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As more and more people are trying to cut back on coffee, many are turning to matcha instead, a caffeine-rich alternative well known for its vibrant color. It’s a type of green tea, but not the loose-leaf kind you steep in hot water. Matcha is a powder made from ground-up green tea leaves. Because it’s packed with a higher concentration of nutrients than you can get from the traditional variety, you can expect getting way more from matcha benefits.
These days, you can pretty much find it at any American coffee shop, but matcha’s rich history dates back to the 12th century and has been an important component of Japanese tea culture for more than 800 years. “The most famous story is that Japanese Buddhist monk Myoan Eisai left for China to find green tea. Eisai realized that drinking matcha before meditation would help maintain his concentration, and he brought the matcha to Japan,” says Asako Miyashita, RDN, a nutritionist based in New York.
These matcha benefits might convince you to switch from your daily cup of joe to a matcha latte. If you want to know the best way to whip up some delicious matcha at home, scroll on.
Meet the experts: Asako Miyashita, RDN, is a nutritionist based in New York and nutrition educator with 2nd.MD. Jenna Gorham, RD, is the founder of the RD Link, which connects health food companies with nutrition experts.
1. It’s loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.
Green tea contains a type of antioxidant called catechins, as well as another group called polyphenols. “Matcha powder offers a megadose of these powerful antioxidants, which can help reduce cell damage and prevent chronic disease,” explains nutritionist Jenna Gorham, RD, the founder of the RD Link.
Matcha also contains a variety of vitamins, including vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, Miyashita says.
2. It might boost your skin’s glow.
Miyashita recommends trying matcha instead of coffee for a week if you have skin concerns. The vitamin C in matcha stimulates collagen production when ingested, according to a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients. And vitamin B can help promote healthy skin cell turnover, according to a study from the Advances in Skin & Wound Care journal.
3. You’ll get more energy than you would from other teas.
Matcha powder has about three times the amount of caffeine as alternative types of brewed teas, says Gorham. Black tea has 47 mg of caffeine per cup, and green tea has 28 mg, while matcha has a whopping 70 mg of caffeine. That’s about the same energy benefit—or slightly less than—a cup of coffee, which has around 96 mg of caffeine per cup (given that different coffees have varying levels of caffeine).
4. You won’t feel as jittery as you might from a cup of joe.
“Matcha powder contains L-theanine, an amino acid that has been shown to reduce stress,” Gorham says. One 2016 study found that drinking a beverage with around 25 mg of L-theanine like green tea can be extremely effective at reducing stress and increasing the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain.
“People say that when they drink matcha, they have a smooth alertness and don’t experience a ‘caffeine crash,’ which could have to do with the L-theanine component,” Gorham adds.
5. It can make you significantly more productive.
People who drank matcha specifically (not just plain old green tea!) experienced a slight increase in attention and processing speed an hour later in a 2017 study published in Food Research International—likely thanks to L-theanine, a major potentially energy-boosting polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and caffeine.
So on your busiest workdays, splurging on a matcha latte (which can be upward of $5, if the matcha powder is good quality) might just be the perfect investment. Or, you can always DIY one.
6. It could help ward off cancer.
While there’s no specific research proving the anti-cancer benefits of matcha powder itself, scientists have been reviewing green tea as a category for years. Older studies have linked EGCG, a type of catechin, found in green tea to colon cancer prevention. One other study indicates that green tea could be effective for cancer prevention in synergy with anticancer drugs, also thanks to EGCG.
7. It may promote healthier cholesterol levels.
Science hasn’t exactly concluded why, but a 2016 review of studies suggests that consuming the EGCG in green tea regularly can result in a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol (commonly known as the “bad” cholesterol). LDL cholesterol leads to a buildup of fatty acids in the arteries, which some experts say increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
8. It can strengthen your bones.
Most people don’t think about actively taking measures to build bone strength, but it’s important for your fitness and mobility, especially as you age. Polyphenols, the antioxidant-packed compounds in green tea, may increase bone mineral density (as in, how solid your bones are) by reducing inflammation-causing oxidative stress on the bones. That in turn can lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, according to several past studies.
9. It can be more filling than a cup of coffee or brewed tea.
Matcha powder has a strong, earthy taste, so it’s most often whisked and served with milk or a non-dairy alternative, like almond or oat milk. Because of the added calories from the milk, the drink tends to be as satiating as your average espresso-based latte.
But note that “some coffee shops and restaurants might use a mix that has sugar and/or powdered milk to balance out the earthy flavor, which makes it less healthy than straight-up matcha powder,” says Gorham. Ask your barista if they use actual matcha powder or a pre-made mix and if the latter, what’s in it. “Non-dairy milks might be sweetened too, so just be conscious of how much sugar you’re consuming, as that can overpower its benefits,” Gorham adds.
10. It works really well as a natural food dye.
There’s some older research suggesting that artificial food dyes (you know, the kind you baked with as a kid) may be carcinogenic (linked to cancer). This is why when there’s an opportunity to color food using natural sources, you should take advantage.
Quality matcha powder is grown in the shade versus instead of under the sun in order to force the leaves to overproduce chlorophyll, according to Japanese matcha brand BeMatcha. The OTT chlorophyll content is what gives matcha powder its rich green color—and that color will take over pretty much anything it’s mixed with.
So for baking, cooking, and even cocktail-mixing needs, add a little matcha powder for a naturally green (and nutritious!) treat. Something to remember whenever you want to impress people at your next dinner party.
11. It may protect your brain.
Drinking matcha every day may help slow cognitive decline, according to a small 2020 study published in the journal Nutrients. That’s because matcha is packed with vitamin K and lutein, both of which have been associated with improved cognitive functioning such as attention and memory.
12. It may help fight off infections.
While research is still in the beginning stages, a 2021 cell study found a standard dose of matcha may be able to kill off Streptococcus pneumoniae, bacteria that can cause pneumonia. Again, the researchers attribute this benefit to the mighty antioxidants catechins found in matcha and green tea.
How can you make matcha at home?
You don’t have to go to your nearest coffeeshop to get matcha. In fact, you can make a version at home with minimal kitchen gadgets. Ceremonial-grade matcha is recommended if you want to make drinks and lattes, while culinary-grade matcha is reserved for baking and other cooking uses.
“Traditionally, Japanese people use a bamboo whisk and ladle to make matcha tea. If you don’t have it, you can use a spoon,” Miyashita says. Here’s how:
Heat 2 or 3 oz. of water to 176°F. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, you can eyeball it by checking on the size of the bubbles. Look for medium rising bubbles—a string of bubbles is too hot.
2. Place 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of matcha into a cup and add a splash of hot (not boiling) water.
3. Mix thoroughly with a spoon to remove lumps of matcha. If you have a bamboo whisk, mix matcha with it until frothy. Now that you have your concentrated matcha, you can either fill the glass up the rest of the way with water or milk. (If you don’t have a whisk, a fork will do. Or short on time? Try an electric matcha whisk.)
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