly popular not just among tea enthusiasts, but also among those looking for healthier products and foods to add to their diet. One of the key health components in Matcha tea is an Amino acid called L-theanine. L-theanine has the ability to cross the brain barrier and possesses psychoactive properties. It is found naturally in the Camellia Sinensis (tea) plant and of all teas, green tea is said to have the greatest concentration of L-Theanine.
Within the category of “green tea,” concentrations of L-Theanine are highest in Matcha and Gyokuro because of the shade growing process they undergo; about a month before these teas are going to be harvested, farmers apply a layer of shade covering each week until around 90% of direct sunlight is blocked. Other varieties of green tea are open air grown and exposed to direct sunlight, which stimulates photosynthesis in the leaves, destroying some of the L-Theanine and/or converting it into catechins. The shade growing process mitigates this, giving the finished tea higher amounts of L-Theanine and other Amino acids. When it comes to flavor, the natural sweetness in tea is derived from Amino acids and L-Theanine. Catechins are more astringent and bitter, making open air teas less sweet than their shade grown counterparts. As shade grown teas, Matcha and Gyokuro have a natural sweetness and more balanced flavor derived from their higher concentration of L-Theanine. L-Theanine is also credited with giving foods the so-called “umami” or fifth taste.
When it comes to the physical effects it has on the body, L-theanine can help improve one’s mood, reduce stress, and help the mind focus. These effects are especially noticeable when L-theanine is consumed in conjunction with caffeine. Studies have also shown that individuals have increased alpha wave brain activity after consuming L-Theanine. This brain activity is said to be present when you are alert and not stressed. It is because of this effect that Matcha tea, tea ceremony, and Zen Buddhism have such strong ties in Japanese history – even in modern Japan, Zen Buddhist Monks drink Matcha tea before meditation for the calm alert effect. Matcha gives them the energy to meditate for long periods of time and remain focused throughout. Additionally, L-Theanine has been found to help increase dopamine levels in humans. Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is released during pleasurable activities such as eating chocolate and helps produce a sense of well being.
The chart below illustrates the amount of L-Theanine present in a bowl of Matcha tea when compared to a cup of regular steeped green tea. The amounts are so much higher because with Matcha you are consuming the entire leaf in each serving and not just what is water soluble.
There is currently no recommended daily intake volume for L-Theanine determined by the scientific community. Even when it comes to things that are good for you, over consumption is to be avoided so it is always best to check with a medial heath professional regarding any specific questions you have about the effects Matcha and L-theanine on your body and health. Just for reference, some studies have suggested consuming approximately 200 mg of L-theanine daily while others have suggested limiting daily consumption to 50-100 mg .
For more in-depth information on L-Theanine and it’s health benefits please visit: L-Theanine Information