Matcha tea has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. An integral part of the Japanese tea ceremonies, this powdered green tea is now being used in lattés, ice-creams, milkshakes, and even cakes. Matcha is rich in antioxidants, which provide it with numerous health benefits, including improved heart health, better brain function, cancer prevention, and weight loss. Let us learn more about this matcha and its many health benefits.
What is matcha tea?
Matcha is essentially powdered green tea. It comes from the Camellia sinensis plant but is grown differently. Around two weeks before the tea leaves are to be harvested, the farmers build structures around the plants to shade them. This process increases the chlorophyll production, increases the amino acid content, and makes the leaves sweeter, softer, and brighter. Once these tea leaves are harvested, they are quickly steamed and dried and put into ovens for around 20 minutes. The stems and twigs are then removed, and the leaves are ground into a fine powder.
You can make matcha tea by mixing a teaspoon of matcha powder into one-third cup of hot water, and then whisking it with a bamboo brush until it froths. With matcha tea, you are drinking the actual leaves, so you get much more antioxidants and caffeine. Matcha tea is creamier and sweeter than regular green tea. You may also taste and smell the grassiness in this tea.
History of matcha tea
The origins of the matcha tea can be traced back to the Tang dynasty in China. During this time, the tea leaves were steamed and formed into bricks for easy transportation. These bricks were then roasted and pulverized to form a powder, which you could then mix with water and salt. The Song dynasty made this form of tea popular in the ensuing years. Eisai, a Japanese Buddhist monk, spent his life studying Buddhism in China. When he returned to China, he brought with him tea leaves and the method of preparing powdered green tea.
Eisai then planted these seeds on the temple grounds in Kyoto, the home of the Kamakura Shogun. Here this tea was produced in limited quantities and regarded as a luxurious status symbol. The Zen Buddhists developed a new method of cultivating the green tea plant. They developed matcha tea by growing the green tea plant under shaded conditions, which gives this tea its additional health benefits.
Health benefits of matcha tea
1. Rich in antioxidants
Green tea is rich in a class of antioxidants known as catechins. Matcha tea contains mega doses of these catechins. According to the Department of Chemistry, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, matcha tea contains 137 times the amount of epigallocatechin gallate than regular green tea (1).
These catechins help prevent cell damage and reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. According to a 2016 study from China, when researchers gave mice matcha supplements, it lowered their blood glucose levels and promoted lipid metabolism and antioxidant activities (2).
2. Prevents cancer
Matcha tea also has significant anti-cancer properties. Studies show that this tea provides therapeutic potential by mediating the metabolic reprogramming of cancer cells (3). According to a study on rats by the Boston University School of Medicine, green tea extract can reduce tumor size and the rate of proliferation of breast cancer cells.
This benefit is attributed to the presence of many polyphenols, including epigallocatechin-3 gallate, which possesses antioxidant qualities (4). Studies have found that ECGC in matcha tea is effective against prostate, skin, lung, and liver cancer cells as well (5, 6, 7).
3. Protects against heart disease
Powerful antioxidants in matcha tea, especially EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), can help prevent atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque in the arteries. Studies have shown that green tea can reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides in the body (8).
According to another study that included 90,914 Japanese between the age of 40 to 69 years, researchers found that consumption of green tea may reduce the risk of death from heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and respiratory disease (9).
4. Boosts immunity
Matcha tea helps to fortify the immune system and limit the growth of viruses and bacteria in the body. The antioxidants in matcha like EGCG are effective in fighting against various bacterial and viral infections.
According to a 2013 study from Germany, EGCG has anti-infective properties that can defend against different viruses like Retriviridae, Orthomyxoviridae, and Flaviviridae and pathogens like human immunodeficiency virus, influenza A virus and hepatitis C virus. Further, EGCG interferes with the replication cycle of DNA viruses like hepatitis B, herpes simplex, and adenovirus (10).
5. Protects liver health
Several studies have found that drinking matcha tea can help protect the health of your liver. According to research by the University of Toyama, Japan, when rats with type 2 diabetes were given matcha for 16 weeks, it reduced the progression of renal and hepatic damage (11).
During another study, when patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease took green tea extract supplements for 90 days, thy showed a significant reduction in live enzymes. Elevated liver enzyme levels are a sign of liver damage (12).
6. Helps you stay alert and focused
Matcha can also help enhance brain function and help you stay alert and focused. During a study from Wageningen University, The Netherlands, the participants consumed either matcha tea, matcha tea bar (each containing 4grams matcha ), placebo tea, or placebo tea bar. The results showed that the participants that consumed matcha showed improvements in memory, reaction time, and attention (13).
As compared to other teas, matcha tea is rich in both caffeine and L-theanine. Studies have shown that L-theanine and caffeine, in combination, are highly beneficial for improving performance on cognitively demanding tasks (14).
7. Weight loss
If you are trying to slim down, you must add matcha tea to your daily diet. The EGCG and caffeine in matcha work together to boost your metabolism and increase the number of calories you burn. According to a study by The University of Birmingham, consuming green tea extract along with moderate-intensity exercise, can increase fat burning by 17% (15).
Another study from Japan showed that when participants consumed green tea high in catechins for 12 weeks, it led to a reduction in body fat, systolic blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol (16). Matcha tea contains EGCG, which is known to increase cholecystokinin, a hormone responsible for making you feel full. So drinking matcha tea can help you feel full and prevent snacking.
8. Strengthens bones
Macha tea benefits bone health more than other teas because it is not oxidized or fermented. The antioxidants present in green tea protect against bone loss and osteoporosis (17). The polyphenols present in green tea diminish bone loss caused by chronic inflammation. The epigallocatechin in green tea stimulates the activation of an enzyme necessary for bone growth and strengthening. It also increases bone mineralization, which is essential for bone health.
Matcha tea helps to reduce stress and keep you relaxed. It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that increases alpha waves to the brain (18). The alpha waves help you relax and induce a feeling of mental clarity. It also stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, which creates a sense of well- being and happiness.
10. Protects the skin
Matcha tea contains high amounts of chlorophyll, which can protect the skin from sun damage and reduce signs of aging. Chlorophyll also protects the skin from impurities and chemicals that can clog the pores. Matcha tea contains high levels of catechins and antioxidants, which protect the skin and prevent wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and skin cancer.
You can drink matcha tea or use matcha powder as a face mask. The antibacterial properties of matcha will help reduce inflammation, redness, blemishes, and age spots.
Side effects of matcha tea
Although matcha tea is safe to consume in small amounts, you should not go overboard. It can trigger headaches, insomnia, irritability, diarrhea, and heartburn if consumed in excess. According to the National Institute of Health, green tea can cause stomach upset and constipation in some people. It may also contain fluoride, arsenic, and lead, which are absorbed by the plant from the soil.
How to buy and store matcha tea
Always buy matcha tea from a trusted and reputed store to ensure that it is grown, processed, and matured in the correct environment. You can tell the quality of the matcha by its color. If the powder is dull, it is of poor quality. Good quality matcha is a bright and vibrant green. Ensure that the powder has a sweet grassy flavor and a smooth texture.
After opening your matcha tea packet, store it in an airtight container in the fridge. Though matcha does not spoil, it can lose its freshness. So, consume it soon after opening.
Matcha tea is powdered green tea leaves that are added to water and mixed with a bamboo whisk. This delicious and creamy tea contains 137 times the amount of epigallocatechin gallate than regular green tea. Its health benefits include protection from cancer, heart disease, improved liver health, better focus, weight loss, and lower stress.