What Is Tenzo Tea?

By Alicia Doyle
HighYa Staff Published on: Aug 3, 2018

In Japanese, the word Tenzo translates to “heavenly monk,” and in ancient Buddhist temples, there was a special position called a Tenzo who helped with tea ceremonies.

The Tenzo was one of six office-holders who, as disciples of the Buddha, guided the monastic community, explained Steve O’Dell, who co-founded Tenzo Tea with Robbie Page.

“Amongst these, the Tenzo bore the responsibility of caring for the community’s meals,” said O’Dell, noting that the Tenzo played a vital role in ancient Buddhist culture, and Japanese society would not be the same had the Tenzo not existed.

“As a company that sells high ceremonial-grade matcha powder, the Tenzo embodies everything we strive to be as a brand,” O’Dell said.

Tenzo Tea sells matcha powder, which is the only ingredient required to make matcha tea.

Tenzo Tea was launched in the summer of 2016 in Long Beach, California; and today, the founders’ matcha powder is sold in about 200 cafes across the U.S. and online direct to consumer.

Matcha tea has similar roots to green tea – they come from the same plant, the Camellia Sinensis – but the way you consume the two tea varieties is fundamentally different.

“When making green tea, people are generally infusing whole green tea leaves, which are sold in tea bags,” O’Dell explained.

The proper way to make matcha tea is by whisking loose matcha powder into a bowl of water.

“The process involved with developing matcha tea plants is what sets this tea apart,” O’Dell said.

The Difference Starts with the Plant

Tenzo Tea’s leaves are grown in the lush environment of Kagoshima, Japan.

“Matcha tea differs from green tea from the beginning of the growing process,” O’Dell said.

Ever notice matcha’s distinct emerald green color?

“Tenzo’s plants are grown in shade for 20 days, which causes them to produce more chlorophyll,” O’Dell explained. “This chlorophyll is what gives good matcha its crazy color.”

Founders of Tenzo TeaSteve O’Dell (left) and Robbie Page. Image credit: Tenzo Tea

The leaves are harvested when they are in a youth growth stage.

“This is when the leaves are the freshest, meaning that the power of the nutrients is at its peak,” O’Dell noted. “The leaves are then steamed, dried and freed of all stems and veins, leaving only the nutritious parts of the leaf.”

Green tea leaves in this state are referred to as tencha, which is ground into a fine powder with the help of these stone grinders.

“Tenzo’s machines actually move slower to eliminate the risk of burning the leaves,” O’Dell said.

In short, when you have green tea, you are ingesting the limited amount nutrients that came from the outside of a green tea leaf that was dried with excessive heat, and the finished product tastes of a bitterness not dissimilar to what you get with over roasted coffee, he noted.

“Tenzo’s matcha powder gives you all the nutrients that come from the inside of the leaf – where all the health benefits and antioxidants are located – as well as a more buttery flavor profile,” he said. “And it looks trendier, too.”

Why Should I Drink Matcha Instead of Coffee?

When the founders of Tenzo Tea are asked this common question, they explain the difference between matcha and coffee is that, while coffee gives you a boost of energy, that boost is short-lived because the caffeine wears off just as quickly as it comes on.

“With matcha, the l-theanine and caffeine combine to give you a boost of energy that comes on in a more subtle manner, and lasts for a longer period of time,” O’Dell said.

“Another crazy advantage is that matcha gives you these benefits without the jitters coffee drinkers are all too familiar with,” he added. “The jitters are the feelings you get when the caffeine wears off – you feel anxious and restless as if you can’t sit still.”

Tenzo Tea: A Superfood with Health Benefits

Tenzo Tea is considered a superfood because matcha contains more antioxidants per gram than all other superfoods on the planet and comes with a healthy dose of caffeine to keep you feeling great all day, according to O’Dell.

Tenzo Tea is loaded with vitamins, he said, including:

  • Vitamin A (carotene)
  • Vitamin b1 (thiamine)
  • Vitamin b2 (riboflavin)
  • Vitamin b3 (niacin)
  • Vitamin c (ascorbic acid)
  • Vitamin f (fluorine)
  • Vitamin p (flavonoids)

“Tenzo Tea contains caffeine and l-theanine,” O’Dell said. “These ingredients, when combined, create an ultra-powerful mix that not only gives drinkers a long-lasting boost of energy but a feeling of relaxation, calmness, and focus. These ingredients also help drinkers lose weight and lower their blood pressure.”

O’Dell noted that according to the Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity test, which measures the antioxidant levels in foods, Tenzo Tea’s matcha measures 1573 units per gram.

“That’s 13 times the antioxidants of pomegranates, 15 times the antioxidants of blueberries, and 125 times that of spinach,” said O’Dell, adding that not only is this extremely beneficial for heart health, it can also greatly reduce the risk of infection.

Additionally, matcha contains epigallocatechin gallate, which increases CCK (cholecystokinin), the hormone responsible for making you feel full.

“Drinking matcha between meals will help you feel full and resist those sneaky snacks that are full of calories,” O’Dell noted.

Why Tenzo Tea Is Good for Your Health

Tenzo Tea is filled with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals; and according to a report by ConsumerLab.com, matcha contained roughly 3 to 5 times more nutrients compared to standard green tea or bottled green tea drinks.

“These all are imperative if we want to stay healthy,” O’Dell said. “Matcha tea is one of the healthiest things you can drink, and it all comes down to two ingredients: caffeine and l-theanine.”

Caffeine:

According to Caffeine Informer, an 8-ounce glass of matcha green tea provides 70 mg of caffeine.

“This is important because caffeine gives you the energy you need to feel prepared for the day to come,” O’Dell explained.

L-theanine

L-theanine is an amino acid that helps reduce weight, reduce anxiety and lower heart rate.

“L-theanine pairs with caffeine to provide a long-lasting 4- to 6-hour energy boost without the jitters or crash typically experienced from drinking coffee,” O’Dell noted. “While strong on their own, the combination of these two ingredients is what makes you feel like a superhero with Tenzo Tea.”

Stephanie Logosh, a licensed dietitian, said while she doesn’t like to use the marketing phrase, “superfood,” Tenzo Tea’s matcha does contain the health benefits that could classify it as one by the public.

She noted that matcha is rich in a type of phytochemical compound called catechin, and catechins are responsible for hoisting Tenzo Tea to “super food-dom.”

This is because catechins include an antioxidant called “epigallocatechin gallate” or, EGCG, for short.

“Matcha has a concentration of EGCG about two to three times higher than other green teas – some producers even tout a concentration of 137 times greater,” said Logosh, who works as a clinical dietitian within the field of oncology in a hospital located in Cleveland, Ohio.

Antioxidants like EGCG may protect cells from DNA damage caused by free radicals, an unstable byproduct of oxygen metabolism in the body, she noted.

“When free radicals build up in cells, cellular damage may occur,” explained Logosh, noting that EGCG from powdered matcha protects cells from damage by collecting and disposing of free radicals.

“This action can help protect against or slow the growth of certain cancers,” she said.

Matcha also contains greater concentrations of the amino acid, L-theanine.

“Consumption of this amino acid has been associated with stress reduction and relaxation of the mind,” Logosh noted. “Additionally, L-theanine is associated with neuroprotective, antiobesity, and anti-tumor properties.”

» For Further Reading: Green Matcha Tea Health Benefits According to Scientific Studies and Experts

How Tenzo Tea Boosts the Metabolism and Burns Calories

This is two-fold, O’Dell explained.

“The caffeine certainly aids in weight loss, and has been linked to a higher calorie burn rate,” he said. “The real legend here is l-theanine. It helps to drastically reduce weight gain, and we’ve actually had customers call us up after long-term tea drinking to thank us for helping them lose upwards of 20 pounds.”

L-theanine is Tenzo Tea’s main detoxifying ingredient.

“So much of the weight loss that occurs as a result of drinking green tea starts with stripping your body of any harmful buildup,” O’Dell noted. “Once this happens, your body can more easily flush out all harmful properties. This is how the weight loss happens.”

According to Logosh, data from limited human studies illustrate that consumption of green tea may help to reduce body weight, especially body fat, by increasing postprandial thermogenesis and fat oxidation.

“That being said, proper exercise and diet should not be neglected,” she advised. “But drinking matcha tea can help support a weight loss journey. Benefits in weight loss from matcha are partially related to its concentration of caffeine and catechins.”

Tenzo Tea Can Detoxify the Body Effectively and Naturally

Remember how chlorophyll gives Tenzo Tea’s tea leaves their unmistakable emerald green color?

“This chlorophyll also plays an important role in the detoxification process,” O’Dell said. “Chlorophyll helps rid your body of both chemicals and heavy metals, resulting in matcha tea drinkers who feel great all day long.”

Matcha tea can be thought of as detoxifying due to EGCG’s role in removing free radicals and preventing cellular damage, Logosh said.

“Matcha tea also activates a number of detoxification enzymes such as glutathione S-transferase and quinone reductase,” she noted.

Can Tenzo Tea Calm the Mind and Relax the Body?

Yes – and all credit for this goes to L-theanine.

“Of its many properties, L-theanine’s main advantage is its ability to lower heart rate and blood pressure, as well as bring your mind to a focused state of calmness and concentration,” O’Dell explained.

Additionally, caffeine gives you the energy to feel good, and L-theanine enables you to concentrate on what’s important.

“On paper, it sounds like these two ingredients would contradict each other,” O’Dell said.

However, when combined, the L-theanine prolongs the effect of caffeine, meaning that you get an energy boost without a crash at the end.

“The long-term effect of matcha is concentration for the rest of the day, as well as a less stressful mentality,” O’Dell noted.

L-theanine, water-soluble amino acid, has been shown to increase the activity in the alpha frequency band, evidenced by human electroencephalography (EEG) studies, according to Logosh.

“Increasing this activity helps to reduce stress and relax the mind without causing drowsiness,” she said. “Further, L-theanine has been associated with alleviation of anxiety and improved sleep in two studies researching the effects of L-theanine and antipsychotic treatment in patients with schizophrenia.”

In other benefits to the mind, due to the caffeine and L-theanine in matcha tea, along with its other constituents, there is evidence of a slight increase in attention span and episodic memory after consumption, Logosh added.

“It should be noted that the caffeine in matcha, as compared with the caffeine in espresso, is processed in the body for a longer period of time so there is less of an ‘energy crash’ side effect,” she said. “Separate consumption of L-theanine and caffeine do not produce the same results as those found from consuming the tea as a whole.”

Tenzo Tea’s Affect on Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Studies of different populations revealed that people who drink matcha green tea on a regular basis have lower levels of LDL (read: bad) cholesterol, while at the same time displaying higher levels of HDL cholesterol, O’Dell noted.

HDL sweeps away bad cholesterol from arteries, preventing atherosclerosis,” he explained. “The clogged arteries that result from atherosclerosis can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Long story short, avoid LDLs.”

O’Dell added that the first human study to show that green tea reduced LDL cholesterol was conducted by Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2003.

During a 12-week trial, study participants took 375mg capsules containing an extract of green tea. The levels of polyphenols in the capsules were equivalent to the amount found in 35 cups of green tea or 3.5 cups of matcha.

“The results showed a 16 percent reduction in cholesterol – even the researchers were surprised,” O’Dell said.

According to Logosh, high amounts of polyphenols – “impressive antioxidants” – can help protect against chronic diseases such as hyperlipidemia, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.

She noted in an animal model, administration of these green tea antioxidants significantly increased blood glucose control in both normal and diabetic rats.

“The same antioxidants have been associated with lower total cholesterol, triglyceride, and LDL-cholesterol,” Logosh said. “Matcha tea's suppression of diet-induced high levels of lipids and blood glucose may especially benefit individuals who consume a high-fat diet.”

Tenzo Tea and the Prevention of Disease

Matcha green tea fortifies the immune system and limits the invasion and growth of viruses and bacteria in the body, O’Dell explained.

The special catechin antioxidant, EGCG, is effective in fighting and protecting the body against various bacterial and viral infections.

“EGCG binds to cells in the body and inhibits the growth of many disease-causing microorganisms including influenza A virus, hepatitis virus, herpes virus, and the bacteria that causes strep throat,” O’Dell said.

Logosh noted that laboratory and animal studies have shown that EGCG from matcha can help lower risk of occurrence/prevent progression of skin, esophageal, stomach, colon, pancreatic, lung, bladder, prostate, and breast cancers.

“The antioxidant properties can inhibit tumor cell proliferation and tumor cell invasiveness,” Logosh said. “Also, the nutrients in matcha can help to strengthen the immune system, protecting against disease.”

She added it’s important to note that although positive results have been illustrated in these lab and animal studies, more research still needs to be conducted in human studies before a conclusive statement can be made about the effect of EGCG and human tumor growth.

“The National Cancer Institute does not recommend for or against using green tea to reduce risk of any type of cancer,” Logosh said.

Incorporating Tenzo Tea into Your Diet

Tenzo TeaImage credit: Tenzo Tea

The founders of this product recommend that people who are new to Tenzo Tea start with one cup a day – 1 gram of matcha powder – to see how their body reacts.

“However, there is no downside to drinking more than that,” said O’Dell, noting that most people drink between 2 to 3 cups a day.

Logosh said that health benefits are achieved with 600 to 900mg catechins per day, “the amount in about 3 to 4 cups of Tenzo.”

Despite the drink’s popularity, “we find that many people are unaware of how to make matcha tea,” O’Dell said, adding that lattes and other drinks sold at cafes come from a base called a green tea shot.

“It’s an intense base that is often diluted with milk or water to make a full cup, but you can actually drink the shot as-is – and we do it often at Tenzo headquarters,” O’Dell said.

He added that in the feedback they’ve received, “many people have actually discovered new uses for matcha, such as baking recipes and even face masks – caffeine is great for your skin.”

Potential Side Effects of Tenzo Tea

Matcha has some of the most beneficial ingredients you can find, O’Dell emphasized.

“In most cases, too much of a good thing can be less than ideal,” he said. “Keep in mind that matcha has caffeine, so you certainly would not want to drink 100 cups of it a day.”

Tea as a food item is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Logosh noted.

“However, the caffeine in matcha can cause decreased iron absorption, nausea, stomach ache, abdominal pain, dizziness, headache, tachycardia, nervousness, insomnia, diarrhea, diuresis, and tremors,” she said.

Nevertheless, there is little evidence of health risks for adults consuming moderate amounts of caffeine (300 to 400mg per day) in beverage form.

“One teaspoon of matcha – the serving size – contains 72mg of caffeine,” Logosh said. “Potential side effects will be likely avoided unless excess matcha is consumed.”

Final Thoughts

Tenzo Tea is the healthiest drink on the planet, and the proof is in the color, O’Dell emphasized.

“Tenzo Tea is also one of the easiest steps to take if your goal is to live a healthier life,” he said.

For the person who wants to become more active and healthier all around, matcha tea is absolutely something worth exploring, he added.

“Matcha has become a very recognizable food trend – many mainstream cafes such as Starbucks serve matcha lattes that have an extremely high sugar content,” O’Dell warned. “Tenzo Tea’s matcha powder contains no sugar or added preservatives because they don’t add any health benefits to the drink.”

Many studies regarding health benefits associated with matcha tea have specifically examined compounds of green tea, such as L-theanine, alone versus examining the effects of matcha tea as a whole beverage, Logosh noted.

“More studies need to be conducted regarding consumption of matcha tea, particularly human trails, to define the magnitude of benefit as well as clarifying mechanisms of action,” she said.

“Thanks to matcha’s high concentration of antioxidants, existing evidence indicates that this green tea promotes a number of health benefits and can be safely enjoyed on the regular,” Logosh added. “Try swapping your morning coffee with matcha to capture the advantages yourself.”

» Related: Cancer Prevention Diet: 7 Foods That Can Lower the Risk of Cancer

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