Sunday, February 27, 2011

Matcha and my own tea ritual

I've had a fascination with the components of various foods and beverages for years.  While I've never been a food geek to the extent of Jeff Potter's  Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food I like knowing what's in my food, and the potential benefits and risk of any given food choice.  In addition to the heath ramifications of tracking and learning about one's dietary choices, grappling with the chemistry and biology of food is fun.  At least it is for me.

I've never had a background in chemistry, so armed with a copy of Chemistry: Concepts and Problems: A Self-Teaching Guide (Wiley Self-Teaching Guides) and Wikipedia, I began a process of trying to learn as much about food and nutrition as a layperson with limited time can digest.

As a consequence of this, I've developed by own little morning tea ritual, involving matcha, the finely ground powdered green tea used in the Japanese tea ritual.

The potential health benefits of green tea are well known.  It contains numerous phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals, but of particular interest is a polyphenol known as Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).  EGCG has received interest as a potential preventative for cancer and some autoimmune diseases.

But like any other chemical substance there are circumstances under which EGCG can be harmful.  The wikipedia article on EGCG mentions some of those circumstances.  They include pregnancy (high intake of polyphenols during pregnancy can increase the risk of neonatal leukemia),  and when using the anti-cancer drug Velcade (EGCG can reduce the bioavailability of the drug).

Since I'm neither pregnant, nor on anti-cancer medication, I've devised my own tea ritual in the morning, which diverges substantially from the Japanese method of preparing the tea, but which works for me.

I sift a teaspoon of matcha powder into a mug, then pour about 1/8 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice onto the powder, and rapidly stir it with a fork (since I've yet to acquire one of the little wooden wisks).  This forms a rather thick sludge.

I pour a cup of hot (not boiling) water from a tea kettle into the mug.  The resulting beverage is both sour and somewhat bitter, but I've grown to love the concoction.  I often exacerbate the bitterness by eating a tablespoon of cocoa nibs along with the tea.  I wouldn't advise adding the cocoa nibs unless your taste buds really thrive on bitterness, but it works for me.  The Japanese ritual includes eating small sweets to mellow out the strong bite of the matcha.

Whether any of my dietary eccentricities will actually have an appreciable impact on my longevity is unknowable.  But I have fun with it, learn a bit about a couple of branches of science, and on balance my diet is much better than the average diet in our American Fast Food Nation.

1 comment:

  1. Matcha…wow the name itself reveals much about the green tea and this post completes the remaining job.