Matcha is a stone-milled green tea powder made from tencha green tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis tea plant, but it differs from traditional green tea. During the preparation of green tea, leaves are discarded. When you drink matcha, you drink the whole leaves as a finely ground powder.
The tradition of making tea from tea leaves and mixing matcha powder with hot water originated in China during the Song Dynasty. Zen Buddhists transformed the process of making and drinking the tea into a ritual. The tradition reached Japan in 1191, where it became the focal point of Japanese tea ceremony alongside the concept of mindfulness: every encounter that happens in front of the teacup is unique and should be treasured.
Benefits of Matcha
In addition to its matcha-licious unique vegetal taste with sweet notes, matcha can offer excellent health benefits. So, what’s with this green tea powder?
Has Antioxidant Properties
Matcha contains catechins, which are natural polyphenols. Researchers compared the catechins contained in regular green tea with those in matcha green tea powder and discovered that the concentration in matcha is 3 times higher! Why? Because matcha powder contains all nutrients present in the leaves that do not get discarded in the tea-making process. A study conducted on rats showed that the nutrients contained in matcha supplements lowered the damage caused by free radicals and enhanced antioxidant activity.
Promotes Brain Function
Several studies suggest that three components of matcha tea—L-theanine, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and caffeine—may enhance brain health. In one study, 20 consumers tested four products: matcha tea, matcha tea bar, placebo tea, or bar. Results suggest that matcha may promote focus and memory. Another study on the effects of matcha consumption on the elderly showed similar results.
A half teaspoon of matcha powder also contains 35 milligrams of caffeine, which scientists believe improves brain function. In a study, students were divided into two groups and given either coffee containing caffeine or decaffeinated coffee. Results demonstrated that participants who drank caffeinated coffee were more alert. In addition to the benefits of caffeine, the amino acid L-theanine in matcha may play a role in alertness and attention.
May Help Fight Cancer
Results of an animal study suggest that matcha extracts may have positive effects on various tumors by reducing tumor size and slowing their growth. Additional studies that analyzed the effects of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin contained in matcha, showed that this compound may help to kill off prostate cancer cells and be effective against skin, lung, and liver cancers.
May Lower Bad Cholesterol
A team of researchers analyzed studies on green tea beverages and extracts to identify their effects on cholesterol—more than 1,000 subjects were involved in the meta-analysis. Results showed that green tea intake significantly reduced bad cholesterol, which plays a large role in the development of heart disease. Another study conducted on mice demonstrated that matcha might reduce lipid and blood sugar levels. Scientists also believe that green tea may help prevent the oxidation of bad cholesterol. Another study of around 800 men 65-84 years old showed that catechins may reduce the risk of heart disease mortality.
Supports Liver Health
A study conducted on diabetic rats found that matcha powder may protect patients against hepatic and renal damage. Another study analyzed the effects of green tea extract on patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Results suggest that green tea extract could reduce liver enzyme levels, which trigger liver damage. After a meta-analysis, researchers concluded that green tea intake may protect against liver disease.
May Reduce the Risk of Diabetes
A team of researchers analyzed the effect of green tea on blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity using a meta-analysis of 17 randomized trials made up of more than 1,000 subjects. Results reveal that green tea intake could lower blood sugar levels. Another study conducted on Japanese adults concluded that green tea intake may reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Supports Weight Loss and Physical Performance
Scientists investigated the impact of green tea extract on glucose tolerance and fat oxidation during moderate exercise and found that green tea may reduce fat oxidation, the process by which large lipid molecules cannot be used as energy and instead accumulate in the body. A meta-analysis of several studies also revealed that catechins have a positive effect on weight loss and weight maintenance.
Matcha may also support physical performance. An animal study showed that epigallocatechin (a type of catechin) could have therapeutic potential in the treatment of chronic fatigue.
Finding Quality Matcha
If you’ve tried matcha tea before and weren’t impressed, you may have fallen prey to low-quality matcha that is gritty and bitter. High-quality matcha isn’t bitter and should taste full-bodied and rich with a mildly sweet aftertaste. You can also assess the quality of matcha by its feel. If it’s finely ground, it’s better quality, while lower grade matchas will be coarse with bigger particles. And it’s always safest to purchase organic matcha to make sure you aren’t getting pesticides with your green tea powder.
Matcha taste aside, you’ll want to first consider what you’ll be using your matcha for before you purchase. If you’re going to be keeping it pure and only mixing with water, then opt for ceremonial grade matcha. If you want to mix matcha with milk, flour, or other ingredients, then ingredient grade matcha is your best bet.
In the United States, matcha is a popular ingredient in lattes (upgrade your green tea latte with a matcha latte the next time you’re at Starbucks) but this powder can be used in a variety of ways. You can drink matcha hot or cold, add it to cocktails and smoothies (try our Rise and Shine Matcha Smoothie or our Matcha Be Crazy Smoothie), or sprinkle it on top of breakfast bowls, cakes, and doughnuts. If you are looking for new exciting ways to use matcha, try our Matcha Chia Pudding Bowl, delicious and packed with nutrients.
Or you can have your very own Japanese green tea ceremony with this superfood. Making a cup of matcha is a delicate, heart-centered process.
- Boil distilled water.
- Depending on how strong you like your matcha, scoop out 1-2 teaspoons of the fine powder and add to a matcha bowl using a strainer.
- Add 1/4 cup of hot water (just under a boil) to your Japanese matcha and whisk vigorously with a bamboo whisk till frothy. If you want a thicker or thinner matcha, then add more powder or water to taste.
Check out how to perform an authentic Japanese tea ceremony below!