If you’re like the rest of us, we bet you’re trying to wrap your mind around all the superfoods popping up in your social feeds and related conversations. From the familiar chia and flax seeds to the newcomers MCT oil and CBD oil, all kinds of new products are moving beyond the specialized realm of health food stores and they’re taking permanent places in our pantries and fridges.
One superfood that’s been kicking around for awhile is matcha, that bright green powder that you see whisked into tea, swirled into lattes and baked into cupcakes and pastries. Its vibrant chartreuse color is beautiful, and did you know that it has health benefits that outweigh nearly every other type of tea?
Here are 10 more things perhaps you don’t know about matcha:
- Matcha is ancient: Over a thousand years ago, matcha came to Japan as an aid to meditation practice. During long hours of sitting and meditating, monks would drink matcha to remain alert, yet calm.
- Matcha is full of clean energy: Matcha is rich in L-Theanine, which is a rare amino acid that promotes a state of relaxation and well-being without feeling sedated. And, while L-Theanine is common in all tea, matcha may contain up to five times more of this amino acid than common black and green teas.
- Matcha is packed with antioxidants: This special green tea is an easy and simple way to add powerful health benefits to your everyday diet. One of the major benefits is that it’s packed with antioxidants, more so than other “superfoods” like goji berries, pomegranates, blueberries, açaí berries, broccoli or spinach. Just one serving of matcha tea has 137 times more antioxidants than 10 cups of regularly brewed green tea, according to matchasource.com. The antioxidants are so potent, they’re in a class of their own, called “catechins,” which aren’t found in other foods.
- Matcha is made from whole tea leaves: Hot water can only extract a fraction of regular tea’s benefits, because the majority of the nutrients actually remain unused in the tea leaves. To mitigate this, you just need to digest the entire leaf. Enter: matcha. Because matcha is straight, stoneground tea leaves, it provides green tea’s powerful arsenal of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids in a way no other green tea can.
- Matcha provides caffeine without the crash: Some people swear by matcha for the steady energy and focus it provides, without the crash, anxiety or jitters you can sometimes experience with coffee. Harmony Joy Fertig of Lancaster, author of Live-Styles blog, says, “I started drinking matcha about two summers ago when I was searching for an alternative to iced coffee. I was looking for something that offered more health and nutritional benefits, and less caffeine.”
- Matcha can help purify your body: Chlorophyll — what gives green tea and plants their signature green color — is also a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate both chemicals and heavy metals from the body. And because matcha is shade-grown, it is substantially richer in chlorophyll than other green teas, making it an excellent daily detox.
- Matcha can help make you happy: Another positive side-effect of the L-Theanine in matcha is the production of dopamine and serotonin. These two chemicals are known to enhance mood, improve memory and promote better concentration. If you couple this with matcha’s ability to provide long-lasting energy — as it enters the bloodstream gradually — this may be the perfect coffee replacement. Kari Deandra, owner of Pureblend Tea at Lancaster Central Market, who has been selling matcha tea and blends at her stand for about five years now, whole heartedly agrees. She says, “Matcha is a great alternative for people who are looking to stop drinking coffee. I’m a former coffee addict, and when I quit coffee, I was looking for a denser, more flavorful cup of something in the morning. As I get older, I’m having more trouble with caffeine. And I’ve found this in a lot of women who stop by the shop. You’re getting more of a slow increase of energy through the caffeine in matcha.”
- Matcha boosts metabolism and burns calories: According to many sources, including Livestrong.com, the main antioxidant in green tea, EGCG, may boost metabolism during moderate-intensity exercise, which over time can lead to weight loss efforts. Regular green tea also contains EGCG, but matcha contains three times as much!
- Matcha is versatile: There is so much more that you can do with matcha besides drink it! You can use it as a seasoning to sprinkle on stir-fried or roasted veggies, mix it with yogurt or a smoothie and freeze it into popsicles, add it to homemade ice cream (check out this vegan recipe from Minimalist Baker) or create a stunning ice cream topping out of it.
- Making traditional matcha requires special tools: Because matcha is a stone ground powder, you can’t brew it in a tea bag. The tradition method is to whisk a few teaspoons into a bowl or cup, add two ounces of hot water (just under a boil) and then stir it with a bamboo whisk until it’s frothy. There are now a number of bottles that help make this process easier to do on the go, and instant matcha packs are now available that may simply be shaken with water or milk, no whisking required.
Harmony’s Favorite Iced Matcha Latte Recipe:
- 1 cup boiling water (cooled)
- 2 teaspoons matcha
- Honey for sweetening
- Bamboo whisk
Water should be 175°F at most, not boiling. Allow boiling water to cool or your matcha will taste bitter.
Measure matcha and add it into a bowl. Add cooled water and, using your bamboo whisk, whisk rapidly until tea is dissolved and liquid is topped with a light-colored foam.
Whisk in milk of your choice (we recommend coconut milk).
Pour into glass over ice. Add honey, if desired. For a fun twist in the summer, use frozen berries instead of ice cubes!
Enjoy exploring this incredible green tea!
- Water Bottle Photos: Joyous Snyder