Are you wondering what Matcha Tea is all about? I certainly have been. It is something I have been seeing everywhere and hearing a lot about lately. Is it another health food fad or is there really something great about matcha tea? I decided to do some research and find out.
What is matcha tea?
The name is really straightforward. The word matcha literally means ‘powdered tea’. Matcha tea comes from a tea leaf called tencha and is carefully grown to stimulate the plant’s production of amino acids and chlorophyll. The plant is shaded before harvest, which promotes growth of leaves that have better flavor and texture.
During harvesting, the leaves are carefully selected by hand, put through a short steaming process to stop fermentation and oxidation, they are dried, and then aged in cold storage to enhance the flavor (to deepen it). The dried leaves are stoneground into a fine powder.
Matcha tea has a calming effect that has long been associated with Japanese Tea Ceremonies, Zen and meditation. Recently many modern chefs have been incorporating matcha into their cooking, including baked goods, sweet dishes and savory dishes.
Matcha tea drinkers have stated that it has a delicious, yet strong taste somewhat like spinach or grass. When making matcha tea: boil the water and let it sit for about 5 minutes before whisking in the powdered tea, as this will keep the flavor a little more on the mild side.
Does matcha tea contain caffeine?
Yes, matcha tea contains approximately 25 to 30 mg of caffeine per serving. That is about the same amount as a brewed cup of coffee. Matcha drinkers claim that the amino acid L-Theanine has an effect on the caffeine and gives them a calm alert kind of feeling instead of a caffeine buzz feeling like they would get from coffee.
How nutritious is matcha tea and what are the health benefits?
It has a very impressive nutritional profile, indicating that it can hold its own alongside many other healthy beverages. Here is the list of nutrients and the health benefits of each one:
- Antioxidants – Various antioxidants are present in high amounts. These phytonutrients neutralize free radicals that damage your cells, help slow the effects of aging, boost the immune system, and lower your risk of serious health issues. Some of the antioxidants are:
- vitamins A, C and E
- EGCg (epigallocatechin gallate). This is a particular antioxidant within a class of antioxidants called catechins. EGCg is known for its cancer fighting properties, for helping to lower cholesterol and promoting lower blood sugar, which is great for pre-diabetics or diabetics. Another benefit of EGCg: it burns calories by boosting metabolism, without any negative side effects like high blood pressure and increased heart rate. This has the is helpful in controlling body weight.
- Fiber – Matcha tea contains an easily digestible source of fiber, which promotes a healthy gut and good elimination. It also slows down the digestion of foods, which can help maintain stable blood sugar balance.
- Chlorophyll – aids in maintaining alkalinity in the blood and helps the body detoxify naturally. The unique combination of antioxidants and chlorophyll gives matcha the ability to naturally remove chemical toxins and heavy metal from the body.
- B complex vitamins – help lower cholesterol and perform many functions in your body including support of the heart and circulatory system, the mucous membranes, the muscles and the nervous system.
- Vitamin K – important for blood clotting and for the kidneys
- Minerals –
- chromium, which helps insulin work more efficiently;
- magnesium, which helps keep bones strong and supports nerve and muscle function;
- iron, which is very important for healthy blood and circulation.
- Amino acid L-Theanine – which boosts concentration, improves mood, calms the mind and relaxes the body without drowsiness, and helps to inhibit side effects of caffeine. L-Theanine gives you longer lasting energy and mental clarity because it boosts the brain’s alpha brain waves. While L-Theanine is common in all teas, research has indicated that matcha tea contains as much as 5 times more than other types of tea.
Is it more potent than brewed green tea?
Yes – 1 serving of matcha is nutritionally equivalent to 10 cups of brewed green tea.
Matcha has up to 137% more antioxidants than regular brewed green tea. On the ORAC scale of antioxidants – matcha tea has a very high rating. It contains up to 1573 units of antioxidants per gram versus pomegranates with a rating of about 105 units per gram and blueberries with a rating of about 93 units per gram. Read about the ORAC Scale.
Why is match tea more potent than green leaf tea?
Because when you drink matcha tea, you ingest 100% of the matcha tea leaf. This means it is very concentrated and you receive 100% of the nutrients. When you drink green tea, the leaves are brewed in hot water, you drink only the brewed water, which is less concentrated, and the leaves are thrown away. Most of the antioxidants stay in the green tea leaves that are discarded.
Are there any concerns about drinking matcha tea?
Possibly. I read about a concern regarding one potential contaminate in matcha tea and green tea: lead. This information came from only two of the many resources I consulted during my research, so I do not know how big of an issue this truly is.
The sources stated that matcha tea leaves and green tea leaves can both contain lead, particularly if the leaves are grown in China. With green tea leaves 90% of the lead stays in the leaf, which is discarded and not consumed. With matcha tea – the entire leaf is consumed, so any lead in the tea is being completely ingested. Apparently some studies have shown that matcha tea can contain 30 times more lead than brewed green tea leaves. Perhaps moderate consumption of 1 cup maximum per day is recommended if you are concerned about lead.
Choosing a matcha tea
Quality and being able to trust the source are both important factors to consider when it comes to buying matcha tea. Here’s what to look for:
- Cost: High quality matcha tea is generally expensive. Less expensive matcha teas would likely raise questions about the source and the quality of tea.
- Source or where it is grown: It is always wise to research the source of the tea before purchasing. Japanese matcha tea is world renown for its high quality.
- Color: Matcha tea should always be bright green in color. A brownish color could indicate that it is low quality tea or that it is old and starting to oxidize, losing its nutritional value.
- Organic: Organic matcha would be preferable because it would be grown without herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
To answer the original question ‘is matcha tea healthy or just another fad?’ – I would have to conclude that it is indeed healthy. It makes sense to choose matcha tea as a healthy beverage that would have such great benefits as helping your body naturally detox, giving you calm energy and clear mental focus, enhancing your immune system, working to balance blood sugar, and boosting your metabolism – all without any negative side effects. I think the Japanese people have been onto something great for a long time!