Matcha is the keystone of the traditional Chinese tea ceremony, with its focus on the preparation, service and consumption of a special type of green tea. This might loosely be called ceremonial-grade matcha, whereas culinary-grade matcha is used for food flavouring and colouring.
Matcha is a uniquely produced, hand-picked green tea, traditionally stone-ground to a fine green powder. The tea bushes are covered some weeks before harvesting, to slow down their growth and promote an increase of chlorophyll to make the leaves darker green, and to stimulate synthesis of amino acids, especially theanine.
Theanine is analogous to other amino acids that build proteins; it remains intact across the blood-brain barrier, thus helping to improve cognitive performance, lighten mood and anxiety and potentially increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain to combat depression. It is also believed to speed up metabolism and burn fat faster.
Because the whole leaf, without veins or stems, is ingested and not thrown away like other teas, the antioxidant content of the matcha powder is extremely high. In addition to helping prevent cell oxidation and fighting off free radicals, matcha green tea powder is credited with increased longevity and anti-inflammatory properties.