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Ever resisted a fad for a long time because you didn’t like it or it seemed frivolous only to try it later and discover that you had been missing out the whole time?
I have a list of things that I resisted to my own detriment (yoga pants and sushi top the list) but one that I’ve known and loved for years is Matcha Tea. I had a friend in high school who was from Japan and she introduced me to this amazing powdered green tea known as Matcha.
It has gained popularity lately, though many modern mentions of Matcha ignore the rich culture and traditional preparation that typically accompany matcha tea brewing.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is a special type of powdered green tea that is grown and produced in Japan (in most cases). The green tea leaves are shaded from the sun for the last few weeks of their growth, increasing the chlorophyll content and creating a gorgeous green color. Then, the leaves are carefully ground with stone grinding wheels to produce a fine powder.
The powder can then be used to brew an antioxidant rich frothy green tea or in recipes like smoothies or baking. Unlike other types of teas, the green tea powder is not strained out before consuming, so you are consuming the entire leaf, making Matcha more potent than other tea varieties. In fact, only 1/2 tsp is needed to brew a traditional cup of Matcha.
History of Matcha
In the Tang Dynasty in China, green tea was powdered and dried into bricks for easy use. People could then break off a small piece of the dried tea brick and stir into hot water. This provided a shelf stable green tea that was easy to travel with.
In the 1100s, a Japanese monk brought the idea of powdered tea to Japan, and this eventually evolved into the traditional chanoyu ceremony. Though the tradition of drinking powdered green teas has lost popularity in China until recent years, the tradition has persisted in Japan. Though originally only royalty and Samurai warriors were given Matcha because it was so time consuming and expensive to produce, it is now a popular drink throughout Japan.
For Matcha, the best tea bushes are selected and shaded from the sun for 3 weeks before harvest. Then, the best leaves are selected and ground by hand to produce a fine, bright green powder.
Benefits of Matcha Green Tea
Energy + Calm
Matcha tea is unique because the process of shading and harvesting increases the content of L-Theanine, an amino acid that helps balance the caffeine. While matcha may contain the same caffeine as other types of tea, the L-Theanine is known to create calmness without drowsiness.
Another benefit to Matcha is the high concentration of antioxidants. One study found that Matcha has 137 times the polyphenols (notably, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)) than regular green tea. (1) In fact, this type of green tea contains over 60x the antioxidants of spinach and 7x the antioxidants of high quality dark chocolate.
There is some evidence that these polyphenols may have a protective effect against some types of cancer.
EGCG, found in high concentrations in Matcha, has been shown to increase the rate of burning stored fat as energy, as well as decreasing the formation of new fat cells. Other studies have shown that the catechins in Matcha increase the body’s rate of calorie burning each day and offered additional fat burning benefit during exercise.
A 2011 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the catechins in green tea had a significant effect on lowering LDL cholesterol. A 2013 Cochrane review also showed that regular green tea consumption was associated with lower blood pressure and an decreased risk of stroke.
The L-Theanine in green tea is known to help stimulate alpha brain waves. These waves are known for their ability to help increase focus and concentration.
The process of shading the Matcha leaves creates an increased amount of Chlorophyll, which some preliminary research has shown may help the body eliminate heavy metals and other harmful buildup. Research is still lacking in this area, but many alternative doctors recommend Chlorophyll for this purpose.
The same antioxidants that make green tea protective, including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), may also help support skin health by reducing inflammation and free radicals that accelerate skin aging. This green tea facemask is a great example of that.
All That Glitters…
Is not gold, or green, as the case may be. Matcha has some amazing benefits, but one important caution and potential downside: lead.
All green teas, even organically grown ones, contain trace amounts of lead and fluoride. When brewed as traditional green tea, the leaves are removed, and most of the lead (and some of the fluoride) is removed with the leaves.
With Matcha, since the whole leaf is consumed, there is a higher concentration of lead. From everything I’ve read, this is not a reason to avoid this type of tea, since the levels are still low, but I would exercise more caution when pregnant for this reason.
Pique Tea offers an amazing Matcha tea, that is the only Matcha to be triple screened for any toxins and is free of heavy metals and fluoride, pesticides, toxic mold and radioactive isotopes.
How to Brew Matcha Green Tea
Though Matcha can cost $4 or more in a cafe, you can make it inexpensively at home. We enjoy Matcha as a treat about once a week, and I’ve also enjoyed experimenting with adding it to foods for color. Though in Japan, a tea ceremony is an elaborate practice that involves special cups, tea pots and bowls, there is a simplified process that you can use at home.
There are two ways to brew, as usucha or koicha. Usucha is a thin tea, while koicha is a thicker tea.
- A bamboo whisk and spoon (not absolutely necessary, but creates a much smoother and frothier drink than a regular whisk) TIP: in a pinch, use a blender.
- Fine mesh strainer or sifter
- A glass bowl for whisking
- Small cups for drinking tea
I use the same equipment in my matcha green tea latte recipe (it even has an iced option).
Matcha Green Tea Recipe
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- 1 cup water (at 175°F)
- Sift the powder into the glass bowl using a fine mesh strainer or sifter.
- Slowly add the hot water.
- Whisk with the bamboo whisk in a "w" shape until frothy and well mixed.
- Drink immediately.
Ever used Matcha? What is the most unique way you’ve used it?
Discussion (75 Comments)
Does the brand suggested contain brown rice solids? I find a lot of matcha powders–the organic ones especially, are diluted with brown rice, but don’t tell you this in online descriptions. It seems to be a thing for a lot of imports to contain brown rice solids, but my friends from Japan tell me that it should be labeled as Genmaicha if that is the case.
Great Article – I agree about just blending the matcha if you can’t be bothered with the traditional preparation – In fact even just throwing matcha into a shaker bottle with some water produces a good result – I do this with cold brew matcha and leave it in the fridge on a hot day :)) Some lemon or citrus helps cut through the astringency too and adds a great balance to the flavour.
Very yummy as a latte with Almond milk or as a treat as a refreshing Matcha Mint julep. Yum!
Got to try that!
In this article, you state that consumption of green tea increases risk for stroke. Did you mean decrease?
Katie - Wellness Mama
That was a typo. It’s fixed now 🙂
Ive been wanting to buy and start drinking matcha, but im worried about which brand is free of lead and radiation . Can you please tell me which ones you drink ? Thank you very much,Lorie
I bought three different brands and also some ceremonial and culinary grade after much research. I did make one mistake though. Stay away from any product of China. I bought Enzo which has USDA organic on it. When I opened it the color was very pale compared to the others and also dusty looking so I searched the pkg. Found it came from Thailand but in very small print at the bottom it is a product of China. That is where the lead may be. Now to the good ones. Culinary grade is all you need for Lattes. I found Kenko to be the best in ceremonial and culinary grade followed by Jade Leaf. I bought my son and grandaughter the Jade leaf with bamboo whisks for Christmas.Jade Leaf is stone ground and from the Uji area of Japan(safe from radiation). Bought them all on Amazon. Good luck. We love the Matcha.
Under the Benefits section for “heart health” you state that matcha is associated with lower blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke. Did you mean a “decreased” risk of stroke?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes. Typo fixed 🙂
Just a quick note. Did you mean “increased risk of stroke” or the opposite? If it is lowering blood pressure, wouldn’t there be less risk of stroke. I figured it was a typo. Love the fact that you give such detailed info in all your blog posts. Thank you and I am quite a fan—passing your website along to many other blogs that I follow. Thank you.
I love Matcha! My favorite way to drink it is as a Matcha Latte……I mix the powder with coconut milk powder, sweetener and fresh grated nutmeg then store it in a jar. To serve put a tablespoon or so in a cup of hot water and whisk. So creamy and delicious! You said you enjoy it about once a week, would you not recommend having it oftener than that?
I’ve never even heard of coconut milk powder. Where do you buy it? I’ve noticed matcha blends better when mixed with other powders first so I love this idea!
I get mine from Whole Foods
A year ago I spoke to my Dr. About match tea. I have MS and thyroid problems my doctor said definitely Jot to drink matcha tea even from Japan. He said even if I didn’t have MS he would not recommend drinking it because of the high lead content. Can cause health problems especially if you don’t know about something going on in your body. Checked with my Neurologist and he basically said the same thing. I’ve tasted it and liked it but will not drink it.
Hilda M Smylie
I believe your Dr. is wrong. The high lead content may be present in the Matcha green tea from China. Some are concerned about radiation from Japan that is why you need to research this yourself and buy from Uji region. I am a nurse and I bet your Dr. did not spend half the time (if any) researching Matcha like I did. Medical school gives very little education on nutrition.With the Thyroid problem just google” Hashimotos and Matcha green tea” and you will hear both sides. Good luck and if I thought there was a problem drinking green tea I wouldn’t be drinking it even without your conditions.
I add it to my smoothies!
Great post Katie! I love matcha tea. I started purchasing from Got Matcha and love the matcha blends they have, especially the chai blend. I’d be curious to know where you purchase yours from. I drank matcha almost daily while I was on a Candida cleanse diet and trying to detox after having several mercury fillings removed. It made ditching coffee much easier and the caffeine never exacerbated my anxiety like coffee did. I had never heard about lead concerns though! Something to keep in mind for sure. I’ve never used it in anything, but I’d like to try it in smoothies!
The “I use this one” link to the Matcha is not working. I love green tea matcha and have been drinking it daily for years. Thanks
I guess I was too early. It works now 🙂
Katie - Wellness Mama
Good catch! It’s updated and working now 🙂
I love matcha! Such a good article! I’m Australian based so I bought my matcha from Zen Green Tea. I have been making lots of iced matcha drinks and also some “nice cream” bowls by blending frozen banana with matcha in a food processor! YUM