You see matcha everywhere, in everything. You know it’s healthy—it’s green tea!—and you’ve even picked up a matcha latte or added a pinch of matcha to a smoothie to see what all the fuss is about. But you’re still not sure: what is all the fuss about? Is it a real-deal superfood, or another fading fad? Does the quality really vary that much from blend to blend? Those answers and a lot more below in this guide. Let’s demystify matcha!
Before we dig in, quick primer: Matcha is in fact a variety of green tea, and has been a major part of Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries. It’s different from other green teas in a few main ways: growing method (shaded from the sun), preparation (ground into powder and whisked into hot water) and consumption (the whole leaf!). All of these differences contribute to matcha’s superstar status. Which brings us to...
Why You Should Love It
Yes, the hype is warranted. A high-quality matcha is bursting with benefits. Among them:
Clean energy: If like so many of us, you have a regular coffee habit, you know that while coffee definitely peps you up, the pep can be too powerful. You go from super tired to super wired, followed by a crash. Not helpful. In comparison, matcha has half the caffeine of coffee (30g vs. 60g per serving). It also contains L-theanine, a relaxation-inducing amino acid that curbs the caffeine crescendo (source). With matcha, you get the energy without the jitters.
Calm concentration: The caffeine + L-theanine combo is also great for improving concentration. Caffeine is long known to boost cognitive performance, but comes at a cost of the energy roller coaster. Matcha offers the boost of caffeine with the chill of L-theanine for sustained, stable focus while minimizing stress levels. (source).
Reduced stress: Studies show that drinking green tea lowers stress (source) (due to it’s amino acid partner in crime L’theanine). Plus, as any tea drinker will tell you, the ritual of sipping a warm, nurturing beverage is incredibly soothing.
Boosted metabolism: Matcha kicks up weight loss from multiple angles, many of which stem from EGCG and caffeine. EGCG is a catechin (a type of antioxidant) that boosts metabolism and enhances the effects of some fat-burning hormones. Caffeine supports fat burning too, and can also help you crush your workout. Both occur naturally in matcha, and interestingly, they appear to work better together (source).
Natural anti-aging: Much of matcha’s anti-aging effects are thanks to its outstanding levels of antioxidants (100 times that of standard green tea!). EGCG is a standout here again, fighting wrinkles and improving skin structure (source). Matcha also contains chlorophyll—that’s what gives it its beautiful shade of green—which protects against sun damage and environmental impurities which is why the greener the better (we will get into that next with how important quality is!) (source).
Why Quality Is So Important
You’ve probably seen the origin and quality grade emphasized when you see matcha or matcha-based products (if you don’t, you may want to skip and save your money). The reason people make a big deal about these qualities is that they really, really matter.
All matcha isn’t created equal, and a low-quality source will significantly reduce the potency of those amazing benefits we just covered. Here’s what to look for when you’re choosing your matcha:
The matcha mania is justified, and adding a top-quality matcha drink to your regimen is a deliciously effective way to upgrade your energy, performance, body, skin and overall wellness. Cheers!
Color: The greener and more vibrant, the better. Brown matcha—what you’ll often find in packaged brands, grocery stores and most coffee shops—means less chlorophyll, fewer antioxidants. No thanks!
Source: Japan is known for top-quality matcha, so if your tea has Japanese origins, that’s a good sign.
Grade: You’re looking for high-quality, organic and ideally, ceremonial-grade matcha. Ceremonial-grade means what it sounds like: it’s high enough quality to be used in Japanese tea ceremonies. When buying a matcha latte at your local cafe, ask if it is organic ceremonial grade - 99% of the time, sadly it isn’t and your $6-10 matcha latte just lost all its nutritional value and is likely loaded with pesticides.
Price: It’s not a hard and fast rule, but generally, the higher the quality, the higher the price. With matcha, you definitely get what you pay for.
Sugar Additives: Beware - most matcha lattes at almost any cafe is loaded with sugar - sometimes as high as 54g at the world’s largest coffee company! Even the powdered latte companies can add a lot of sugar or worse, chemical sugars. Make sure to always read your labels and ask questions.