Matcha Tea Is Suddenly Everywhere. Here's Why.
Can you sip your way to better health? Quite possibly, thanks to matcha tea. Emerging research finds it can help combat cancer and heart disease, along with offering a host of other health benefits. Here’s everything you need to know about matcha, including how to add it to your diet and where to buy it.
Used for centuries as part of Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha tea is having a moment thanks to its vibrant, Instagrammable color and its host of health benefits. (In fact, more research seems to be released every month about the health benefits of matcha tea.) Discover what distinguishes matcha from other green teas, why matcha is good for you, plus how to incorporate it into your menu. You'll be "going green" in no time.
What is Matcha?
Camellia sinensis is the plant that produces the potent green tea leaves used to make matcha. Unlike most other green teas, matcha is grown in partial shade, which increases the chlorophyll content of the leaves. These whole leaves are called “tencha.” The stems and veins are removed prior to packaging, then its stone-ground into a powder and deemed “matcha.” Common practice calls for whisking it into water to form a frothy, green, mild- and earthy-flavored drink.
What are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
“All tea leaves contain antioxidants in some amounts,” says Jenna A. Werner, R.D., creator of Happy Slim Healthy. “But matcha tea has been noted to have larger quantities of antioxidants compared to other green teas.”
One potential cause for the cranked-up quantity of antioxidants? Since you’re actually consuming the powder rather than sipping water steeped with tea leaves (that are then removed), health experts believe you score more of the health benefits of matcha tea.
“When you drink the brew, you’re actually ingesting whole tea leaves,” says nutritionist Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., the owner of Essential Nutrition for You and the author of The One One One Diet ($23.39, Amazon).
- Reduce risk for heart disease
- Protect against certain cancers
- Provide anti-aging qualities
- Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
- Regulate blood sugar
One of the most researched compounds in green teas, including matcha, is another antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
“EGCG is specifically linked to preventing cancer cells from replicating, but it’s linked to a whole host of other benefits as well, including improving blood flow and preventing inflammation linked to rheumatoid arthritis,” Batayneh says.
A study from Consumer Labs found that on average, one serving of matcha contained 73 to 119 mg of EGCG, compared with 20 to 80 milligrams per serving of regular green tea.
It may also give your brain a boost, too: Those who consumed matcha tea in a Food Research International study were better able to concentrate and recall information than those who abstained.
If a cup of coffee hits you hard, matcha tea might be a good alternative to consider.
“Matcha contains L-theanine, an amino acid that provides a more sustained but less jittery energy boost, creating a state of calm alertness that lasts four about three to four hours,” Batayneh says.
So what is the right “dose” of matcha tea? “Variations in absorption rates differ between individuals, so there is not yet a recommended amount to consume to see health benefits. More studies are needed,” Batayneh explains. “However, some experts say that drinking between three to five cups of green tea per day is the optimal amount to promote health.”
Tasty and Healthy Ways to Use Matcha
You don’t just have to drink matcha tea to score the health benefits of matcha. (Although you sure can sip it! We love this healthy Matcha Green Tea Latte and can’t get enough of this Shamrock Shake-like Mint Matcha Milk Shake when we're feeling indulgent.)
“Because it’s a powder, it can be added to more than just teas and lattes. It works in desserts, too!” Batayneh says.
If you’re feeling adventurous, Werner and Batayneh suggest stirring a spoonful of matcha tea powder into:
- Energy bites
- Quick breads
- Cookie batter
- Pancake batter
- Ice cream (we have a Test Kitchen-approved Green Tea Ice Cream recipe all set for you!)
If you're a matcha skeptic even after hearing all these health benefits and learning about its culinary versatility, give it a try first before making a matcha purchase. Most tea stores and major coffee shop chains have at least one matcha drink item on their menu. Give one a try and then start adding it to all kinds of recipes.