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Have You Met Your Matcha?

Discover the Benefits and Beauty of this Trend-setting Tea

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Move over white, green, oolong and black—there’s a new tea in town. From chic cafes to backstage at Fashion Week, matcha is quickly becoming a hot trend. What is it, and why is it suddenly such a popular alternative to coffee and conventional teas?

With traditionally brewed tea, hot water is poured, or "steeped," over tea leaves to infuse the flavor into the liquid. With matcha, the leaves are steamed, stemmed and de-vined, then ground into a bright green powder and mixed with water.

"Because you are ingesting the actual leaf, you are getting a more concentrated delivery of flavor, compounds and caffeine," Angela Pryce, a tea expert and consultant based in southern England, notes.

Pryce says that matcha is harvested differently, too: the tea bushes are grown under shade, which packs the leaves with higher levels of chlorophyll and amino acids, resulting in the vibrant green coloring.

The History of Matcha

Matcha may be a novelty to modern tea drinkers, but it is far from new. Chinese monks were enjoying the tea as far back as the eighth century, relying on its caffeine content to stay serene and alert during extended periods of meditation.

In the late 1180s, a Japanese Buddhist monk named Eisai Myoan discovered the tea while visiting China. Back in Japan, Eisai spread the matcha word far and wide. From the 14th to 16th centuries, matcha was popular among affluent circles, becoming synonymous with wealth and prestige. Matcha was prepared and served in special tea ceremonies, called chanoyu. These elegant, choreographed rituals became ingrained in Japanese culture.

Matcha is relatively new to the western tea world, where demand is typically highest for black tea, although green tea and herbal infusions are rising in popularity. "There is a growing interest in provenance," Pryce says. "Consumers are interested in exploring regional flavors and want to know where their food and drink comes from."

Brewing for Better Health

Matcha has more than just a pretty color and a sweet taste. Its health benefits are a big factor in its growing popularity. "Consumers are interested in health, and are looking for products that can deliver health benefits," Pryce says.

According to a report from ConsumerLab.com, the tea contains two to three times more of a beneficial antioxidant called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). And it leaves other superfoods in the dust, boasting up to 60 times more antioxidants than spinach and 17 times more than wild blueberries.

Some claim that EGCG, the super-antioxidant found in matcha, has been shown to prevent or lessen the severity of several types of cancers. Matcha is also rich in dietary fiber, which helps to regulate digestion and balance blood sugar levels.

Going greener may also help to boost weight loss. EGCG has been found to stimulate metabolism, increase fat-burning capabilities and reduce levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to belly fat and food cravings.

An All-Natural Pick-Me-Up

Looking for a safe energy boost? Matcha has the same stimulating properties of coffee, without the undesirable side effects. While coffee’s caffeine blast makes some people jittery, matcha delivers a calm alertness that won’t end in the typical post-java crash.

Bruce Richardson, owner of Elmwood Inn Fine Teas in Danville, Kentucky, relies on matcha for a healthy energy boost. "If I'm feeling a bit lethargic during the day, I often shake a teaspoon of matcha with a bottle of water for a quick pick-me-up. This potent tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which combines with caffeine to keep me focused and alert," he says.

How to Enjoy Matcha

As Richardson points out, matcha is attracting a broader audience not only for its high antioxidant content, but also its versatility as an ingredient in other drinks and dishes. In addition to drinking it in hot or cold tea, the green powder can be sprinkled on top of your favorite foods, mixed into other beverages or even added to ice cream. In addition to infusing a sweet, grassy flavor, the matcha powder also lends a brilliant emerald hue to any food or drink.

Pryce usually prepares matcha the traditional way—using a bamboo whisk to mix the powder with warm water in a matcha bowl—but she also adds the powder to smoothies, yogurts, cake or biscuits. (Check out our recipes page for yummy matcha recipes you can make at home.)

Whether you grab a cup at the local café or prepare it yourself, you may find matcha to be a relaxing, health-boosting alternative to traditional tea and coffee. 

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Member Comments

  • I'm not sure what Matcha tea is, but I just purchased some Green Tea today to switch from too much coffee.
  • I've not met my matcha yet but I am looking forward to the encounter.
  • ETHELMERZ
    Oh heavens, another tea fad, in order to make money, Have to laugh!
  • Great pick-me-up in the afternoon!
  • Keep an eye out for sugar in in matcha things from cafes or in grocery stores. Starbucks matcha powder is over 50% sugar.
  • I only buy Encha Organic Matcha direct from Japan. Taste and color are amazing. I love mixing it with unsweetened vanilla coconut milk using a frother. YUM!!!!
  • BOOKNUT52
    I like these kinds of articles. But I never see it mentioned in the articles about regular tea, black or green, that tea is a gout-trigger and should be either avoided or taken sparingly by people with gout. That's kind of important, and not on the list people have in their minds of things to avoid for gout...
  • Head to your nearest Japanese grocery store and look for 'Matcha Sencha' tea ('Matcha iri Sencha'). The first cup you just pour near-boiling water over ~1.5 Tbsp leaves (no steeping), and you get what tastes like a cup of matcha. The second time, you re-use the leaves and steep in near-boiling water for 2-3 minutes. This second cup will be a lightly matcha-flavored sencha.

    Costco also happens to sell this Matcha Sencha in tea bag form. The "Kirkland Signature Japanese Green Tea With Matcha 100 ct. 2-Pack". Steeping instructions are the same as above, but you use a tea bag instead of tea leaves.

    It's a cheaper way to get your daily matcha!
  • The lead part that someone mentioned is true. But the lead is mostly from tea leaves grown in China, they believe that's due to leaves grown close to all the manufacturing going on over there. I like matcha tea too, I think I would choose tea grown in other areas though such as Japan. Tea leaves take in lead from the soil easier than other plants. Brewing your teas in a tea bag is said to keep some of the lead out of your drink. Teas tested that were grown in Japan show low or no lead levels I guess.
  • ETHELMERZ
    I love the endorsement of this tea by the people that sell the stuff! Weight loss and health industry isn't Billion dollar industry for nothing. Plus, keep in mind, anti oxidants are turning out to Not be the miracle cure that was hoped for, over the decades of studies done. This tea will not cure or prevent anything with certitude! Just another yuppie fad production.
  • I buy my Matcha on Amazon. There are different qualities, such as one for baking and another for drinking. The drinking quality is more expensive. First time I drank it I thought it tasted just like green tea (of course!) and might as well go with a bag for the mess. But I might stick with the matcha if its better for you. A tip - The matcha can be a little clumpy so I strain it through a woven style tea ball as it goes into the cup, no clumps!
  • SPINNER86
    I heard about this a while ago and bought a small amount (1 oz) at a local health food store.
    Use very little for a cup of tea (1/4 tsp to start) and use warm/hot not boiling water which can make it bitter. It taste like dirt (to me) but I drink it on occasion because of its health benefits.
  • KLEMIE
    This sounds yummy. I love tea. Anyone who only uses tea bags is truly missing out on the taste of tea. Where do I find this? I have never heard of it. I'll have to start looking for it.
  • Just read another article by a dietitian on Health.com that said while it is good for the body you need to keep a couple things in mind. 1) Quality comes with a price so don't be fooled by a low price. 2) Tea leaves absorb lead when they are growing. Brewed tea retains 90% f the lead in the leaves but because Matcha is ground leaves you will consume more lead. One study by ConsumerLab found that Matcha has 30 times the lead as regular teas. Therefore, you should only drink one cup a day.

About The Author

Melissa Rudy Melissa Rudy
A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into online writing in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.