All about matcha (with recipes)

by Tim W. Shaw March 01, 2020

All About Matcha

Matcha is a distinctively flavoured tea which can be used to create hot beverages, smoothies or added to food. It is made from high-grade, whole green tea leaves which are milled into a fine powder. Unlike a cup of green tea, when you make matcha, the tea powder stays in the beverage and is consumed along with the liquid.

The unique cultivation and processing methods used to produce matcha deliver higher concentrations of caffeine, chlorophyll, nutrients and antioxidants. Consequently, regular consumption of matcha has been found to have several benefits including increased brain function, improved energy levels, better heart health, and it has potential as an aid to weight loss.

What does matcha taste like?

Cup of MatchaMatcha has a flavour that is as fresh and vibrant as its colour. The dominant taste is similar to iron-rich greens like spinach or kale. In lattes or other more dilute drinks, it is deliciously smooth with a mild savoury edge.

Matcha is one of those tastes that shouldn’t work so well but incredibly, does. If you have it in higher concentrations, the flavour intensifies. It becomes more potent and reminiscent of sea-vegetables like nori or kombu.

The stronger you make a cup of matcha, the more it will remind you of strong green tea. There is a bitterness that comes through hints of tannins and caffeine.

Ultimately, your matcha experience is an intensely personal one, some love the taste and add it to everything, and others prefer it disguised by other flavours. 

Matcha vs green tea

Matcha vs green teaMatcha and green tea come from the same plant, but the end products are vastly different. To make green tea the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant are harvested, dried and steeped in boiling water. The resulting brew is strained to remove the leaves.

While you can buy green teas made from both high and low-grade leaves, matcha is only ever produced from those of the best quality. Plants destined to become matcha are placed under covers to keep them from direct sunlight for thirty days before harvest. As a result, they produce higher levels of chlorophyll which gives the tea its vivid green colour. 

This process of ‘shade-growing’ also changes the chemical make-up of the tea and boosts the potency of the active ingredients. When ready, the leaves are picked, steamed then dried. Once they are dry, they are ground into a fine powder. 

This powder is then added to hot water or milk to make a drink or even used in smoothies or recipes. Because the matcha powder stays in the drink or food, it provides higher levels of nutrients than standard green tea:

 

A cup of matcha (237ml)

 A cup of green tea (237ml)

Caffeine

280mg

35mg

Calories

4.5 – 6 (Not including additional milk or sweeteners)

2.45

Catechins

605mg

188mg

EGCG

26.26mg – 35mg

0.08mg-0.1g

L-Theanine

97.5mg

9mg

Protein

1,445mg

3mg


These values vary depending on the quality and strength of the tea but indicate the difference in nutritional value. 

Catechins - These are potent antioxidants that can neutralise free radicals in your body. One of the types of catechins present in matcha is known as EGCG. It is thought to prevent the damage done to DNA and cells that can occur from ageing and chronic conditions. 

L-Theanine - The amino acid L-Theanine has been found to support relaxation and reduce stress levels in some study participants (Nobre et al., 2008).

When is the best time of the day to drink matcha?

As you can see, matcha contains a considerable amount of caffeine and theanine. Those who are sensitive to stimulants may find it powerfully, energising. As a result, it is advisable to only drink it before 6pm.

Benefits of matcha

Because matcha is ground from the whole tea leaf, its beneficial ingredients are concentrated and wholly ingested. This means that while matcha shares many beneficial characteristics with green tea and green tea extract, in most cases it is more powerful.

Currently, the studies conducted with matcha have been small scale or involved mice participants; however, the results have given strong indications of a range of excellent benefits.

Reduced cell damage from free radicals

Matcha and CellsFree radicals are linked to several signs of ageing and many diseases and chronic conditions. They are caused by instabilities in the atoms of some substances and can inflict oxidative damage on cells (Villines, 2017). This damage occurs naturally over time, but they can be accelerated by lifestyle choices such as smoking and diets high in fried foods.

A 2016 study observed mice who were given small amounts of matcha alongside a variety of different diets. The results showed that oxidative stress caused by a diet high in fat could be reversed by regular intake of matcha (Xu et al.)

These antioxidant properties mean that matcha may also be able to prevent oxidative damage to skin cells and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. The direct application of EGCG to the skin has been described as seeming to be a “fountain of youth for skin cells” (Medical College of Georgia, 2003).

Improved brain function

Matcha and brain tennis playerMatcha contains high levels of caffeine which is a known nootropic. These are substances that improve brain function without causing adverse effects.

The combination of caffeine and other natural ingredients in the matcha have been found to improve attention, memory and reaction time. A study published in 2017 used beverages and bars containing matcha and assessed any improvement in brain function.

23 people were involved in the research, and they were observed in a range of situations and tasks:

After consuming the matcha products compared to placebo versions, there were mainly significant improvements in tasks measuring basic attention abilities and psychomotor speed in response to stimuli over a defined period of time.

Protects main organs like heart and liver

Matcha and heartSeveral studies have been conducted showing the effect of green tea and green tea extract in protecting organs such as the heart and liver. Matcha has many of the same active ingredients as green tea but in more significant concentrations. For this to be conclusive, further research needs to be done using matcha.

In 2016 a study conducted on patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, green tea extract was found to lower the levels of liver enzymes significantly. The enzymes are a marker of liver damage, so it was concluded that:

According to these results, it can be claimed that GTE prescribed can be considered a way to improve serum levels of Liver enzymes in NAFLD patients (Pezeshki et al.).

Other studies have found the green tea can reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) and triglycerides (Zheng et al. 2011). LDL cholesterol is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol'. Having high cholesterol can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Has potential to support weight loss

Again, much of the current research surrounding matcha and weight loss was conducted with green tea. But because of their similarities, this is a strong indication that matcha shares these properties and may enhance them.

Research has found that taking green tea extract alongside exercise has been noted as increasing fat burning by up to 17% (Venables, 2008). Another study linked it to an increased expenditure of energy and oxidation of fat in 24 hours (Berube-Parent, 2005).

Why is it important to get organic matcha?

Organic Matcha FieldThe food and nutrients used by a plant are drawn up through the roots and stem into the leaves. Any compounds or chemicals in the soil can build up in the leaves. Because matcha contains the whole leaf, when not farmed organically, matcha is known to accumulate high levels of heavy metals, pesticides and fluoride (Manteigaet al., 1997).

Organically farmed matcha will reduce the risk of ingesting pesticides and provide a safer brew. Because of the power of some the active ingredients present in matcha, it is recommended to stick to the equivalent of two cups a day. This is to minimise the levels of natural substances from building up in your system (Jimenez-Saenz & Martinez-Sanchez, 2006).

The history of matcha

Matcha history Kissa YojokiMatcha, in the powdered form we recognise today, first reached Japan in the 12th Century. Zen monk Eisai travelled to China and was fascinated by their use of powdered tea. He observed it used in ceremonies and as a key ingredient in energising and healing practices. He was so impressed he took tea seeds with him when he returned home to Japan.

This wasn’t the first arrival of tea plants in Japan, but it was the first time they were destined for matcha style cultivation. Eisai didn’t just bring the seeds; he brought tea ceremony and rituals for use in his Buddhist practices. This became so integral to his life and teaching that he wrote a book called Kissa Yojoki, which roughly means ‘Drinking tea for health’.

The tea produced from Eisai’s seeds was considered to be the highest quality available in Japan. Because it was only grown in limited quantities, it became seen as a symbol of luxury and status. Later, in the 1500s Zen students and masters combined various elements of other tea ceremonies to create the current one that can still be witnessed in Japan today.

This combination of history, ritual and health benefits meant that matcha has been popular for centuries. Now, knowledge of its distinctive flavour and revitalising effects have propelled it into global popularity.

Matcha recipes

The colour, flavour and effect of matcha make it the perfect addition to a wide range of beverages and foods.

Do I need a matcha whisk?

A small whisk is the best way to ensure a smooth brew. Because matcha is in the form of a powder, if not treated carefully, it can form powdery lumps which ruin the flavour and texture. To prevent this, we recommend using a small sieve and a matcha whisk.

For the best results, you can choose a small battery-powered frother or a bamboo matcha whisk. A handheld electric frother is the quickest and easiest way to get a pleasing result, but bamboo whisks are the traditional way to produce a smooth texture.

How to make matcha tea

matcha teaMatcha tea is quick and easy but involves steps that are not needed when preparing standard green or black tea.

Ingredients

½ tsp to 2 tsp matcha
50 to 250mls hot water

Use a matcha whisk or small frother if possible.

Method

  1. Using a small sieve add your matcha powder to a cup. ½ a teaspoon is a good amount to start with, but you can increase the strength as you become accustomed to it.
  2. Gently pour hot water into the cup. It is best when just below the boiling point, and you can use between 50 and 250mls depending on how strong you like it.
  3. Now whisk the mixture vigorously. Battery-powered matcha whisks are the quickest and easiest way, but bamboo whisks are the traditional way to produce a smooth texture.
  4. Now, enjoy your matcha. Remember that the stimulating effect of matcha makes it best suited to be drunk in the morning or early afternoon.

Chilled matcha coffee

Ingredients

1 tsp matcha
2 tbsp hot water
3 tbsp agave syrup
Ice
¼ cup of non-dairy milk (soy or cashew milk have flavours that work well with this recipe)
1 shot of espresso


Method

  1. Using a small sieve, add the matcha to your cup.
  2. Add the hot water and syrup then whisk thoroughly until completely smooth.
  3. Add a small handful of ice cubes to the cup.
  4. Pour the non-dairy milk over the ice.
  5. Finally, add the espresso to the cup and enjoy.

Dairy-free matcha latte

Matcha LatteThis is the best way to have matcha first thing in the morning. It’s quick, effective and produces a tasty brew that will get you ready for a busy day.

Ingredients

1 tsp matcha
2 tsp sugar (increase or decrease according to your preference)
3 tbsp warm water
250ml dairy-free milk (soy milk works well but for a really creamy latte try cashew milk)

Method

  1. Carefully sieve the matcha green tea powder into a mug or cup. Then add the sugar.
  2. Add the water and whisk vigorously until the sugar is completely dissolved and the thick liquid is smooth.
  3. Warm the milk in a microwave or small saucepan and pour into the cup.
  4. Whisk it vigorously until it is lightly frothed and a pale green colour.
  5. Enjoy your latte.

Ready-made matcha latte

Matcha is excellent on its own but by combining it with other beneficial ingredients you can unlock even more potential. To benefit from the combined power of matcha and collagen, Planet Paleo has produced an easy to make blended powder. One heaped tablespoon can be added to hot water or milk for a tasty morning beverage.

This combination matches the antioxidant-rich matcha with bovine sourced collagen type I and III peptides to help improve energy levels, deepen sleep, regenerate tissue and smooth your skin.

Matcha chocolate

Matcha chocolateThis a great way to add matcha to your daily routine. It’s quick to make, and the sweetness of the chocolate perfectly complements the flavour of the matcha.

Ingredients

1/4 cup cocoa butter
1/3 cup icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon coconut milk powder (or almond milk powder)
1/4 teaspoon matcha green tea powder 

Method

  1. Using a bain-marie, gently melt the cocoa butter.
  2. Sieve in the icing sugar, coconut milk powder and matcha.
  3. Stir until the mixture is completely smooth.
  4. Add the mixture to a chocolate mould.
  5. Refrigerate for 4 hours and enjoy!

Matcha sponge cake recipe (vegan and gluten-free)

Matcha sponge cakeThis is an excellent recipe for a tasty matcha sponge. Once you’ve mastered this the only limit is your imagination. Use your favourite vegan frosting to turn it into something genuinely spectacular.

Ingredients

1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup dairy-free milk
Juice of 1 lemon
8 tablespoons agave or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup ground almonds
1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (you could try almond flour, buckwheat flour or oat flour)
2 heaped teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons matcha powder 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180 ˚C.
  2. Place the coconut oil in a bowl and melt in the microwave.
  3. Now, add the milk, lemon juice, syrup, vanilla, salt and ground almonds.
  4. Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and matcha powder and mix.
  5. Spoon the mixture into two 7inch greased baking tins lined with baking paper. 
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes then check the cake is thoroughly cooked by inserting a skewer. If it comes out clean, it is ready to be taken out of the oven.
  7. Once out of the oven, remove the cakes from the tins and put them on a wire rack to cool.
  8. They can be decorated with vegan buttercream or fruit and jam of your choice.

Conclusion

Matcha is a nutrient-rich form of green tea that offers an incredible range of health benefits. Best taken in the morning, it is the perfect beverage to start your day with purpose and focus.

Whether you enjoy its unique flavour or not, it is so versatile it can be eaten or drunk in a variety of enjoyable ways. With such incredible benefits, matcha is destined to become a regular part of our culture and daily routine. 

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References

Berube-Parent, S. et al. (September, 2005). Effects of encapsulated green tea and Guarana extracts containing a mixture of epigallocatechin-3-gallate and caffeine on 24 h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in men. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16176615

Bjarnadottir, A. (February, 2019). Matcha — Even More Powerful Than Regular Green Tea? Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/matcha-green-tea

British Heart Foundation, (N.D.). High Cholesterol - Causes, Symptoms & Treatments. Retrieved from https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/high-cholesterol

Dietz, C. et al. (September, 2017). An intervention study on the effect of matcha tea, in drink and snack bar formats, on mood and cognitive performance. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28784536

Douglas, G. (September, 2016). How many calories does a cup of matcha contain? Retrieved from https://medium.com/@grace.douglas743/how-many-calories-does-a-cup-of-matcha-contain-5bb377e0b4a4

GotMatcha (N.D.). Matcha and Caffeine. Retrieved from https://www.gotmatcha.com/matcha-and-caffeine/

Ikeda. (N.D.) Matcha Nutrition and Health Benefits. Retrieved from https://ikedamatcha.com/blogs/tea-news/matcha-powder-health-benefits

Jimenez-Saenz, M. and Martinez-Sanchez, M. (March, 2006). Acute hepatitis associated with the use of green tea infusions. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16427718

Link R. (October, 2017). 7 Proven Ways Matcha Tea Improves Your Health. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-matcha-tea

Matchaful, (N.D.). The History of Matcha. Retrieved from https://www.matchaful.com/pages/the-history-of-matcha

Medical College of Georgia, (2003). Green Tea Linked to Skin Cell Rejuvenation. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/04/030425071800.htm

Nobre et al. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Retrieved from http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/APJCN/17%20Suppl%201/167.pdf

Pezeshki, A. et al. (2016). The Effect of Green Tea Extract Supplementation on Liver Enzymes in Patients with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4763469/

ScienceDirect, (2020). Nootropic. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/nootropic

Sosen, T. (N.D.). Matcha an Initial Encounter. Retrieved from https://specialtyteaalliance.org/world-of-tea/matcha-introduction/

Venables, M. et al. (March, 2008). Green tea extract ingestion, fat oxidation, and glucose tolerance in healthy humans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18326618

Villines, Z. (July 29, 2017). How do free radicals affect the body? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652

Xu, P. et al. (January, 2016). The effects of the aqueous extract and residue of Matcha on the antioxidant status and lipid and glucose levels in mice fed a high-fat diet. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26448271

Zheng, X. et al. (August, 2011). Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21715508



Tim W. Shaw
Tim W. Shaw

Author

Tim W. Shaw writes extensively about CBD oil, cannabis and other groundbreaking food supplements. He and his wife share their home with two daughters and a lifetime’s collection of books.


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