As a nutritionist working in a clinical environment that dispenses supplements, I find myself discussing the advantages of supplements more often than actual food. Food is more important, but it’s talk about capsules, powders and tablets of nutraceuticals that consumes most of my day so it's nice to talk about food for a change!

I’m a big fan of healthy foods in general, but there are a few standouts that are worthy of exceptional praise. No, not flax seeds, not chia, not black cherries, not spirulina, not hemp hearts, nor any of the other so-called “superfoods” that we’re so used to hearing about. This one is much simpler. It’s consumed in copious quantities in many cultures (except western ones) and yields tremendous anti-stress and anti-anxiety benefits. Not theoretical benefits, but real, perceivable benefits that you’ll notice within the first few days of adding it to your lifestyle.

Camellia sinensis is a shrub that produces leaves otherwise known as “tea”. Black tea is produced from oxidized tea leaves and gives us the base for popular blended teas such as English breakfast, earl grey, and chai. Green tea on the other hand is far less oxidized and retains a much lighter flavour; but more importantly has distinct health differences compared to black teas.

While green tea is lower in caffeine and lighter in taste than black tea, it is also much higher in 2 key areas which I will discuss separately. The first, is that green tea is very high in an amino acid called l-theanine which comprises roughly half of all protein present. While l-theanine is still under the radar in most medical circles, l-theanine supplements and l-theanine rich green tea is quickly gaining momentum. L-theanine is a natural chemical which has demonstrated the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and safely increase the production of 1 happy hormone (serotonin), and 2 stress-relieving neurotransmitters (dopamine and GABA). EEG research with l-theanine has found that it induces pronounced alpha-waves in the brain, which are characteristic of “wakeful relaxation”; feeling relaxed, while still remaining sharp and alert. While a green tea beverage contains caffeine, it contains about 2/3rds the amount found in black tea, and nearly half on what is found in coffee.  Despite this, even people who are sensitive to caffeine often find they can drink green tea while still feeling relaxed overall.  

While the l-theanine rich content of green tea is my primary reason for drinking it, the high concentration of catechins which are known to be potent anti-oxidants, and one particular kind of catechin (EGCG) have demonstrated metabolism boosting effects are certainly side-benefits worth considering.

Like wine, the differences between green teas have much to do with where it’s grown, when it was harvested, and how it was processed. While much of it comes down to personal preference, one type of green tea in particular called matcha, is quite different. Unlike most teas which involve steeping the tea leaves as a hot water infusion and then tossing out the leaves afterwards, matcha involves the consumption of the entire leaf as it is whisked as a fine bright-green powder into hot water. Matcha tea is also a higher grade tea involving top leaves, minimal oxidation, and stone-grinding which retain much more of the l-theanine and catechin concentrations. As someone who has experienced both conventional steeped green tea and matcha tea, I can assure you that the differences are distinct. I’ve met several fellow matcha drinkers who have reported feeling “waves of relaxation” hit them when drinking matcha tea on an empty stomach, and I include myself in this group.

I’ve been looking for a quality matcha tea to bring to our store for quite awhile now, but after our latest industry trade show (CHFA), I’ve finally found it, so expect matcha tea to appear on our shelves in the next few weeks. While it’s generally advised “not to get high on your own supply”, I can’t help but suspect that from here-on-out, matcha will be my drink of choice while at work.  Cheers!