Should You Drink Matcha Tea?

From TIME - March 8, 2018

While green tea has long been a recommended part of a healthy diet, another brighter shade is becoming increasingly popular: matcha. Heres what you should know about the beverage.

What is matcha tea?

Matcha is a type of green tea made by taking young tea leaves and grinding them into a bright green powder. The powder is then whisked with hot water. This is different from regular green tea, where the leaves are infused in water, then removed. Drinking brewed green tea is a bit like boiling spinach, throwing away the spinach and just drinking the water, says Louise Cheadle, co-author of The Book of Matcha and co-owner of the tea company teapigs. You will get some of the nutrients, but youre throwing away the best bit. With matcha, youre drinking the whole tea leaves.

Matcha leaves are grown on green tea bushes kept under shade. The shade increases the amount of chlorophyll content in the leaves, which is what makes them bright green and full of nutrients. The leaves are picked by hand and the stems and veins are removed. According to Cheadle, the leaves are traditionally ground by granite stones into a super fine powder. It takes an hour to grind the leaves, and its done in the dark to protect the nutrients, she says.

The finest matcha comes from Japan, where it has been grown for centuries and forms part of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, she adds.

What are matcha tea benefits?

Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, like helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and even encouraging weight loss. However, its important to note that much of this research isnt from clinical trials that show green tea causes a benefit. Instead, its largely from population-based studies, where researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and compare their health outcomes to groups that dont drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Matcha is even less studied than brewed green tea.

Still, there have been some interesting findings. A 2014 study looked at 25 randomized controlled trials on the link between tea and blood pressure and reported that when people drank teaespecially green teafor 12 weeks, their blood pressure dropped significantly. A 2011 study reported that drinking green tea appeared to be linked with lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol, but more research is needed. Because matcha is a type of green tea, they may share similar benefits, but theres not enough research to make that claim.

How does matcha compare to green tea?

Both regular brewed green tea and matcha contain caffeine, but less than coffee or black tea. Matcha appears to contain more caffeine that regular brewed green tea.

It also appears to contain more EGCG., an independent testing group, tested matcha products in 2015 and found that matcha provided 17 mg to 109 mg of EGCG per serving. By comparison, the average brewed green tea provides 25 to 86 mg per serving. While matcha powders contained more catechins per gram than brewed green tea, it was substantially more expensive: The lowest cost matcha powder was available at the time for $2.31 for 200mg of EGCG, compared to 27 cents for the same amount from brewed green tea. Compared to the powders, matcha in tea bags provides significantly less EGCG.

What does matcha taste like?

Should you be concerned about lead in matcha tea?

How do you make matcha tea?

Are there side effects from matcha tea?


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