Updated: Mar 13
I have never been a coffee-drinker, though I like the smell of freshly grounded coffee. I have always preferred the flavour of teas and when I came across matcha tea (in Japanese 'ground tea') a few years ago, I really enjoyed it.
Matcha tea is not your typical green tea- it has been used in Japan and China in tea ceremonies for many centuries and is also known for its cancer-fighting, fat-burning capabilities and as great enhancer of your body's detoxification systems.
How is matcha tea grown?
Matcha tea is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen tea plant of the Theaceae plant family. All tea (except Rooibos and Honeybush (from South Africa) comes from this Camellia sinensis plant, but the different variations in colour and taste are the result of how it's being processed.
The plants that are used to make matcha tea are kept in the shade for two weeks to increase the levels of chlorophyll before the leaves get picked. After harvesting, the tea leaves are steamed, dried and then ground into a fine powder.
Unlike other types of teas, matcha contains the entire tea leaves, therefore providing a more concentrated source of nutrients. Matcha has also a strong and distinct flavour.
Matcha’s strength is in its polyphenol compounds called catechins, a type of antioxidant which is also found in other superfoods like cocoa beans and other green tea. Catechins are thought to be even more powerful than both vitamins C and E in stopping oxidative damage to the cells.
What makes matcha tea so beneficial for your health?
The health benefits of matcha tea arrive for those who drink it regularly. Potential benefits range from increased weight loss, lower blood sugar levels, improved heart health and more.
Reduces Risk of heart disease and hypertension- because of its high levels of antioxidants and catechins, some research show that green tea may help reduce the risk of heart problems. Green tea consumption could help to lower your cholesterol levels and also reduce blood pressure to protect against heart disease.
May help prevent cancer- studies have shown that matcha tea (and other green tea) consumption could potentially reduce the risk of cancer.
Helps with exercise- matcha tea enhances endurance and can help to speed up muscle recovery in those athletes who focus on high-intensity workouts, like burst training. It also reverses cellular damage caused by oxidative stress (from too much exercise) and therefore preventing damage to the muscles and tissues.
Relaxed alertness- thanks to the powerful combination of high levels of l-theanine (an amino acid found naturally in teas from the Camellia sinensis plant) and caffeine. Due to the conditions in which it is grown, it’s estimated that matcha green tea may contain up to five times as much L-theanine than a regular green tea. By drinking matcha tea, you can increase levels of l-theanine and promote alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxation but still allowing you to be alert. L-theanine also helps to increase levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain, which could benefit conditions like anxiety.
Detoxifies the body- matcha’s rich green colour indicates that it's high in chlorophyll. As you know from biology lesson chlorophyll is a type of plant pigment responsible for the absorption of light in the process of photosynthesis, which creates energy. In addition to giving matcha its strong green colour, chlorophyll also helps in body detoxification promoting the elimination of unwanted toxins, chemicals and heavy metals.
What should you look out for when purchasing matcha tea?
Always check the ingredients label on the package and make sure it only contains matcha
Although you may find matcha in tea bag form as well, keep in mind that then you won’t be consuming the whole leaf, so you lose out on benefits
If possible opt for organic and non-GMO varieties
Ceremonial-grade matcha is the best for making properly whisked tea while culinary-grade can be used to make tea, lattes, baked goods and also used in smoothies and ice cream
Low price tag can often be a sign of a poor-quality product- so don't be cheap here.
How to prepare your cup of matcha tea?
Matcha tea is traditionally made in a very unique and specific fashion. Directions can vary, but here is one easy method for how to prepare matcha tea properly:
Fill a kettle with fresh, filtered water and heat it to boiling point
Fill a matcha bowl or a cup with hot water and then pour down the sink (this is to warm the bowl/cup)
Add 1 teaspoon of matcha powder to bowl or cup
Add 60ml (2 ounces) of nearly boiled water
Whisk (ideally with a bamboo brush which you can purchase often together with matcha tea) the powder and water briskly for a minute or two until it looks thick and frothy.
Add 90 to 120ml (3 to 4 ounces) of water to the frothed tea and enjoy.
Side effects of matcha tea
Bear in mind that matcha green tea is higher in caffeine than other green teas due to the fact that it contains the entire leaf of the tea plant. However, it is still much lower in caffeine than coffee, with around 70 milligrams of caffeine per cup.
Matcha green tea may not be the best choice if your body is sensitive to caffeine. It’s best to keep intake of the tea in moderation, consume it before 12am and definitely avoid around bedtime.
Drinking green tea on an empty stomach can lead to stomach pain and nausea. Therefore it’s best to drink it after a meal, especially if you have any issues with acid reflux.
If you have iron-deficiency, it’s important to know that green tea consumption can cause a decrease in the absorption of iron from the food you eat.
Because of its caffeine content, it’s also not recommended for children or for those women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Finally, green tea can interact with some medications, so check with your health doctor before consuming matcha if you do take medications or have any ongoing health concerns.