20 Feb What’s the Deal with Matcha?
It seems like every café you walk into lately has matcha on the menu. Even Starbucks added a Matcha Lemonade and Green Tea Latte made with matcha to their menu. And it doesn’t stop there. You can find matcha pancakes, muffins, cakes– you name it. It’s an ingredient that’s being added to both sweet and savory dishes. So what is so magical about this ground green tea and is it worth all the hype?
What is matcha?
Matcha is powdered green tea leaves and is used in a Japanese tea ceremony. Both matcha and green tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, but regular green tea doesn’t include the leaves, whereas with matcha, you’re drinking the actual leaves that have been finely ground into a powder. For this reason, it’s thought to be a more powerful source of nutrients, antioxidants and caffeine than traditional green tea.
Are there proven health benefits?
Matcha has been touted for boosting metabolism and lowering the risk of several chronic diseases. A 2017 study published in Current Pharmaceutical Design found that the combination of caffeine and L-theanine (found in green tea) had “beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.”
Another study published in 2014 found that 3 out of the 4 catechins (plant compound that act as antioxidants) present in green tea have been shown to have antimicrobial effects, which could potentially prevent and treat various infections. These powerful antioxidants might also help prevent various cardiovascular disorders, such as hypertension, atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure suggests a 2013 study published in the Chinese Journal of National Medicine.
An analysis of several studies also found green tea may help reduce the risk of liver disease as well as help with weight loss and the maintenance of weight loss, though not as significantly as some tout. More research is certainly needed with regards to weight loss and maintenance.
Tip for purchasing
If you decide to give matcha a whirl, remember that more isn’t better. Matcha does contain a high dose of caffeine, and can also interfere with iron absorption. As such, drink in moderation. Pregnant, nursing women and children are advised to skip it.
When selecting matcha look for a bright green color. The greener the better, since older matcha tends to be darker in color as it ages which also lessens any health benefits.
You may have also heard about or seen the gorgeously hued blue matcha. While it may look pretty, it’s from a completely different plant. Blue matcha is the dried flowers of the butterfly pea plant. As such, it doesn’t share the same potential health benefits you’ll find in green tea varieties.
How to make matcha
The best way to make matcha tea is with a bamboo whisk and tea bowl. Add 2 ounces of hot water to 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha. Whisk vigorously in a zig zag motion until the tea becomes frothy. For a latte version, simply add frothed milk.
If you want to try whisking a pot yourself, here’s a Matcha Starter Set from The Republic of Tea (note: I have no affiliation).
Matcha can be a healthy addition to your diet, but it may not be everyone. If you choose to add matcha to your diet, be mindful of where your matcha is coming from. Matcha-infused cookies, cakes and ice cream are still loaded with sugar, whether or not matcha is in the ingredient list. If you want to add some matcha regularly to your life, tea may be your best choice so you can reap all the health and nutritional benefits, without the added calories. Matcha tea should also be consumed in moderation: between 1 to 2 cups per day.