AttributesMatcha is grown from the same plant as common green tea, known as Camellia sinensis, but this doesn't mean that matcha and green tea are one and the same. Matcha is grown with special techniques by Japanese farmers. The plants are shielded from sunlight for three to four weeks before harvesting, which increases phytonutrient concentration and chlorophyll, giving this tea its unique bright green hue. Veins and stems are then removed from the tea leaves, and the remaining thin skin is dried and ground into a fine powder.
Super PowersIn the weeks when the tea leaves are shielded from sunlight, the plant ramps up its nutrient production — pumping its leaves full with catechins and other nutrients. Catechins are a powerful natural antioxidant that neutralize damaging free radicals in the body. The catechins in matcha have been found to be up to 137 times more concentrated than in other green teas. Additionally, since matcha tea is consumed as a fine powder of the whole leaf, no nutrients are lost by removing the leaves after steeping as with other teas. One study done in humans found that 4 grams of matcha increased cognitive functions like alertness, memory and reaction time compared with an herbal placebo. Other studies have linked green tea extract to improved brain and liver function, as well as protection from certain cancers. Most of these studies, however, were done on isolated tissue in a lab rather than in humans, so take them with a grain of salt (or sugar).
Although caffeine can be a lifesaver for some, it can also be a source of jittery anxiety for others. Matcha also packs more caffeine than common green tea — about 35 milligrams per gram of matcha. So if you're avoiding caffeine for your health, you might want to think twice about matcha and opt for a caffeine-free herbal tea instead. That being said, matcha also contains a compound known as L-theanine, which has been shown to enhance the beneficial effects of caffeine while decreasing the crash in energy levels later.
How to Use It
In addition to tea, people all over the world have gotten creative with this beautiful green powder by baking it into donuts, cakes, cupcakes and more. Matcha mochi (a Japanese rice cake) is a delicious way to use matcha powder — matcha mochi ice cream treats are even available in many local grocery stores.
With a Ph.D. in pharmacology, Stacey Aggarwal writes about biology, health and nutrition while running a lavender farm in North Idaho.