Matcha’s recent increase in popularity among health enthusiasts and those looking to pursue a healthier lifestyle comes with no surprise, considering the many health benefits it offers. Of the many, we would like to take the time to talk about one of them in detail: Matcha’s natural energy boost. The boost in energy is made possible by L-theanine, which allows the body to slowly absorb Matcha’s natural caffeine, giving you a sustained 3-6 hour period of energy with no crash or jitters. L-theanine, which possesses psychoactive properties and has the ability to cross the brain barrier, is an amino acid naturally found in the Camellia Sinensis (tea) plant. Of all the teas, green tea is said to have the greatest concentration of L-theanine.
Within the green tea category, concentrations of L-theanine are highest in Matcha and Gyokuro due to the shade growing process they undergo. For approximately one month before harvest, layers of shade are added over the tea farms each week, ultimately blocking out 90% of direct sunlight. Other varieties of green teas are open air grown and exposed to direct sunlight, which stimulates photosynthesis in the leaves, converting some of the L-theanine into catechins. The shade growing process mitigates this, preserving the L-theanine and other amino acid in the leaves. The L-theanine is also what gives Matcha and Gyokuro its sweet notes and balanced flavor; catechins are more astringent/bitter, making open air teas less sweet than their shade grown counterparts.
Not only do the amino acids give Matcha a sweet flavor, but they also can help improve one’s mood, reduce stress, and help the mind focus. These effects are especially noticeable when consumed with caffeine. Studies have shown that individuals have increased alpha wave brain activity, which is said to be present when one is alert yet relaxed, after consuming L-theanine. It’s no surprise that Matcha, tea ceremonies, and Zen Buddhism have such strong ties in Japanese history. Matcha gives Buddhist monks the energy to meditate for long periods of time, yet remain completely focused throughout; a practice that is seen by Zen Buddhist monks to this day. Additionally, L-theanine has been found to help produce a sense of well-being by aiding in the increase of dopamine in humans, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that is released during pleasurable activities.
The chart below compares the amount of L-theanine present in a bowl of Matcha to a regular cup of steeped green tea. As you can see, the amount in Matcha is much higher.
Though there is currently no proven recommended daily intake volume for L-theanine, overconsumption is to be avoided (as with anything that is good for you). It is always best to check with a medical professional regarding any specific questions you may have about the effects of Matcha and L-theanine on your body and health. For references, some studies have suggested consuming approximately 200 mg of L-theanine daily, while others recommend limiting daily consumption to 50-100 mg.
For more information on L-theanine and its health benefits, please visit: L-Theanine Information.