In this article well be talking about Matcha green-tea powder its beneficial components and a comparison to green tea and coffee.
Matcha is a type of powdered green tea that comes from the same plant that produces all black, white and green tea the camellia sinensis species.
While there are many ornamental flowering varieties in the genus camellia this particular species is known to have the highest alkaloid content and used most exclusively for tea production.
The traditional preparation of matcha is a spiritual activity with deep seeded roots in Japanese Zen Buddhism and Chinoy oh.
The Japanese tea ceremony this is a meditative and highly focused ritual of preparing serving and consuming matcha tea that has evolved as a form of ceremonial practice since the 12th century.
Known for its rich smooth and full-bodied green leafy flavor the basic steps for making matcha involved vigorously whisking the powder into hot water until a frothy to dense foam is created.
The three customary tools for making matcha include a bamboo whisk or Chasan a scoop or Chashaku and ceramic matcha bowl or Chawan. Different than green tea infusions, when you drink a cup of matcha tea you’re consuming the whole leaf and all its beneficial properties it is considered one of the healthiest of the green tea varieties for this reason.
The powder is commonly used as a flavor enhancer in many Japanese foods and likewise have become very popular as an ingredient in recent times in numerous western-style dessert and drink recipes.
Today there are hundreds of brands online offering matcha green tea powder and their marketing is not just for tea consumption.
The green camellia sinensis leaves used to produce matcha are different than other types of tea in that they are shade grown for about three to four weeks before they are harvested. This slows down their growth and helps to increase the chlorophyll content producing a darker and deeper green color.
This technique also imparts a higher concentration of other nutrients compared to most tea plants grown in direct sunlight.
The unrolled dried leaves produced from this shade growing process are called Tencha, when the leaves are powdered they’re called matcha. After the leaves are harvested they are briefly steamed prepared dried and usually the veins and stems are removed.
High-quality talc like matcha powder is made via a slow stone grinding process which produces a very fine powder.
The term Matcha in fact means “finely powdered tea” powdered leaves are known for their bright Jade to lime green color.
The powder created offers a smooth texture when whisked in a hot water that is ideally at a temperature around 176 degrees Fahrenheit. In Japanese tradition it is prepared as a thick Koicha tea or a thin Usucha a tea using more or less powder per ratio of water.
Most all commercial Tencha tea is produced in the Kyoto prefecture of Japan famous for its quality shade-grown tea cultivation and specific cultivars used to make matcha green tea powder.
Further on we will discuss the difference between culinary grade matcha versus ceremonial grade matcha the two most popular varieties.
Matcha green tea powder contains antioxidants like catechins as we mentioned previously, one thing about consuming matcha tea compared to other green teas is that you’re drinking the whole leaf and therefore ingesting health enhancing nutrients simultaneously.
In addition the overall beneficial properties in Tencha tea leaves increase significantly because of the way it shade-grown.
One of these compounds common to the Camellia sinensis species are the polyphenols known as catechins.
While they are also found in other foods like Cacao and berries, green tea is known to be one of the highest sources of these natural plant-based antioxidants.
The four major catechins in green tea and especially the Tencha leaf matcha variety are epigallocatechin (EGC), epicatechin (EC), epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), and epicatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).”
The most studied, abundant and active catechin is epicgallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) and it can constitute up to 60% of the green tea leaf.
In a 2017 review the EGCG’s in green tea extracts were acknowledged for their potential protective effects on a number of different health influences.
In comparison to regular green tea one study identified that the concentration of EGCG and matcha tea is at least 3 times higher than most green teas and even up to 137 times greater than some China green tips tea tested.
In general catechins have been researched helpful for inflammatory issues such as inflammatory bowel disease and EGCG is also known a beneficial influence on vascular and metabolic actions.
Likewise the catechins present in green tea are recognized for their antimicrobial properties and suggested useful for conditions such as periodontal disease.
Matcha is commonly marketed as a useful adjunct to the diet for those looking to lose excess body weight.
This is not only due to the caffeine content but also because catechins are additionally known to help boost metabolism which can help to burn body fat.
Studies on matcha green tea powder show that catechins are relatively heat stable but can be reduced by 20% when heated to 356 degrees Fahrenheit. However this is a temperature that is much higher than that used when preparing a traditional cup of matcha.
Matcha teas caffeine content and comparison to green tea and coffee
Matcha contains the purine alkaloid known as caffeine along with small amounts of theobromine and theophylline.
The amount of caffeine in matcha tea is higher than the same portion of steeped green tea leaves sometimes up to three times greater.
One teaspoon or two grams serving size of matcha green tea powder Whisked into eight fluid ounces of hot water is known to contain approximately 70 milligrams of caffeine. This amount can of course vary on quality and type of matcha consumed. Brewed green tea is usually between 25 to 50 milligrams of caffeine depending on variety.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine a 1/4 to 1/2 TSP serving might be more appropriate. This would equate to about 17 to 35 milligrams of caffeine. Other options may also include non caffeinated teas that act more naturally as herbal stimulants.
The average cup of coffee is about 95 milligrams of caffeine per 8 fluid ounces. Typically the average cup of matcha is a little over 2/3 the amount of coffee and is often considered moderate by comparison.
One of the frequently claimed benefits of matcha is that it provides caffeine without the nervous jittery side effects of coffee.
While this might have something to do with the fact that you’re consuming the fibrous whole leaf with your tea in effect slowing its absorption rate other evidence suggests another component is involved.
Matchas L-theanine content helps to balance caffeine. Matcha green tea powder is popular for its ability to encourage a calm yet alert state inhibiting some of the agitating side effects associated with other caffeinated substances such as coffee.
This is due to one of the powders major amino acid constituents called Theanine or L-Theanine.
L-Theanine is found primarily in the Bay Bolete edible mushroom species, a camellia sinensus plant.
This compound is the most abundant non protein amino acid in the leaves along with small amounts of arginine and glutamic acid.
These substances are what gives matcha is increased Umami like flavor. Shade growing Tencha leaves concentrates the L-Theanine content and thus matcha can contain up to five times the amount as regular green tea.
L-Theanine has been shown to facilitate the generation of alpha waves in the brain, promoting a relaxed state without causing drowsiness.
Some individuals report that it helps to promote heightened concentration and similarly in some research the L-Theanine and caffeine combination in green tea was found to have a relaxing impact with a beneficial outcome on sustained attention, memory and suppression of distraction.
Theanine is able to cross the blood-brain barrier and is believed to support the increase of Dopamine, Serotonin and GABA levels in the brain and is found to have a potential anti-stress benefit.
It is known to be utilized historically as a type of Shen tonic by Zen Buddhist to aid in meditation practice as it encourages a peaceful state of mind.
In the book of tea Japanese 19th century scholar Kakuzo Okakura also describes its use by Buddhist monks to prevent drowsiness during their long hours of meditation.
While Daoist he writes “claimed it as an important ingredient in the elixir of immortality.”
The L-Theanine derived from green tea with its researched anti stress response was shown to have probable benefits for patients with major depression.
In 2018 there was research conducted at the University of Shizuoka Japan analyzing the stress-reducing effect of Matcha on humans as well as mice. It shows that Matcha intake of 3 grams in 500 milliliters of hot water, had a stress-reducing influence on students tested.
Likewise mice given 33 milligrams per kilogram of Matcha showed significant suppression of adrenal enlargement a critical stress response organ.
What does Matcha taste like?
The unique flavor of Matcha green tea powder is in part due to its higher amino acid content which generally creates a mildly sweet and pleasant bitter green leafy flavor with a slight astringency.
If you enjoy the flavor of green tea you will most likely find a cup of Matcha very appealing to the taste buds.
Keep in mind not all matcha is created equal, taste qualities can be largely affected by many variables such as specialized cultivar utilized, season of harvest as well as unique artisanal Japanese growing methods.
All of these influences can alter subtle flavors reduce bitterness and improve texture when infused.
While there are no standard requirements for matcha green tea powder quality evaluation is often based on several factors which predominantly include taste, aroma color and texture.
Ceremonial grade versus Culinary
There are essentially two types most widely marketed Ceremonial grade and Culinary grade.
Ceremonial grade is considered the highest quality Matcha and as the name implies is the one traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies.
The leaves are sourced from the young top part of the plant rather than the bottom. After drying the leaves are stone ground very finely over a number of hours which ultimately creates a smoother tea.
It is described to have a milder taste and increased Umami flavor characteristics. This type is often much more expensive than lower grades.
Culinary grade is the type of Matcha powder frequently used for less ritualistic purposes as a tea or as a culinary ingredient addition in dessert or drink recipes.
The leaves are sourced from the older lower part of the plant it is distinguished for its slightly stronger green flavor and can be coarser in particle size. If matcha powder doesn’t specify grade, it is usually a culinary variety.
For more on other nutritional components how to use or how to prepare matcha please read this article.
For additional in depth info for the best sources of Matcha and Matcha making supplies please visit our recommended Matcha products page.