Try This Thousand-Year Old Way to Boost Your Brain
It's a fixture of life in Britain, along with plenty of other places around the world. But this article isn’t about your regular Earl Grey. It’s about something around a thousand years more ancient, consumed by emperors, samurai, monks and all your other movers-and-shakers in East Asian history. I am, of course, talking about matcha green tea. Why is matcha so useful for people who want to boost their brainpower? What makes it special? And where can you easily get some? Keep on reading for answers…
The consumption of matcha is estimated to have been going on as early as the 7th century CE, in Tang Dynasty China. It’s fluctuated in and out of popularity in China and the rest of Asia, but has remained a staple in Japan for centuries. It’s strongly associated with Zen Buddhism, being introduced into Japanese Buddhist temples from China around the 12th century CE. Matcha has permeated through Japanese society since, and is gradually gaining popularity in other places.
This is because matcha’s benefits are becoming more widely known. Matcha tea is (rightfully) renowned as a ‘superfood’ because it has an extremely high number of benefits for human health. The tea is jam-packed with loads of health-promoting substances - including antioxidants and catechins - which can help to prevent plenty of illnesses and disorders. The tea has been enshrined in traditional Chinese medicine as a cure for numerous problems in the body.
However, you’re not reading this to learn about those benefits. Sure, matcha is great for your body: but what does it do for your mind? Why is matcha seen as so helpful for mental performance? What makes it a cognitive enhancer?
This is thanks to two compounds present in matcha tea. You’ve probably heard of one: Caffeine. The ubiquitous stimulant that powers your brain via your morning Americano is also found in matcha tea, albeit in smaller quantities than coffee. The other side to this cognitive enhancement owes itself to an amino acid present in matcha, called theanine. If you consume too much caffeine, you can get jittery and fidgety, an unfortunate downside of drinking too much coffee. Theanine acts to counterbalance the potential side-effects of caffeine, as it’s believed to help calmness. This makes it the ideal counterpart to caffeine, and they’re both found in matcha (and both are also found in BrainZyme).
This is a big factor as to why matcha has been so well-regarded throughout history. A stressed-out emperor might have a few cups to chill out, or a samurai about to go into battle might drink some tea to calm his nerves. It’s an ancient, natural nootropic that’s stood the test of time. Even today, people looking to boost their brains will use theanine and caffeine together in a 2:1 ratio, letting caffeine’s alertness and theanine’s calmness work synergistically.
But, matcha tea isn’t the perfect food: It has an enormous number of benefits, but some very apparent shortfalls. For one, matcha is bitter. It’s not pleasant to drink, and is often mixed with other things or diluted to try and make it more potable to the palate. It’s believed that the first people to consume matcha mixed it dry with milk or some other dairy product to reduce this bitterness and make ‘matcha balls’.
For two, matcha is expensive. 50g of the stuff can run you £10, making it perhaps not the most accessible of drinks. Picking up a nice bag of coffee grounds is a fraction of the price, and you certainly get more for your money in exchange. It’s because the process for making matcha is very specific, necessitating that particular leaves on the tea bush be used, and that they’re ground down in a certain way.
Finally, matcha is just inconvenient to prepare - to put a bowl together properly, you need water of the right temperature, leaves of the right grade, and the right implements to make sure you do it properly. You must also whisk your tea to froth it up, and there’s plenty of risks to its taste and health benefits if you don’t make it correctly. Certainly not as easy as brewing a Twinings.
There is another alternative, however: matcha extract is increasingly used in food supplements designed to enhance cognition, such as our very own BrainZyme. One capsule of BrainZyme has around the same amount of theanine as 20 cups of matcha, as well as natural caffeine in a 2:1 ratio with theanine. They balance each other out, and produces a positively invigorating effect! It’s much easier, cheaper and tastes better, so if you’re interested in the benefits of the matcha without the drawbacks, take a look.
But, if you have the time, money and tastebuds for it, we’d also rate trying matcha in its usual state. The drink has a storied history and a gilded legacy of being enjoyed by great people, and for good reason. Aside from the benefits inherent in its ingredients, just making matcha is a calming process that can help you centre yourself and focus. It might have to be an occasional treat, but if you’re curious then there’s plenty of places you can find it. Take a look, and if you decide to try it let us know in the comments how you get on!
Please note, this is a blog post is for educational and informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice. You should always speak to your Doctor first if you have any medical concerns.