What is matcha tea?
You know matcha when you see it. Matcha is a highly concentrated uniquely vibrant green tea that also often comes in a powdered form from finely grinding condensed dried green tea leaves.
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Matcha has a good amount of theanine in it — an amino acid that partly gives matcha tea its umami (distinctively pleasant and savory) flavor. Its origins go back to ancient China but matcha has been consumed and celebrated widely in Asian and non-Asian cultures alike.
It’s most commonly known as the green tea used widely in Japanese tea ceremonies. Japanese Zen monks have also used it to stimulate alertness because of its uniquely high caffeine content.
“Green tea matcha also powder packs a pretty fierce nutritional punch,” says dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.
Matcha’s many health benefits
Matcha tea has unique health benefits when compared with most other teas.
- Polyphenols: Micro-nutrients that treat weight maintenance or weight loss due to its positive effects on metabolism. Also aids in digestion, diabetes, neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases.
- Catechins: A type of polyphenol that’s very good for your heart, memory, skin and may help prevent cancer.
- L-theanine: An amino acid that reduces stress and anxiety, may help increase focus, and immunity
- Antioxidant flavonoids: In fact, matcha tea is packed with 137 times more antioxidant catechins than many green teas. Antioxidants protect cells from oxidation (“damage”) which can help prevent disease
- Chlorophyll: Matcha is rich in this pigment that promotes the production of red blood cells, absorption of toxins and anti-aging properties.
Go for quality not quantity
Matcha of any kind can be enjoyed deliciously in different ways. A little goes a long way — not only because it has such a savory flavor but also because it’s packed with all those nutrients.
Quality matcha is easily detected with a general rule of thumb — the greener, the more delicate the flavor, the better. It’s also pricier due to more meticulous production methods that preserve its hue and complex flavor.
Higher-grade matcha is generally more vibrantly green as a result of being dried in shade rather than sunlight. More expensive matcha also uses younger leaves formed at the top of the plant, which give it a much more delicate flavor.
That’s why higher-quality matcha is more suited to be enjoyed simply as tea. (Check your labels to make sure you’re not getting low-quality matcha with food coloring instead!)
Master your matcha grades
“When you’re shopping for matcha, you’ll want to know what you’re getting, and the kind you should buy depends on how you plan to use it,” Zumpano says.
- Cooking/culinary grade: The least expensive but still perfectly suitable for cooking. It is only slightly more bitter due to production from leaves lower down on the tea plan or the time it’s harvested.
- Premium grade: Young tea leaves from the top of the tea plant ideal for daily matcha tea drinking or cooking.
- Ceremonial grade: Japanese tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples may use this highest-quality matcha finely ground into a powder by granite stone mills.
When you aren’t looking for high-grade matcha tea for drinking daily, Zumpano shares some of her other favorite recipes that wrap in this healthy, savory green tea powder.
Make a matcha smoothie
Add matcha powder to your favorite smoothie recipes. Or try adding ½ tsp. of matcha to 1 cup of spinach, ½ cup almond milk plus your favorite fruit (banana, berries, apple, pineapple, mango) with ice for a creamy-smooth way to get a dose of antioxidants.
Snack on matcha chia seed pudding
Combine chia seeds with a little almond or coconut milk. Mix in matcha and top with fruit, nuts or coconut.
Slurp up some matcha soup
Add matcha into homemade soups. It’s especially good in cucumber and asparagus soup recipes to deepen the flavor.
Give matcha-mole a go
Sprinkle matcha into your homemade guacamole for a tastier, richer flavor to scoop up with your chia chips.
Just add matcha
- To a spicy tofu scramble.
- In granola and oatmeal recipes.
- In your a.m. coffee to enrich the flavor.
- On popcorn (with a sprinkle of salt).
- With ice water (add a scoop).
Brew a coco-matcha latte
Heat ¾ cup almond or coconut milk. Mix in 1 tsp. matcha for your instant favorite beverage to get your day going (or halfway through). Remember though, matcha is full of caffeine so keep your matcha intake earlier on in the day.
Roll a batch of matcha energy balls
Try this simple no-cook recipe. Combine 2 cups natural, unsalted, chunky peanut butter with 2 Tbsp. ground flax-seed, ½ cup dried apricots + 1 Tbsp. amber honey — then add matcha to taste. Roll out balls on parchment paper and refrigerate for a healthy, high energy snack.
Matcha more things to note
- Even a simple stir fry, oatmeal, dip or ice cream is better with matcha added in because of its umami flavor.
- Matcha is high in caffeine (even more than coffee and other green or black tea!) so consume it wisely.
- Matcha is much better without adding dairy-based milk because that appears to lower its antioxidant benefits.
“Matcha is one of the most versatile flavors out there and adds a pleasant flavor to pretty much anything it goes into,” Zumpano says. “That means you can add its health benefits daily to your diet in so many ways.”