You have probably seen matcha lattes listed on numerous menus in your favorite coffee shops or tasted delectable desserts dyed bright green with this powdered tea. Matcha not only has an insta-worthy hue, but this healthy beverage provides a sustained energetic boost, a unique flavor profile, a plethora of culinary options and is stocked-full of health benefits.
What is Matcha Tea?
Matcha is a type of green tea made from whole, powdered tea leaves. It’s cultivated from plants that have a very precise and regimented growing process, and is made from Camellia sinensis, the same plant as white, green, black and oolong teas.
This superfood has roots stemming from traditional practices in China and Japan, and gets its unique savory, umami taste and antioxidant boost from a labor-intensive growing process that involves shading and tarping the tea fields.
Being shade-grown gives it a balance of flavor between catechins, the compound that gives matcha its bitterness and astringency, and the sweet amino acid L-Theanine. Amino acids are the molecules that form the basis of proteins and are essential for proper functioning of the body. It also allows these beneficial elements to concentrate within the leaf, and since the whole leaf is consumed—rather than just a decoction like many other teas—it’s much more robust.
Lauren Danson, CEO of Mizuba Tea Co., finds it helpful to use the analogy of champagne when thinking of matcha. “For example, matcha will always be powdered green tea, but any powdered green tea produced outside of Japan will not intrinsically be matcha,” she says.
The tea has a robust and earthy flavor and even blends well with a variety of milks, especially soy and oat.
5 Health Benefits of Matcha Tea
The list is long when it comes to the upsides of green tea, yet there has been less research performed specifically on matcha. Many of the active nutrients in matcha such as polyphenols, caffeine and amino acids, however, have been noted for a wide range of beneficial health properties.
1. It May Improve Cardiovascular Health
Micronutrients are abundant in matcha, especially one known as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a plant compound that can have positive health effects. Research gathered on EGCG and its impact on cardiovascular and metabolic health shows it can “exhibit a wide range of therapeutic properties including anti-atherosclerosis, anti-cardiac hypertrophy, anti-myocardial infarction, anti-diabetes, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant,” according to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Matcha helps support the healthy functioning of the cardiovascular system—preventing plaque build-up, thickening of heart tissue, as well as other conditions such as heart attacks.
2. It’s Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants remove bad molecules from the body, and decrease oxidative stress. Matcha, and green teas in general, are high in substances that act as antioxidants, including catechins. “Tea also contains flavonoids, compounds reported to have antioxidant properties having many beneficial effects,” points out a study in Food Research International. “Tea flavonoids reduce inflammation, have antimicrobial effects and prevent tooth decay.”
4. It May Spur Weight Loss
The National Institute for Health states that green tea “increases energy expenditure and fat oxidation, reduces lipogenesis and fat absorption,” and has a “possible modest effect on body weight.”
One clinical trial in Obesity followed 76 overweight individuals for four months, determining that daily consumption of a green tea beverage aids in weight loss.
5. It May Give You Healthy, Glowing Skin
Matcha powder and green teas are not only good for internal conditions but can be used to improve skin health as well. “Green tea constituents may be useful topically for promoting skin regeneration, wound healing or treatment of certain epithelial conditions such as aphthous ulcers, psoriasis, rosacea and actinic keratosis,” notes the Food Research International study.
And Colleen Tyler, a naturopathic physician and avid tea drinker says “compounds such as caffeine and EGCG make matcha the perfect addition to your skincare routine and can be used as a simple face mask to help subdue redness and give your skin a healthy glow.”
How to Enjoy Matcha
Matcha is probably best known as a warm beverage but it’s actually an adaptable ingredient in the kitchen and beyond. Its “powdered form has allowed it to take on many iterations in the modern age,” according to Danson.
“Many people might be familiar with the matcha latte, Kit Kat, or ice cream, but since then, creativity with matcha uses has gone wild,” Danson adds. “We enjoy everything from matcha pancakes, matcha sodas, matcha cocktails, to cakes and cookies and even matcha noodles or matcha face masks. Even the simple application of sprinkling matcha on your yogurt or oatmeal goes far for a fun little burst of delicious flavor for breakfast.”
How to Make a Cup of Matcha Tea
Making matcha tea is simple and a great way to slow down and take a moment to focus on yourself and your health. But not every cup is the same, says Danson. “For example, matcha brewed at 160 degrees Fahrenheit will taste very different than matcha brewed at 175 degrees Fahrenheit, even though it’s the same tea.”
Here’s how to make your own:
A base recipe includes 2 grams matcha powder, 2 ounces warm water (below 175 degrees Fahrenheit is best).
Warm your tea bowl and add matcha. Only add a splash of water at first and use your whisk to incorporate into a paste (this ensures that you brush away any clumps that remain).
Finally, add the rest of your water and whisk into a creamy, full froth.
Is Matcha Tea Safe?
Some studies have shown certain teas to contain notable amounts of lead, pesticides and even interfere with other drugs. Yet none of this research has been done on matcha specifically. It’s best to source matcha from reputable companies, with high-quality product standards and sourcing.
Side Effects of Matcha Tea
Matcha has a proper amount of caffeine per serving, ranging from 19 to 44 milligrams per gram, depending on the quality and processing of the leaves. Still, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggests some side effects of excess caffeine intake, over 400 milligrams daily, may include:
Fast heart rate
A feeling of unhappiness (dysphoria)
The National Institute of Health does also state that there are few reported adverse effects of green tea extracts such as “constipation, abdominal discomfort, nausea, increased blood pressure, and liver damage.” Note these statements are not specific to matcha powders.
Is Matcha Tea Right for You?
Matcha offers all the health benefits of green tea, and in even more concentration since you’re ingesting the whole leaf. It can help provide the boost you need to feel energized and inspired throughout the day.
Lack of clinical trials makes the scientific backing of many of the claimed health benefits hard to prove, so check in with a health care professional if you have questions or want to use matcha for a specific health condition.
Source: Forbes Health, By Lenore Cangeloso, Contributor. Medically Reviewed by Janese Laster, M.D. Gastroenterology / Nutrition / Obesity Medicine / Bariatric Endoscopist. For full article with references and footnotes: https://www.forbes.com/health/body/matcha-tea-health-benefits/