Green tea is almost incredibly healthy, and has been known to be beneficial for thousands of years. In fact, the first recorded mention comes from China, around 600 AD, in the Cha Jing or Tea Classic book, which recommended how it should be prepared and served. Matcha is a green tea too, but grown and prepared in a special manner that differentiates the final matcha powder from the regular green tea you can get in bags at the grocery store. We’ll give you all the details surrounding matcha vs. green tea, and let you know which one has more health benefits, so you can decide what to put on your next shopping list.
Is Matcha More Powerful Than Regular Green Tea?
Though it’s often marketed as being healthier than other types of green tea, does matcha have the science to back it up? Green tea has been associated with a multitude of health benefits, from weight loss to heart health to cancer prevention, and it’s one of the most popular drinks worldwide. So what makes matcha so different?
What Is Matcha?
Matcha, just like regular green tea, comes from the Camellia sinensis plant (native to China). The first distinction is that matcha is grown differently, with the tea bushes kept in the shade and shielded from sunlight for about a month before harvest (20-30 days). After that, the differences keep piling up.
The shade increases chlorophyll levels, which then causes the leaves to turn a darker shade of green. The shade also increases the production of amino acids, which contribute to the health offerings of this super green tea product.
Matcha tea involves grinding the whole leaf down into a powder after the veins and stems are removed. Unlike green tea, which is made from steeping tea leaves in hot water, matcha leaves are stone-ground into a fine powder, bright green, to be mixed directly into hot water and consumed.
Because the whole leaf is ingested with matcha powder, it is higher in concentration than green tea when it comes to some ingredients like caffeine and antioxidants. A standard cup of matcha (around 237 milliliters), made with 4 teaspoons of matcha power, will generally contain around 280 milligrams of caffeine. The same 237 milliliter cup of regular green tea only has about 35 milligrams of caffeine.
Due to its high caffeine content, most people will not drink a full cup of matcha in one sitting, and also may choose not to add so much powder. On top of that, matcha can have a somewhat bitter, grassy taste, and so a little bit of matcha is more likely to be added to milk, or possibly served with a sweetener. But along with that higher caffeine content comes higher antioxidant content, which for many is worth the effort of preparing matcha.
Proper Matcha Preparation
The ground, whole leaves of matcha are traditionally prepared in the Japanese way, with the powder measured out using a bamboo spoon (called a shashaku) into a heated bowl for tea (called a chawan). After that, the powder is mixed with hot water (158 °F/70 °C) using a bamboo whisk (called a chasen), until its texture is smooth and there’s a froth on top. Matcha is typically served as the following consistencies.
- Standard: Mix 2 ounces of hot water with 1 teaspoon of matcha powder.
- Usucha (thin): Mix half a teaspoon of matcha with 3-4 ounces of hot water.
- Koicha (thick): For this thicker version of matcha, sometimes used for Japanese tea ceremonies, mix 2 teaspoons of matcha with 1 ounce of hot water. A higher grade of matcha is required, and there will be no foam.
Whatever the quality of the items you use, at the end of the day a helping of matcha can be had with no more special equipment than a teaspoon, a cup/bowl, and a small whisk.
Matcha Health Benefits
Because matcha is green tea, it has about the same health benefits as regular green tea, but more concentrated. That same 237-milliliter cup of matcha has about 3 times the antioxidant content of green tea, for example.
While human studies regarding matcha are somewhat limited, especially compared to the wealth of information that has been collected on regular green tea, there are nevertheless some scientific findings to report on the health benefits that may be gained by drinking matcha green tea.
The antioxidants we get in our diets help to guard against free radicals in the body and protect our tissue and cells from damage. The antioxidants in matcha include epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a catechin that has been extensively studied and that may help maintain artery health, fight inflammation, and boost cell repair.
Any whole-leaf tea will contain more health benefits than ready-to-drink products or commercial tea bags, and matcha is included in that category. Even green teas of high quality cannot rival the concentration of antioxidants that a whole leaf product like matcha can offer.
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Drinking green tea (and because of its similar yet heightened ingredients matcha too) is associated with the improvement of several risk factors for heart disease, including lowering LDL or “bad” cholesterol, stabilizing blood sugar levels, and decreasing total cholesterol. Studies show that those who drink green tea have an average of 31% reduced risk of heart disease over those who do not drink it (and 21% reduced risk of stroke). That is perhaps due to green tea possibly protecting against the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is another contributor to heart disease. These are the results from the antioxidant compound in green tea, which is found in matcha at even higher amounts.
Weight Loss Aid
Green tea is a regular ingredient popping up in weight-loss products and supplements, and for good reason. Studies with human subjects reveal that green tea can increase your metabolic rate, just as it can increase your amount of total calories burned. It can charge up fat burning by as much as 17% and reduce the risk of obesity. While green tea will never be the only component when it comes to weight loss and fitness, it could be an excellent means of support, with matcha bringing an even stronger contribution.
Alert Your Brain, Relax Your Mood
We mentioned that the amino acids in matcha were higher due to its special cultivation and growing process. Well, here’s where that counts. There is an amino acid in green tea called L-theanine, which is linked to mental relaxation, stress relief, and increased alpha waves in the brain.
Not only that, L-theanine modifies the effects that caffeine has in the body, which increases your alertness without the aftermath of drowsiness usually associated with the comedown effects of caffeine. While matcha has an enormous increase in caffeine compared to green tea, it also has much higher levels of L-theanine. That means that matcha might be a better, milder, and longer-lasting stimulant than even coffee.
Moreover, L-theanine also increases serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, leading to better mood and higher concentration abilities. It may even have a hand in reducing the age-related cognitive decline seen in many older adults.
Any Downsides to Matcha?
First of all, because of its increased caffeine content, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, unfortunately matcha may not be right for you, despite its other benefits. On top of that, because matcha is made of whole leaves powdered for consumption, when you eat or drink matcha powder, you are eating or drinking the entire tea leaf, including its good ingredients and its bad, which may include contaminants like pesticides from the soil the plants are grown in. Using an organic matcha powder will cut down on these risks, and it’s advised that you research a product before purchasing it to make sure it is up to your standards.
If you’re interested in trying matcha, you can have fun with it. You can include matcha in some of our smoothie recipes, which we’ve compiled for easy addition to your life.
With activated charcoal, baby spinach, and matcha powder, this heavy-hitting smoothie was crafted as a detoxifier, including coconut and coconut milk for hydration and heart health (due to its potassium).
This half-breakfast, half-dessert bowl was assembled to be a nutritious energy boost, including chia seeds (of course!), matcha powder, coconut milk, vanilla bean, and honey for a sweet and delicious taste.
Matcha for Meals and More
If your sweet tooth is not yet satisfied, you can even make up a batch of matcha green tea ice cream for a totally unique and healthy treat, perfect for summer.
Matcha vs. Green Tea: The Final Verdict
Matcha is a concentrated and powerful form of green tea that you can receive even more health benefits from than you would get from drinking green tea alone. Add a little here and a little there, and enjoy the huge wallop of alert energy, antioxidants, and health benefits it can deliver!