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"Enhanced" Matcha, Anyone?

By Eric Gower Mar 12, 2019

"Enhanced" Matcha, Anyone?

As many of you reading this know, the combination of good matcha and good water, made with some care and love, is one of those sublime and rare experiences that can't be reduced any further.

Just two things: matcha, and water. Water quality and water temperature will affect things, to be sure (as will other factors, not least of which is your mood on any given day), but still: water and matcha. No fats, no sugars, no proteins, no anything. Water, and matcha. Adding anything at all to it is a bit like making a sangria with a fantastically special bottle of wine; the sangria will indeed be tasty, but it's a bit of a waste .... the full expression of both the wine and the matcha doesn't happen because there are too many competing tastes.

When you add fats or sugars to the matcha and water, different dynamics kick in. They will certainly mask flaws in the tea, just as adding oranges and apples and brandy to red wine turns it into ... something else. Subpar matcha made with milk and sugar tastes better than subpar matcha with water only, which would taste bitter and tannic and hay-like, with awkward and even scary astringency. The fat and sweetness carry the day, rendering the matcha a distant and faint sensation of hay and dirt.

So now that we're clear that best way to determine matcha quality is simply with matcha and water, let's explore what CAN be added to it for possible increased enjoyment.

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For decades, and indeed centuries, coffee drinking, too, offered a few basic choices: black, with cream, with sugar, or with both.

Then along came Dave Asprey and his "bulletproof" style of drinking coffee that involves adding not cream but other fats, specifically 1) grass-fed butter, and 2) something called MCT (medium chain triglycerides) oil, a highly refined fatty acid typically made from coconut oil, but also from palm oil.

Asprey got the idea of adding fats to coffee after a visit to Nepal, where he drank yak butter with locals. It changed his life and a dynamic new company was born.

Even though I drink my coffee black 99% of the time, I do enjoy an occasional coffee blended with good butter and good MCT oil. Asprey's company makes a product called Brain Octane, a proprietary name for caprylic acid, which, by keto standards, is the "primo" part of the coconut, the part with the most desirable 8-chain triglycerides. More run-of-the-mill MCT oils typically contain 9 and 10 chains. The 8-chains are the most sought after, and are priced accordingly. 

Coffee blended (ie in a blender) with good butter and Brain Octane isn't as gross as it sounds. The fats carry the coffee flavor in interesting ways, and, I must say, I feel pretty good after drinking one; it creates a feeling of satiation and excellent focus. The drink is ideal for those doing intermittent fasting. It's not clear to me why fatty caloric coffee shouldn't count as a fast-breaker, but apparently it doesn't, so it's perfect for people going 16+ hours without food ... it typically extends your fast by 3 to 4 hours.

Adding Brain Octane to Matcha

I was of course curious to see if this combo of grass-fed butter and Brain Octane worked with matcha. I bought a few bottles of Brain Octane and a few pounds of expensive(ish) grass-fed butter and started making them. The method: make a regular thick  matcha, then add a small stream (say a teaspoon, maybe two) of Brain Octane, and a pat of butter, and whisk using a handheld milk foaming wand..

I found these experiments far too buttery for my taste. For whatever reason, the butter taste kind of works with coffee, but it overwhelms the delicate matcha. Butter flavor dominates, and not in a good way. I tried severely backing off on the butter quantity used, but even very small amounts produced the hyper-butter taste.

So I decided to omit the butter and just use Brain Octane. This was vastly better. Caprylic acid has very little taste, it's really a pure fat. So it lends mouthfeel and umami to the matcha that is indeed quite pleasant.

The matcha/MCT combo works best when thought of as a light meal replacement. The fats will keep you going for hours, fueled by the goodness of the matcha and all its cognition-enhancing effects.

So let us declare the combination of matcha and Brain Octane a winner. Its many intriguing taste profiles and fuel source make it an attractive partner for matcha on occasion.

Adding L-Theanine

We've talked at length about l-theanine in these pages. Lots of people take it as a supplement (in both pill and powder form) to help increase focus, reduce anxiety and cortisol levels, and foster feelings of satiation, calm, equanimity, and other expressions of well being.

A serving (1g) of matcha contains roughly 30mg of l-theanine. This is pretty much the highest dosage available in any naturally occurring plant. Many people dose much higher, however -- 200mg is not uncommon.

I've experimented with varied dosages, from the naturally occurring 30mg found in matcha, to adding powdered l-theanine to matcha in measured doses, going steadily up to 200mg. There appear to be no side effects for l-theanine supplementation up to 200mg/day. I may experiment with higher doses at some point. Needless to say, none of this is meant as medical advice; always consult with your physician before embarking on any new nutritional and supplement routines.

A matcha "enhanced" with, say, an additionally added 150mg of l-theanine can be a delightful experience if you need a sustained boost of creative and focused energy. It adds a slightly bitter taste but most people probably won't notice the taste at all, it's pretty subtle.

Taste-forward individuals will be interested to know that tasting powdered l-theanine on the tongue makes the tongue salivate, as does all umami-leaning food -- these l-theanine molecules are glutamates, after all, and the presence of glutamates on the palate is a pretty good technical definition of umami.

We can definitely recommended adding extra l-theanine to your daily matcha to anyone interested in peak performance and cognition-enhancing states.

Can you add Brain Octane, matcha, and extra l-theanine all together? Yes, definitely.It's great if you're after the cognition-enhancing effects.

Adding collagen

Another enhancement to matcha is collagen peptides. Adding a small serving of fish-based collagen peptides to your daily matcha does a few interesting things:

1. Makes the matcha WILDLY creamy! Totally changes the texture -- somehow allows increased aeration of the suspension of water and matcha -- and adds a distinctly textural element to the experience.

2. Enhances bone and joint health, promotes healthier skin, hair, and nails.

I find that adding collagen peptides to coldbrew matcha is just fantastic -- you get big whorls of lovely green crema. And my creaky knees seem grateful somehow. Somehow it's better cold than hot.

So now we're getting a fairly potent cocktail:

matcha

* 8-chain triglycerides, aka Brain Octane

* l-theanine

* collagen peptides

I'll sometimes add some powdered glutathione as well. Asprey and many others claim that glutathione is the key to mitochondrial health. And because glutathione form the basic building blocks of mitochondria, the theory goes, supplementing with it is good for our overall health. Our natural glutathione production decreases with age, so I want to believe this, but I haven't taken any kind of deep dive into the science yet. But it's certainly promising. I've purchased and used glutathione in my coldbrew for a few months now, but when you've got matcha, l-theanine, collagen, Brain Octane, and glutathione in a drink, it's hard to isolate the effects the glutathione is or isn't having. More experiments are clearly needed ....

Does anyone add anything else to their matcha that clearly results in an improved matcha experience? Would love to hear about it if so. 

Eric is the founder and chief matcha evangelist at Breakaway Matcha. He's also an author, ghostwriter, editor, cooking instructor, and private chef. For 16 years, he lived and worked in Japan, where he took deep dives into all things matcha, food, literature, arts, and culture. Eric is the author of three cookbooks: The Breakaway Cook, The breakaway Japanese Kitchen, and Eric's Kitchen. He lives and works in Marin County, CA.