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Matcha, matcha, matcha. Matcha has skyrocketed in popularity lately, with matcha shots, lattes, teas, and even desserts appearing everywhere from health stores to coffee shops. So what really is this mysterious powder? Like green tea, matcha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, it’s grown differently and has a unique nutrient profile.
I was introduced to matcha in a juice bar. I didn’t know what matcha was or that it had health benefits. I just wanted a good-tasting drink with a little kick. I loved green tea when I went out for sushi or Chinese food. And I assumed matcha would have a similar taste. And I was slightly right! It gave me the same feeling as green tea did, but without bitterness.
The difference between matcha and your average cup of green tea is two-fold: where the leaves are grown and how they’re processed. Regular green tea is made by steaming or pan-firing the leaves, which changes their color to dark green.
Recommended read: Matcha Green Tea with Turmeric Benefits
Matcha, on the other hand, is made by shade-growing the tea plants before harvesting them in early spring. After picking, these leaves are steamed or pan-fired to stop oxidation (oxidation is what happens when oxygen interacts with another substance), ground into fine powder using granite stone mills, loaded with caffeine (about
Matcha is a shade-grown fine powder made from the whole ground leaf. Green tea is usually steamed and then dried, which can cause loss of nutrients and flavor in the process; matcha is dry heat processed in a way that preserves it all — including its vibrant green color! A lot of matcha’s unique benefits come from this processing: you’re consuming the whole leaf, not just tea leaves steeped in water. There are also three times more antioxidants than steeped green tea.
Matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but since it’s made from the entire leaf, it packs in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
Check out this quick Matcha 101 video
Let’s cover some of matcha’s benefical characteristics:
Matcha is anti-inflammatory
Matcha has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties and may help with blood sugar regulation. It contains about half the caffeine as coffee or black tea, but due to lower levels of caffeine per cup, it doesn’t have the same pick-me-up effect.
Recommended Read: Why Anti-Inflammatory Foods Are So Important
Matcha regulates blood sugar
Matcha may help with blood sugar regulation, improve focus and energy, and reduce inflammation in the body. It also contains catechins, which are antioxidants that may help fight free radicals and cancerous cells. Matcha has three times more catechins than other green teas. It’s especially high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is thought to have weight loss benefits due to its ability to boost metabolism. Some experts even say matcha can suppress appetite.
Matcha is loaded with antioxidants and minerals
In addition to being loaded with antioxidants, matcha powder is rich in fiber, iron, chlorophyll, amino acids, vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, and A. It also contains zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, chromium, potassium, calcium, copper, molybdenum, niacin (vitamin B3), choline (a nutrient that helps maintain the structure of cell membranes), and more.
A study in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that matcha green tea has high levels of catechins with antioxidant properties. One of these is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG which may have beneficial effects on weight management. Other research suggests the positive effects of green tea on blood pressure.
Matcha increases energy and alertness
Matcha is made from whole ground tea leaves which is why it’s quite rich in caffeine. While this may be a problem for some people, others like the benefits of both tea and coffee, like increased alertness.
Matcha can contain up to five times as much L-theanine as regular green tea. This amino acid has psychoactive properties with anti-anxiety effects. It also increases dopamine levels (important brain neurotransmitters) and alpha waves (relaxing brainwaves) without causing drowsiness.
The combination of EGCG with L-theanine stimulates mental clarity, focus, memory retention, accuracy, mood, energy levels, attention span, concentration abilities, and improved reaction time.
What does matcha taste like?
Good quality matcha is bright green and smooth. The taste of pure matcha powder is much less astringent than even high-quality green tea because you are drinking the whole leaf, not just a water infusion.
In terms of flavor, matcha powder has a more concentrated taste than steeped green tea. The natural sweetness of the leaf is slightly masked by its rich flavor. You can expect a slightly grassy or savory flavor when drinking matcha prepared as a beverage or blended into recipes such as smoothies, sauces, and salad dressings. Matcha naturally goes well with dairy products but can be successfully paired with fruit and vegetables as well.
Matcha is usually taken with food rather than on its own. There are two main ways to drink it: as a “tea” or as an “ancient-style” thick ceremonial beverage called koicha.
It can be prepared using hot or cold water and doesn’t require steeping like regular tea. A common way to prepare matcha is by mixing 1-2 teaspoons (3g) into hot water (180°F) or milk and then whisking vigorously for about 5 seconds. Some use more – around 1 tablespoon (approx. 1g). It can be prepared as a thin beverage or as a thick beverage called koicha.
Matcha, like other green teas, contains high levels of catechins and caffeine. Catechins are powerful antioxidants that help prevent free-radical damage to cells and DNA. A typical serving of matcha tea provides 50 – 70mg of caffeine, which is about half the amount found in an average cup of coffee.
Typical matcha powder calories
By volume of 1 teaspoon, matcha powder is around 3.2 calories. Matcha powder provides the body with a slow release of energy, preventing energy spikes associated with food cravings and mid-day fatigue. Matcha may also be consumed as a pre-workout energy boost, improving focus and concentration.
Matcha Powder Substitutes
If matcha just isn’t your thing but you desire the benefits there are some alternatives.
A more accessible alternative to pure, ceremonial grade matcha is an instant Matcha drink mix .
Instant mixes vary in quality but many provide a better taste and value than other standard green “food” powders such as barley grass or wheatgrass. Matcha mixes usually contain sugar or artificial sweeteners; if you’re watching your calories it might be worth finding a high-quality blend that contains no added sugar.
Green tea can be a substitute for matcha, though it is not authentic for use in the Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha powder consists of ground-up green tea leaves, which means that you can make a passable version of it by grinding them up yourself. The flavor will not be quite the same but it can be done.
Cacao is from a completely different plant but one that has many of the same antioxidant properties as the tea plant. You can use it to make a hot beverage that will provide many of the same energy-boosting benefits as tea made with matcha powder.
Matcha powder can be expensive and some people may want to make their own matcha tea. This is not possible because the traditional preparation of matcha requires specialized equipment (such as a bamboo whisk), which is not readily available.
Where to Buy Matcha Powder
You can buy matcha powder in grocery stores or online. When buying matcha, make sure you are getting pure matcha green tea powder and not a blend. Blends may have a higher proportion of sugar and other ingredients, which I recommend you avoid.
Here is a list of some of the most popular places and brands for matcha powder:
Give it a try from some popular brands either online or in stores: