The Benefits of Matcha, Plus How to Find the Healthiest Kind
While green tea has long been praised for its restorative benefits and has taken its place in the upper echelons of pantry staples, the last decade or so has seen matcha separating from the green tea herd to demand its own place on weekly shopping lists all over the world. And with good reason! This green goddess superfood is more than just a cup full of gorgeous: recent research has uncovered a trove of reasons why matcha should be your next kitchen staple!
One of the aspects of green tea that makes it such a popular health restorative is its richness in a group of antioxidants called catechins—disease-fighting flavonoid antioxidants that have been linked to a long list of health benefits. And while tea in general has a goodly amount of this flavonoid, matcha’s concentration of the catechin EGCG is anywhere from 3 to 137 times greater than in other green teas! Catechins have been linked to everything from preventing and fighting cancer, to stopping oxidative damage to cells, regulating diabetes, fighting inflammation, and reducing the risk of heart disease.
And matcha just happens to be a detox dynamo! We all remember elementary school science class where we learned that green plants are green thanks to chlorophyll. But what seemed to get left out of that lesson is just how great chlorophyll is for our bodies! Shade-grown matcha is high in chlorophyll, lending not only to its vibrant green hue, but also its stellar ability to help eliminate toxins from the body (including heavy metals!).
You probably already knew that green teas contain caffeine and can give you a coffee-grade pick-me-up. But did you know that green tea, and especially matcha, contains high levels of L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea that promotes relaxation and has been shown to increase levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain? When the L-theanine and caffeine combine, the imbiber experiences a sense of “alert calm,” which is a much better feeling than those coffee jitters!
Because you’re consuming the whole tea leaf, matcha can contain up to three times as much caffeine as a cup of steeped tea—that’s almost as much as a cup of coffee! And while its fantastic for grownups to have a cup or so of quality matcha daily, it’s best for the younger set to steer clear. Also, pregnant women or those planning to become pregnant should always check with their healthcare provider first.
Your basic tea—matcha-style!
- Mix 1 tsp of matcha powder into ⅓ c hot water (not boiling).
- Whip up with bamboo whisk until frothy.
Go next level with a matcha latté! Simply add in a spoonful of your favourite sweetener (honey or maple syrup are lovely!) and fill the mug with some steamy, dreamy cashew, macadamia, or other nut milk.
Tea shop tips
Matcha’s popularity means you can get it pretty much anywhere—even at your local coffee shop—but all matcha is not created equally. Look for matcha powder, not matcha tea bags, as you want to consume the whole leaf and reap those delicious benefits. Further, your matcha powder should only contain one ingredient: matcha! There are many sneaky ones out there that come pre-sweetened with extra additives you don’t need. Choose good-quality, organic, or non-GMO when possible and don’t be surprised if matcha costs a bit more! Go for a ceremonial-grade from Japan, whose production is held to more rigorous standards for pesticide use, and avoid cheaper Chinese matcha, which has even been found to contain lead!