Matcha Tea: Benefits, Brewing Tools, and Flavor
Matcha tea is a green tea variety that is renowned for its vegetal and creamy flavor. The tea is unique in the way it's produced and that it is brewed using powder rather than loose leaves or tea bags. Find out more about matcha including its chemical composition and flavor right here.
Matcha Tea Basics
Matcha tea is a powdered green tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant — also known as the tea plant. It belongs to the classification of true teas, which includes black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea.
Matcha tea is mainly cultivated in Japan. This green tea is different from regular green teas in that the tea leaves are covered and grown in the shade during the final two weeks before harvest. The matcha leaves are then plucked and dried in direct sunlight. The green tea leaves are not oxidized. The next step of the production process involves grinding the leaves into a fine powder using stones.
Matcha green tea is widely available in Japan at restaurants and commonplace at events and social gatherings. High-quality matcha powders are also used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. In America and other parts of the world, matcha is enjoyed as a matcha latte, which features a rich, creamy texture.
Stone-ground matcha leaves deliver a vegetal and slightly sweet flavor. This green tea also boasts umami — the Japanese word used to indicate a savory flavor. The green tea powder is vibrant green and brew into a bright green hue.
Matcha Tea Tools
Traditional green tea made from matcha is frothed using a bamboo whisk called a chasen. The chasen is a whisk made from a single piece of bamboo. It features delicate tentacles that are vigorously whisked in a zigzag formation. The whisking process adds a rich texture to the matcha tea.
Matcha is traditionally served in a wide-brimmed bowl that allows for full engagement with the tea. The drinker can envelop the matcha in their cupped hands and easily breathe in the vegetal aroma from the large opening. The Japanese term for the traditional matcha mug is "chawan".
The final matcha tool is known as a "chashaku". This spoon is also made of bamboo and enables tea drinkers to use the perfect amount of matcha for each cup of tea.
Composition of Matcha
Matcha contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and healthy ingredients. It contains fatty acids, proteins, and fiber that help boost overall health. Here are some of the most famous matcha tea ingredients.
Green tea contains catechins — phenolic compounds that boast antioxidant properties and are commonly found in powerhouse foods such as berries. Green tea contains one powerful catechin in particular known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Most research on the health benefits of matcha green tea include attributions to EGCG.
Research shows that most tea benefits can be attributed to antioxidant properties including catechins (1). Antioxidants work to fight free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a process through which normal body processes are slowly deteriorated over time.
Free radicals and oxidative stress have been linked to a host of problems including heart disease (2). Antioxidants in matcha may help to lower risk markers including high blood pressure and high LDL cholesterol levels. In addition, free radicals have been linked to neurological diseases, certain types of cancer, and premature aging (3)(4)(5).
Another important compound found in matcha tea is the amino acid L-theanine. This amino acid has only been found in the leaves of true teas and a type of mushroom known as Bay Bolete mushrooms. It's present in high concentrations in matcha powder since the powder contains the entire leaves of the green tea plant. These amino acids are digested when brewed into tea.
L-theanine has been connected to health benefits including improved sleep and accelerated weight loss. Studies show that L-theanine may help to improve sleep quality by inducing relaxation and directly targeting GABA receptors in the brain (6). The composition of matcha is one of the reasons it is considered a Zen tea in Asia.
Drinking matcha tea may also help to accelerate weight loss results thanks to the presence of L-theanine. This amino acid slows the absorption of caffeine. This can lead to a longer-lasting energy kick that can help improve exercise performance. L-theanine can also improve the absorption of nutrients, thus streamlining digestion and aiding weight loss plans (7).
Side Effects of Matcha Powder
Matcha green is tea largely safe for consumption. Side effects do occur when the beverage is consumed in large amounts. That's because matcha contains caffeine, which can cause symptoms including nausea, dizziness, and migraines in certain individuals.
Matcha green tea may also contain heavy metals depending on how and where the tea is produced. Opt for organic matcha leaves to avoid these side effects.
Mad For Matcha
Matcha comes in many flavors and recipes these days. Brew up a cup of matcha the traditional way using only hot water and traditional tools. You can also spice up the classic green tea leaf by brewing matcha with tapioca pearls as a boba tea. Alternatively, turn the beverage into a luxurious indulgence by brewing it into a creamy latte.