Matcha - Storm and India
Matcha has had a rapid rise to fame in the last two years, often touted as the most healthy tea available. It is made into a tea, a milky latte, and even added to cakes and pancakes. Let’s discuss if it should become part of your daily routine.
What is Matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground, vibrant green powder made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. This is the same plant which makes black and green teas, it is the growing and processing of the plant that dictates which type of tea is produced.
The leaves are kept out of the sun in the last few weeks of growth to force the plants to produce more chlorophyll (due to the fact they are searching for sun), this practice increases the green colour and level of antioxidants. The leaves are then dried and the stems and veins are removed. The leaves are ground and the resulting powder is packaged into blocks. Matcha isn’t fermented, unlike black or oolong tea, and has a grassy fresh flavour. It differs from green tea in that green tea is not normally covered during the last weeks of growth and is used as whole dried leaves and infused to make tea, while matcha is actually dissolved in hot liquid.
Is there more to matcha tea than being a perfectly instagramable drink?
What the science says.
It is true that matcha tea has bucket loads of antioxidants - in particular, it has high levels of a type of antioxidant call catechins. One specific type of catechin is epigallocatechin (EGCG) and is what most benefits of matcha tea are related to. Studies compressively state that when drinking green tea you are getting more (and slightly different) antioxidants than in black tea, while there are few studies it would safe to assume that you are getting slightly higher levels of antioxidants when drinking matcha compared with green tea - simply because you are swallowing the ground leaf and not just infusing the leaves in hot water. In saying all of this, while matcha will give you the highest amount of catechin antioxidants, black and green tea still have lots to offer and shouldn't be discounted as healthy tea options.
The main benefit of matcha tea is the high content of antioxidants - which protect your cells from free radical damage and reduce inflammation - both of which are the cause of disease and ageing. Aside from this, matcha contains amino acid L-theanine which is known to produce feelings of relaxation without drowsiness. The combination of L-theanine and the modest caffeine content in matcha give drinkers a longer and calmer ‘buzz’ opposed to coffee. EGCG, a type of antioxidant, gives matcha many of its benefits, including; improving cholesterol levels and blood pressure, improved detoxification, and reduced inflammation. A widely advertised benefit of matcha is that is can help you to lose weight - it works in two ways to achieve this. Firstly some phytochemicals in matcha are thought to block fat absorption in the gut, and secondly, EGCG has been shown to increase the metabolic rate in some people. While I don’t believe that matcha should be relied on solely as a weight loss tool, it is certainly a great way to increase the antioxidant content of your diet, which in this stressful day in age is something we can all benefit from.
How to use matcha
Traditionally matcha is made with one teaspoon of matcha powder and mixed with 250 ml of hot but not boiling water. To make a matcha latte without a milk steamer I suggest warming the matcha powder with 250 ml of milk of your choice and whisking until frothy and well combined. You can also add the powder to smoothies if you like, try one made with matcha, leafy greens, lemon and banana. While you can add the powder to baked goods, I don’t advise this. Baking matcha will destroy many of the antioxidants, only use it in this way if you are looking for a natural green food colouring.