Matcha is a superhero of teas. This vibrant, emerald-colored, powdered green tea contains antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that deliver health benefits unsurpassed by other food or drink, including traditional, loose-leaf green tea. In fact, matcha boasts multiple times the nutritional and health benefits in one cup than a cup of loose-leaf green tea. You would have to brew and drink 10 cups of loose-leaf green tea to get the ECGC, antioxidants, L-theanine, vitamin C, carotene, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and overall nutritional value you can get from just one cup of matcha. Matcha protects against a host of illnesses and health problems, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other degenerative issues.
What is matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground powder of green tea leaves, grown and processed in a particular way. The tea bushes of Camellia sinensis destined to become matcha are grown under tents to shade them in the last few weeks before harvest. Thanks to this, the plant produces more concentrated amounts of chlorophyll, theanine and caffeine. Most importantly, matcha contains loads of catechins, of which the best-known is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). As one of the world’s most potent antioxidants, EGCG is suggested to reduce inflammation and protect the heart and brain from disease, and is potentially promising in studies against cancer. It is also one of the strongest anti-angiogenesis compounds out there, which is particularly important to prevention of cancer (as cancer cannot grow without blood vessels, and ECGC might protect against formation of new blood vessels around the tumors).
Grades of matcha
Used for centuries in the traditional Japanese tea rituals, ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality available. It is made by removing all stems from the plant, and only the youngest tea leaves are ground to powder. The resulting powder is vibrant green in color, with a very delicate taste and fine texture. Ceremonial grade matcha is naturally sweet, and due to its mild flavor, it is best enjoyed by itself as addition of milk might smother the tea’s natural flavor.
Premium grade matcha is the next highest quality of matcha powder available. The taste is still excellent and the color is a vibrant green, though not quite as concentrated as the ceremonial grade. It is also more economical, giving you possibly more bang for the buck.
Culinary grade matcha isn’t necessarily a lower quality product, but it is prepared differently for a different use. It is less vibrantly green and a little bit more bitter due to more tannins present in the powder. It has a robust, green grass aroma and it is divided into several subgrades from kitchen grade through ingredient grade to classic grade. It is best used for culinary purposes but of course it can be drunk as well.
Top uses of matcha
1. Drinking "straight"
When we drink regular loose-leaf tea, we discard the leaves after steeping. Matcha tea is made of powdered leaves which are consumed in their entirety. Since none of the rich nutrients are lost, matcha holds the ultimate green tea superpowers for health. I love my matcha either hot or cold. It is wonderful all by itself. Just take 1/2 teaspoon on matcha powder into a cup or a bowl, pour a cup of hot (just before boiling) water. Whisk with the special bamboo matcha whisk to dissolve the powder and make a bit of a foam.
2. As latte or chai
Adding milk (I opt for oat milk or a soy beverage) to matcha makes for a superb latte (it will energize but also mellow you, unlike coffee).
3. In smoothies
I like to throw in some banana, yogurt, a scoop of collagen peptides, a bit of protein powder and matcha and I’ve got a complete breakfast or mid-afternoon snack. Looks and tastes delicious.
4. In baked goods
Matcha is an easy way to add green tea flavor and color to your baked good (for Christmas or St. Patty’s Day). Here it’s best to use culinary grade matcha which is quite earthy and easily pairs with vanilla, ginger, chocolate and lemon-flavored baked goods. Matcha is an excellent addition to cookies, muffins, pancakes, scones and the like.
5.In ice cream
Ever since my first green tea ice cream taste in a Japanese restaurant, I fell in love with that desert. And so, one of my favorite uses of culinary matcha is to make a green tea ice cream. I make it with coconut milk for a dairy free version but it can be also made with regular milk and/or cream.
Drinking matcha protects skin from free radicals, which can cause premature aging, damage skin cells, and lead to dull and sallow look. But not only drinking matcha will help regain and maintain that radiant and healthy glow. You can up the ante and utilize matcha’s highly concentrated vitamins and minerals by using this miracle powder in various skin care products.
Making and enjoying a matcha face mask is like having a mini tea ceremony just for yourself. Just mix equal parts of matcha powder with a cosmetic clay (bentonite for oilier skin and white or French green clay or rhassoul for drier skin), then mix it with water or plain yogurt and a little bit of honey and you’ve got yourself an amazing mask packed with antioxidants, minerals, and exfoliating compounds.
7. Creams and lotions
Matcha can be added to the water phase if making a DIY cream or lotion. Aside from the therapeutic benefits mentioned above, it will impart a nice green tea aroma and a touch of green coloring to the final products.
8. Oil infusions
Since I don’t use essential oils in my eye balms, I love to add caffeine or ECGC to combat dark circles and signs of aging. Infusing a teaspoon of matcha in one ounce of light oil like argan, evening primrose or meadow foam makes for a wonderful oil for the eye area which can be used alone or mixed with a bit of beeswax to make a balm.
9. Soap making
If you crave a vibrant and all-natural coloring agent for your handmade soaps, use matcha. Not only does it look beautiful, it has a faint green-grassy aroma, but it will also be beneficial to your skin.
10. Stress relief
Matcha’s high concentration of the amino acid L-theanine helps reduce stress and promotes a sense of restful focus. Matcha is excellent to combat the stresses of daily life; even better, this calming effect does not induce drowsiness but instead a clear and alert mind with greater focus.
Moreover, L-theanine and EGCG so abundantly present in matcha act on our serotonin and dopamine systems, which can lead to an overall sense of wellbeing and happy outlook. Matcha will also energize you without the crash and jittery side effects of coffee and sugary sodas.
Get the highest quality matcha you can afford
My first ever that I got was poor quality, bitter and brownish green and it turned me off matcha for a while. Then when I tried a ceremonial grade matcha, I was sold and matcha became a daily ritual.
One of my favorite places to get superb quality match is Kari Matcha, which is endorsed by Dr. Weill. I also tried this one and it is amazing (affiliate links)! Once you become hooked, it makes sense to settle on a reputable source and get a subscription wiht a discount, like this one (10% off if you do subscribe and save)
Enjoy and let me me know how you use matcha!