What is matcha? Benefits and uses

Tea Equipment

Like coffee grinds and other tea leaves, matcha should be stored in an airtight container away from heat, humidity and UV rays. You can extend its freshness by storing it in the fridge.

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What is matcha tea good for?

A diverse, nutrient-packed powdered tea, matcha is a popular drink on its own and is added to a variety of beverages and even foods. Matcha has been enjoyed for a long time, but only in the last decade or so has it started to become a more mainstream ingredient in meals and drinks.

To best enjoy matcha, it’s worth understanding its history, properties and plentiful health benefits, then you can explore its potential while embracing the many boons to your system.

What is matcha?

Matcha is a powdered tea. Specifically, it’s a form of green tea, and it also happens to be green itself. When you grind young tea leaves, you can obtain matcha. The powder is then mixed with liquid, such as hot water, whereas with traditional tea, leaves are left to steep in the liquid.

Matcha provides more health benefits than other tea because you’re still consuming the tea leaves, just in powdered form. With traditional tea, you toss out the leaves once you’ve enjoyed the drink.

Matcha’s origins date back to ancient China, and it’s long been drunk around East Asia. Matcha is widely enjoyed and harvested in Japan, where this name translates loosely as “ground tea.” Most consumers tend to agree that Japan makes some of the best matcha in the world. In order to grow and harvest matcha, leaves are kept under shade to maximize chlorophyll production so that the matcha is nutrient-rich and bright green.

Matcha may taste somewhat sweet and creamy when compared to regular tea, depending on your palate and how the tea was harvested. Most notably, it boasts flavors of grass and spinach, though it’s not particularly powerful.

Matcha health benefits

Antioxidants

Matcha tea contains high levels of antioxidants, which offer plenty of health benefits throughout the entire body. Antioxidants can be linked to improving heart health, potentially lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. These antioxidants may also improve brain function, helping to keep you alert and focused while boosting memory and cognition.

Antioxidants may better your circulation, improve liver function and potentially lower your risk of cancer. They’re also known to slow the breakdown of cartilage, which can reduce inflammation and arthritis.

Lastly, matcha consumption may contribute to weight loss.

Caffeine

Matcha tea, like black tea and coffee, features caffeine to give you a boost in the morning and throughout the day. However, the extra energy that matcha provides comes without the jitters that sometimes tag along with coffee consumption. A high contraction of the amino acid L-theanine releases dopamine and serotonin, better helping you relax while still keeping you energized.

What’s more, the amino acid can boost your motivation, focus and concentration, which makes it an ideal beverage for when you’re ready to get working. Whereas coffee gives you a fairly quick boost of energy, matcha tea may take a little longer to go into effect, so plan accordingly.

Mental health

Historically, matcha was frequently used prior to meditation or during tea ceremonies. There is a calming aura to it that not only helps you relax physically but may soothe your mind and spirit. Due to the clarity and focus matcha can help you obtain, it may be enjoyed before or after a yoga or meditation practice. 

Matcha may be seen as a rewarding drink, not unlike a glass of wine. Don’t down it like a cup of coffee to get you going, but instead savor each sip and enjoy it mindfully.

Matcha tea side effects

Like most things you put in your body, it’s important to enjoy matcha tea in moderation. Excessive use can lead to stomach or intestinal issues. It’s advised to avoid drinking more than two cups of matcha a day. Due to its caffeine content, while a cup of matcha may taste delicious in the evening or before bed, it can cause you to stay up longer than you desire if you consume it too late into the day. This is where the calming effect can be misleading since matcha still focuses and stimulates your brain.

Navitas Organics, Organic Matcha Powder, 3 oz (85 g)

Matcha is typically more expensive than traditional looseleaf or bagged tea and coffee. It’s recommended to purchase quality matcha from trusted sources. The tea leaves will absorb what’s in the soil around it before they’re harvested, and if the soil is poorly maintained or contaminated, those toxins may seep into the leaves. Seek out organic matcha to avoid any undesirable additives.

How to enjoy matcha

Matcha Green Tea Powder

One of the benefits of matcha tea is how easy it is to prepare and mix. Since matcha tea isn’t particularly overpowering in taste, it can be combined with a variety of other ingredients in exciting recipes, enjoyed in both drinks and food. 

In drinks

Jade Leaf Traditional Matcha Starter Set

The simplest way to enjoy matcha is to mix it with hot water. Typically you’ll want 1-2 teaspoons of matcha tea to about 4-6 ounces of water. However, this ratio may be adjusted depending on the quality of matcha and your taste preferences. Make sure you whisk or stir thoroughly to avoid any clumps. It’s advised to use a traditional bamboo matcha tea whisk, also known as a chasen.

Nestle Aeroccino3 Milk Frother

Beyond simply mixing with hot water, matcha can be combined with steamed milk to make a latte. If you have a frother at home, you can enjoy this hot beverage daily. Any kind of milk will do, including plant-based alternatives such as cashew or oat milk.

You can also incorporate the matcha powder into smoothies, adding it to a mixture of fruit. If you’re adding it to a cold drink, however, you may still want to mix the matcha in hot water to help it dissolve, although it may not be noticed in some thicker, grittier smoothies. 

Matcha Road, Matcha + Vitamin C

Some companies sell matcha mixes, which are made to be added to specialty drinks and typically feature other nutrients or vitamins in them as well.

In food

Matcha can be sprinkled on certain breakfast options like granola or oatmeal. You can add it to yogurt, stirring the contents until your yogurt turns a bright green color. You can top these dishes off with chia seeds, honey, agave or syrup.

There are plenty of opportunities to use matcha powder in baking. Muffins, cookies, cupcakes, brownies and doughnuts can feature matcha tea for a rich, sweet flavor. Some more ambitious chefs may even venture to add matcha to soup, stir fry or dips such as guacamole.

In skincare products

The antioxidants of matcha tea can battle acne, wrinkles and signs of aging. Some companies sell matcha masks, or you can simply make one at home: combine the powder with honey and rub some on your skin, letting it sit for 15 minutes.

How to shop for matcha

High-quality matcha is fairly easy to spot. The best matcha is finely ground and bright green. Avoid coarse powders or any that may have a dulling to the green tint. Upon tasting, a higher-quality matcha powder will be quite sweet and possess a deep, rich flavor.

Encha Ceremonial Grade First Harvest Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder

Matcha is sold in a bag or jar. Some companies sell matcha tea bags, but these are often mixed with green tea or contain additives, so most users prefer to shy away from the bags to better embrace the diversity and spirit of matcha tea. Matcha may be divided into ceremonial grade, which is ideal for drinking, or into culinary grade, which is best for cooking and baking.

For quality matcha tea, expect to pay $5-$20 for an ounce.

 

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Anthony Marcusa writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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