Let’s start with the basics: Matcha, which comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. Unlike green tea, however, matcha goes through a completely different growth, harvest, and production style. There are even variations in the plant’s quality. The highest-grade matcha, for example, is said to come from one of the following Japanese varietals: samidori, okumidori, or yabukita.
Six weeks before harvest (late March or early April), Japanese matcha farmers cover their tea plants to prevent their exposure to direct sunlight. This increases the plant’s amino acid and chlorophyll production, giving it a much darker green hue than traditional green tea. Once the plants are ready to harvest, the youngest (greenest) parts of the plant are removed, steamed (to preserve the color and nutrients), and dried. They are then sorted, destemmed, and deveined, which is a laborious process.
The young leaves that make it through the destemming and deveining phase are called “tencha.” The tencha is kept refrigerated until it’s ready to be ground into the fine powder we know as matcha.
As you can probably imagine, preparing true matcha is a time-consuming process. Creating just 30 grams of matcha powder takes more than one hour of hands-on labor. This is why matcha is so expensive.
What Are The Benefits Of Matcha?
Although there’s still more research to be done, true matcha has shown to offer a number of science-backed health benefits. The benefits of matcha include but are not limited to boosting one’s immunity, balancing hormones, and reducing the occurrence of kidney stones. Interested in hearing more? Here are three more benefits of incorporating matcha into your daily routine.
1. Relieves Stress And Supports Relaxation
Adding a bit of matcha to your day may brighten your mood. According to Elizabeth Trattner, A.P., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., NCCAOM, matcha contains an amino compound called L-theanine, which has a relaxing effect.
“L-theanine, found in matcha, is a superstar amino acid that increases levels of serotonin in the brain and boosts alpha waves in the brain,” says Trattner. “L-theanine helps induce a state of calmness and relaxes the mind.”
The amino acid, L-theanine was discovered by Japanese scientists in 1949. Fortunately for us, this initial finding opened up a world of opportunity for healing. For example, in addition to serotonin and dopamine, L-theanine boosts the body’s levels of GABA. By fueling these neurotransmitters, L-theanine helps us to regulate our mood, emotions, alertness, and sleep, among other things.
2. The Potential To Fight Cancer
“Matcha tea is filled with antioxidants, especially in EGCG, which is thought to have cancer-fighting properties,” says Lina Velikova, MD, Ph.D., and medical advisor at Supplements101.
Matcha, and other green teas, contain a class of antioxidants called “catechins.” One catechin we’d like to put a spotlight on is epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG. As Velikova mentioned above, EGCG is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. In fact, according to a 2018 study published by Impact Journals: Aging, matcha green tea has been proven to inhibit the propagation of breast cancer stem cells.
3. Protect The Liver
Our liver is an essential organ, as it plays a critical role in eliminating toxins, metabolizing drugs, and processing nutrients.
According to a 2020 study conducted by researchers at Penn State, a combination of green tea extract and exercise reduced the severity of obesity-related fatty liver disease by 75 percent in mice fed a high-fat diet.
For the study, researchers fed mice a high-fat diet for 16 weeks. Some of the mice in this study were also fed green tea extract and exercised regularly by running on a wheel. Others were to do one or the other. Results of the study showed that mice who were both exercising and consuming green tea extract had 92 percent lower ALT (alanine aminotransferase) liver enzymes, and 80 percent lower accumulation of fat in their livers.
This isn’t the only study that shows a positive correlation between green tea and liver function.
In 2016, the International Journal of Preventive Medicine published a study that looked into the effect of green tea extract on liver enzymes in patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The study included a total of 80 participants aged 20 to 50 years old. One group of participants was asked to take one 500mg supplement of green tea extract per day while the others were asked to take a placebo for 90 days.
The results of this study found that green tea extract supplementation decreases liver enzymes in patients with NAFLD. The green tea group showed a significant reduction in ALT and aspartate transaminase (AST) levels after just 12 weeks.
Four Ways To Enjoy Matcha
If you’re not a tea drinker, don’t worry! Matcha is super-versatile and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Here are four ways to enjoy matcha.
1. Matcha Hot Tea
Matcha is traditionally prepared as hot tea. To maximize its many health benefits, it’s important to purchase pure matcha — matcha is not “powdered sencha” or “powdered green tea.” Pay special attention to the listed origin, color, and price when shopping for matcha. Here’s a quick checklist to ensure you’re getting the best product available:
- Origin: While China and Taiwan do produce matcha, true matcha is produced in Japan.
- Color: Matcha, as we’ve learned, is manufactured in a very special and specific way. If your matcha is the real deal, it’ll look vibrant, spring-green. Avoid anything that looks yellow or brownish.
- Price: True matcha isn’t cheap. High-quality matcha retails for approximately $30 for a 30-gram tin.
2. Matcha Smoothie
If matcha isn’t your cup of tea (see what we did there?), try adding matcha to your morning smoothie. This way, depending on the other ingredients you use, you won’t necessarily taste the matcha itself.
Looking for a new smoothie recipe to try? Check out our recipe archive for new ideas!
3. Matcha Mojito (Cocktail or Mocktail)
Following a healthy diet doesn’t mean you can’t have a drink every once in a while. Whipping up a matcha mojito, for example, is a great way to enjoy the health benefits of matcha while also taking a few minutes to wind down.
Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do just that:
- Muddle mint leaves and lime slices in a skinny, 8 oz. glass.
- In a separate bowl, sift your matcha and whisk with hot water.
- Mix in a dash of simple syrup until it dissolves.
- Add ice to your glass.
- Pour the matcha mixture into the glass and stir.
- Garnish and enjoy!
Want to make this mocktail a cocktail? Add a shot of rum!
4. Matcha Supplement
If making something from scratch isn’t in your schedule, consider trying a matcha supplement like the one offered in this double-hitter package: Equilibrium Clarity (Limited-Edition With Premium Japanese Matcha Kari).
In this limited-edition release, we’re going all out with a matcha infused formula, courtesy of Matcha Kari. Curious about the health benefits? Here are five:
- Improved focus and concentration
- Supports mental vitality and cognitive health
- Elevates intuitive thinking
- Increases alertness
- Stimulates clean, balanced mental energy
What’s more? This popular product is gluten-free, nut-free, non-GMO, dairy- and sodium-free.
Matcha FAQs — Answers To Your Matcha-Related Questions
Is it safe to drink matcha every day?
Drinking too much of anything (including water) can be harmful. Be sure to check with your doctor before adding anything to your everyday routine to ensure you’re making the best decisions for you and your individual health.
Are matcha and green tea the same thing?
Matcha is a form of green tea. As we mentioned above, matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but it’s grown and prepared differently.
“Matcha has one of the highest Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) ratings in the plant kingdom and is a whole vegetal drink as opposed to green tea which is fermented leaves,” says Trattner. “Matcha has 10 times more antioxidant power than regular green tea; [It’s] the whole tea leaf versus the tea which is less potent and steeped in water.”
Can matcha make you sick?
Due to its high caffeine content, green tea may trigger one or more uncomfortable side effects, such as insomnia, headache, diarrhea, heartburn, and irritability when consumed in large amounts.
Are matcha lattes bad for you?
This is a loaded question, but it’s a simple one to answer: just look at the ingredients! In 2018, there was a bit of an uproar about Starbucks’ two-ingredient matcha blend. According to the company’s site, the drink is made with a Matcha Tea Blend (which consists of sugar and ground Japanese green tea) and milk. The issue here? There’s just too much sugar in the Starbucks’ version of this drink to consider it “healthy.” But that doesn’t mean you should nix matcha lattes from your diet completely.
“You need to be careful to watch how much milk you are consuming as those calories can add up,” says Trattner. “I prefer to use a milk alternative when making a matcha latte; I also prefer to add sweetener afterward.”
Can matcha powder go bad?
Despite being so powerful, matcha is actually pretty delicate stuff. It’s sensitive to air, heat, and light. To ensure that it’s fresh and OK to use, Trattner recommends keeping it in an airtight container.
“Matcha should be a technicolor green color and not taste bitter,” adds Trattner. “Many companies have jumped on the matcha train using lesser quality leaves, but good Matcha is from the Uji region of Japan. It’s better to buy small amounts of matcha and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.”
The Bottom Line
From smoothies to homemade granola bars to matcha green tea, taking advantage of the many health benefits of matcha is easy. To ensure you’re truly benefiting, however, you’ll need to make sure that matcha powder is the only ingredient, as many premixes and packages include artificial sweeteners or added sugar.
Tabitha Britt (formerly Tabitha Shiflett) is an editor, journalist, and the proud founder of DO YOU ENDO – the first BS-free online magazine for individuals with endometriosis by individuals with endometriosis. You can find her byline in a variety of publications, including Insider, Huffington Post UK, and O.School.
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