What’s the deal with matcha?
Models are knocking back shots of it at fashion shows, cafés are serving it in lattes while chefs are using it to dye and flavour soups, brownies, soba noodles and even ice-cream. So what is it about matcha that has everyone talking? Here’s all you need to know about this superfood.
What is it?
Matcha is a finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. It is differentiated by its farming and processing, in which the green tea plants are shade-grown - bushes are shaded for for three weeks before harvest - and the stems and veins removed during processing. Matcha is typically made by adding about a teaspoon of powder into a third of a cup of hot water and whisked with a bamboo brush until it froths.
Are there health benefits?
As matcha is made from high-quality tea, and the whole leaves are ingested, it’s a more potent source of nutrients than steeped green tea. In addition to providing small amounts of vitamins and minerals, matcha is rich in polyphenol compounds called catechins, a type of antioxidant. Catechins have links to anti-aging properties and also been tied to protecting against the body against heart disease and cancer, as well as aiding in increased blood sugar regulation and blood pressure reduction.
What about caffeine?
As matcha is made from whole leaves, it may contain around 34mg of caffeine, three times more than a cup of steeped black tea, but not as much as in a cup of brewed coffee (around 60mg). Matcha drinkers claim that unlike the “buzz” that coffee gives, matcha offers more of a sense of “alert calm”. This is probably due to the matcha containing a natural substance known as L-Theanine, which induces relaxation without drowsiness.
Be watchful of consumption
Any potential health benefits of course hinge on how matcha is prepared.
The U.K. National Cancer Institute points out that ready-to-drink matcha tea doesn’t necessarily contain the same amount of nutrients and the addition of other ingredients dilutes the benefits further. Be wary of matcha lattes, smoothies and brownies also, as they may be loaded with sugar and other ingredients. Look for pure, quality matcha and enjoy this superfood in moderation.