The health world is currently green with envy over matcha powder. Shots of the drink were the “it beverage” at New York Fashion Week, and now even dedicated coffee lovers are ditching their morning cup in favour of this earthy tea. If you’re curious about this trending beverage, delve a little deeper into it’s history and benefits.
Matcha is a fine powdered green tea, used for centuries in the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony. Matcha preparation involves covering green tea plants with shade cloths before they’re harvested, which triggers the growth of leaves with better flavour and texture. The leaves are then hand harvested, steamed to stop fermentation, dried and then aged in cold storage to deepen the flavour. These dried leaves are then stone-ground into a fine powder. While you may know the benefits of traditional green tea, matcha is it’s super-charged cousin. By ingesting the leaves (rather than merely allowing them to steep in hot water), you benefit from the entire nutrients of the leaf, making it many times more potent.
Highly valued for its sharp bite followed by lingering sweetness, Zen Buddhist monks drink matcha to remain alert and calm during long hours of meditation. Like green tea, matcha contains caffeine – great for a morning boost. In addition to providing small amounts of vitamins and minerals, matcha is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been tied to protection against heart disease and cancer, as well as better blood sugar regulation and blood pressure reduction. Another polyphenol in matcha (called epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG) has been shown to boost metabolism and increase fat burning.
Matcha is growing in popularity with chef’s and home cooks alike. It can be used as an ingredient in both sweet and savoury dishes – making an appearance in everything from brownies to soup! Create your own matcha magic with some delicious Matcha Popsicles.
HEALTH BENEFITSThe health benefits of matcha are many, most notably due to the potent levels of antioxidants. In fact matcha has 137 x the amount of them than traditional green tea, helping to boost the immune system and improve general wellbeing. When you grab your next matcha latte, you could benefit from:
• A SOURCE OF FIBREMatcha powder contains a high level of absorbable dietary fibre. The benefits of dietary fibre include its ability to ease constipation and stabilise blood sugar levels, saving you from cravings and fatigue.
• PROMOTES WEIGHT LOSSMatcha is rich in potent antioxidants called catechins which have thermogenic properties. They promotes fat oxidation beyond that explained by the tea’s caffeine content. A 1999 study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming green tea increased thermogenesis (the body’s rate of burning calories) from 8-10% to 35-43% of daily energy expenditure. Another study demonstrated that exercising immediately after consuming matcha resulted in 25% more fat burning during exercise.
SOURCES AND DOSAGEOne serve of matcha is about 2g or half a teaspoon. However, more can be used to create a stronger matcha flavour. There are no rules about how much you should consume per day, but 2 serves is a good guide. Due to the caffeine content, excessive consumption of matcha or other forms of green may trigger certain side effects (such as headache, insomnia, irritability, diarrhea, and heartburn). Look out for pure matcha powder in health food stores or online. Be sure to check the ingredients to ensure no other ingredients are listed, and if possible, look for organic varieties.
TOP TIPSMatcha is strong in flavour and can take some adjusting to. Try sweetening it with honey or stevia to improve its palatability. Because you’re consuming whole leaves in matcha, you may get three times as much caffeine than a cup of steeped tea, about the same as standard cup of coffee. Remember to avoid caffeine (including matcha) at least six hours before bedtime to ensure a good night’s sleep. Matcha powder quality is important but this comes at a cost. High quality, fresh, pure matcha can be expensive. Watch out for a low price tag – it can be a red flag for a poor quality product.
It’s important to note that self-treating a health condition with matcha may have serious consequences. If you’re considering the use of matcha in treatment of any condition, consult your primary care provider.
This article was originally written for + published in Australian Natural health Magazine.