Matcha green tea is growing in popularity for its visual appeal and believed health benefits. You might have heard of or seen this bright green tea around, or even tasted it in everything from lattes to brownies. But what is matcha green tea, and why is it thought to be so good for us?
What Is Matcha Green Tea?
Matcha is a type of green tea, one of the ‘true teas’ as it comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. Like many teas, it originated in China, but today the best matcha comes from Japan, specifically the Uji, Nishio, Shizuoka and Kyushu regions.
When brewed, matcha green tea powder has a sweet, grassy flavor. What makes matcha different and special, as you may have noticed, is its bright green color.
And guess what:
It’s this color that is the secret to all its other benefits.
Matcha bushes are commonly covered for up to 20 days before harvesting, causing very little exposure to direct sunlight. This leaves the color of their verdant leaves virtually intact. The next step in the process continues to protect this lush green
Most teas, once picked, are treated or processed in some way. They can be rolled, crushed, roasted or fried. This exposes the sensitive enzymes within tea to oxygen. This is called oxidation, and just like an apple, the leaves will turn brown when exposed.
The difference here is that only the best, brightest buds are picked, and are then processed in one of two ways for minimal oxygen exposure:
- Gyokuro: leaves are rolled out flat before drying
- Tencha: leaves are laid out to dry before rolling
For this reason, tencha provides the greenest leaves and so they are the ones used to make the best matcha green tea. Once dried, they are de-vined, de-stemmed and then stone-ground.
It is this matcha green tea powder which is the secret to the matcha green tea benefits.
Matcha Green Tea Benefits for Health
These are special substances called polyphenols, with a variety called catechins. They are special because they are believed to contain antioxidants, which fight aging and cell damage and an associated range of illnesses such as cancer, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
How tea is processed, brewed and served can all affect the levels of antioxidants, either drawing out or losing the catechins and their antioxidants. And it’s here that the benefits of matcha green tea come into their own.
Which takes us right back to that bright green color.
There are other green teas out there, but none quite as vivid as matcha. That’s because matcha tea is actually made using matcha green tea powder as the base. Unlike other teas, where the leaves are infused in the water and then discarded, the powdered leaves of matcha are dissolved into the water and drank in their entirety.
It is this which leads many researchers to believe that matcha is the tea which provides the most benefits. In taking in the whole leaf, rather than just water infused with it, we are gaining all of those catechins and their antioxidant properties. Furthermore, matcha has also lost even fewer of these in its processing phase than normal tea.
So is matcha really as fantastic as people believe; does consuming the whole leaf in the form of matcha green tea powder really make a difference?
Here’s your answer:
A study by the University of Colorado found that the concentration of one type of catechin was 137 times greater in matcha tea, even compared to other types of green tea because the entire leaf is consumed.
Other studies have found that antioxidants in our diets have an important role to play in fighting diseases. Green tea, of which matcha is a concentrated type, is one of the nutritional sources for antioxidants. In fact, it has been found to have 20 times more ability to absorb these bad, oxidizing agents than pomegranates and blueberries.
One interesting element of the studies into matcha green tea benefits is in terms of mental wellbeing. We know that, so it’s good news if there’s perhaps some science to back it up!
As with any medical research, many of these studies are small but they’re all positive steps and good to know!
Matcha Green Tea For Weight Loss
As with general health concerns and diseases, weight loss is another area where people are interested in matcha green tea benefits. Tea, in general, is often said to help with weight loss, let’s have a look at why and how matcha might be a part of this.
Apart from being almost calorie free, and so a great alternative to sugary drinks, there might be some benefits to green tea which can help with conditions around weight loss.
The substances that have antioxidant and so potentially disease-fighting properties, catechins, may also work to stop the enzyme which inhibits fat-burning. This can lead to increased metabolism and this has been seen in some studies.
Also, the small amount of caffeine in green tea could help increase metabolic rate as well, without the jitters or stimulated appetite. Other effects linked to health, such as a decrease in blood pressure, could also be part of a weight-loss, healthy diet.
So what does this mean for matcha green tea for weight loss? Any goodness found in green tea is likely to be found in matcha too, and perhaps in a higher concentration. And drinking tea is certainly better for a healthy diet than some other drinks.
How To Make Matcha Green Tea
Now we know about matcha green tea’s potential benefits, how do we go about drinking this mystical tea? It’s been used in Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries, but don’t be put off, this wonderful-flavored tea is simple to make!
If possible, it’s best to get a set of equipment. These are available online or in stores and will enhance your brewing and drinking experience. Look for:
- Chawan – bowl to drink out of, like a cup
- Chashaku – bent bamboo spoon for measuring the matcha
- Chasen – bamboo whisk for stirring
You may also consider these Matcha Making Sets:
Once you’ve assembled your set, here’s how to make matcha green tea:
- Measure one spoonful of matcha green tea powder into a heated chawan using the chashaku
- Bring water to boil and let it cool to 175F, or use a thermometer to get it to that temperature
- Pour about 3oz over the matcha powder
- Whisk to a froth in a zig-zag or ‘M’-shaped motion using the chasen until the tea is smooth and there small bubbles on the surface
Important to this process is that there is no steeping time. This is because the powder becomes the tea, rather than being discarded, so there is no need to leave to infuse. The whisking, however, is all-important to bring the water and powder together in its trademark silky-smooth consistency.
Not to mention, it’s fun to do!
You can make a thinner or thicker tea. Simply reduce the amount of matcha green tea powder by half a teaspoon and mix with 3–4oz of water for thinner; and up it to two teaspoons and just 1oz of water for a thicker consistency.
Finding The Best Matcha Green Tea
For such a special and unique tea, with great feel-good benefits, it’s always worth getting quality matcha tea.
The high-quality and best matcha green tea is grown in rural areas, as the plants aren’t exposed to pollution and so don’t absorb chemicals. This makes their bright-green, chlorophyll composition even purer and more concentrated.
When you’re looking for where to buy matcha green tea, and especially a high-quality variety, keep in mind that in general, it is a more expensive tea. This is because of the longer and more detailed process involved in growing, harvesting, and processing.
The best matcha green tea is ground in traditional stone mills rather than electric jet ones as they produce heat which affects the enzymes and potentially the aroma.
Here are some of our tips for getting the most out of your matcha:
- Origin: look for a specific location or producer so that you can verify the conditions it has been grown in.
- Rating: ‘ceremonial grade’ matcha is of high quality – brew and serve straight.
- Storage: use a tin rather than a bag, and keep in a cool, dark place to protect the catechins. The refrigerator is perfect.
- Expiration: consume within six months to a year, and consume within a month once open.
Remember, brown color in tea leaves is a sign of oxidation, which is bad news for matcha. Test a little by smearing it on paper as it’s easier to see the color that way.
Matcha Made In Heaven!
Matcha is a special tea with many great qualities, particularly as it has all the goodness you find in regular tea but in higher amounts. As with all research and advice, this shows that matcha can be a great idea to replace unhealthy choices or as a supplement, but there’s no magic trick to health or weight loss.
However you brew it, it’s certainly a fun, great-tasting and ancient drink we love!
Have you found any of your own matcha green tea benefits?
Share with us in the comments below!