Matcha tea is the latest nutritional wonder to have hit the western food market during the last year. Slowly but surely, more and more people are beginning to catch on to this magical green drink and discover its miraculous benefits.
But have you tried it for yourself yet? Read on to see just what matcha could do for you.
What is matcha?
Matcha green tea is a variety of ancient Japanese tea that has been enjoyed in that part of the world for decades. Unlike regular green tea, which is made by infusing the leaves in hot water, matcha leaves are ground up into a fine powder, which is then diffused in liquid. This means that none of the nutritional properties are lost and the drinker receives all of the essential goodness.
Matcha tea leaves are also grown under shade, increasing their chlorophyll and amino acid content. It is particularly high in the amino acid L-Theamine, which helps to balance the brain and our sleeping and waking patterns. It is also high in flavenoids, which act as antioxidants and keep your body free from harmful free radicals.
More energy, more antioxidants
You might think that swapping your daily cup of americano for this strange green plant is a no-go. But if it's energy you're looking for, matcha has it all. Whilst the 34mg of caffeine it contains may not measure up to your coffee's 60mg, the energy matcha provides is slow-release, meaning you can feel alert and focused for at least six hours, with no caffeine crash at the end.
And as far as antioxidants go, matcha again comes out on top. With a whopping 1384 ORAC units (the measurement used to rate antioxidant properties of foods), matcha beats many of your favourite antioxidants, such as goji superfoods; dark chocolate; blueberries; broccoli; spinach; pecans and walnuts. (In fact, it is beaten only by ground cloves, which have an ORAC rating of 2903.)
Health benefits of matcha
And not surprisingly, matcha comes with a whole host of other health benefits.
- It is thought to boost metabolism, raising the average person's from 8-10% of their daily energy expenditure, to 35-43%.
- It has cancer fighting properties
- It improves energy, without the highs or lows of other caffeine sources. (This means it won't leave you buzzing at night when you're trying to drift off to sleep.)
- It calms and relaxes
- It is known to improve focus and concentration. (Japanese monks always drink it before they do a long meditation, and Japanese students have been known to drink it when cramming for exams)
- It has been reported to have an appetite-suppressing effect, encouraging the drinker to make smarter eating choices throughout the day
- It cleanses the body
- It boosts the immune system and fights against viruses and bacteria
- It is suitable for everyone, including diabetics, as it won't raise insulin or spike blood sugar levels.
- When buying matcha, go for organic whenever possible as this ensures the leaves have retained their maximum nutrients.
- Not all matcha brands are created equal. In general, opt for matcha that is labelled as ceremonial, organic, and has a bright rich green colour (the greener the better in most cases). We love this amazingly detailed review of several matcha brands by acclaimed food blogger Kathy Patalsky.
- Don't be fooled by sugary sports or health drinks that may contain small amounts of matcha. They are often made with added ingredients and won't have the full effect.
- Matcha is NOT a substitute for a healthy diet, frequent exercise and a regular 7-8 hours of sleep a night. It definitely won't hide those bags under the eyes!
- Try to stick to matcha sourced in Japan rather than China, as Japan is its home country and they have the growth and preparation just right.
The Teapigs Matcha Challenge
Teapigs, the famous tea brewer famous for its collection of organic, high-quality blends, was one of the first brands to offer matcha on the western market. They've been encouraging their tea loving customers to 'take the matcha challenge' every year, usually around January. The challenge is to take matcha every day for two weeks (and lucky bloggers are invited to share their experiences in exchange for a free supply of matcha).
We personally think that the real challenge is being able to afford matcha on a regular basis (just a small 30-40g amount is pricey)! But the good news is you'll only ever need around half a teaspoon to a teaspoon per serving, making it a long lasting splurge.
Over on its site, Teapigs offers all the matcha basics you could ever need, such as shot glasses; portable electric whisks and even traditional Japanese matcha kits.
Ways to take your matcha
For those not keen on matcha's vegetative taste, there are endless ways to incorporate this nutritional powerhouse into your favourite foods, including drinks; cakes and desserts.
Matcha tea latte
Whip up a latte with some non dairy milk and a natural sweetener of your choice (don't use dairy milk, as this can reduce its antioxidant benefits). We love this recipe from Vintage Mixer.
Simply heap a teaspoon of matcha into one of your regular smoothies and whisk together for a refreshing treat. We like this recipe for matcha vanilla smoothies from Love and Lemons.
Yes, matcha can even be enjoyed in ice cream! Use milk of your choice or frozen banana, and some agave or maple syrup to taste. You can even add cocoa or chopped nuts to make it more decadent. Check out this recipe from Vegetarian Times.
Matcha chocolate energy balls
Whip up these delightful bombs of energy using just dates, almonds and cocoa powder. Thanks to The Healthy Maven for the recipe.
Vitalife is another match tea brand you could try, they're currently available to buy via Holland & Barrett, with prices starting from £16.99 for high-grade product.