What's the Deal with Matcha?

| Diet & Nutrition
matcha
(Photo: A New Leaf, LLC)

For all you tea drinkers out there, we've got some exciting news! Matcha, a finely milled green tea powder, has gained recent popularity due to its insane amount of health benefits and delectable flavor. These green tea leaves were originally ground and whisked into water by the Chinese in the 10th century, but it wasn't until a little later that it was used regularly. Matcha first became widely recognized and accepted in the 12th century, where it was used by the Japanese in their traditional tea ceremonies. The best matcha leaves are now primarily grown in the southern half of Japan, where they undergo a rigorous growth and harvesting season before they are sold around the world. So what is it exactly that makes these green tea leaves so alluring? Check out the information below to find out!

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How is matcha made? Matcha bushes, grown in southern Japan, are covered during the final 20 days before harvest in order to boost the plants' chlorophyll levels. This ensures that the leaves turn a dark, attractive shade of green and increases the amount of L-Theanine that naturally occurs within matcha. The L-Theanine is what gives the tea the ability to both calm and stimulate its drinkers at the same time. Once it's harvested the leaves are laid flat to dry, and then de-veined, de-stemmed, and ground into a fine powder. That powder is then added to water and whisked until it is absorbed.

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woman drinking tea
(Photo: Green Tea Chronicle)

What can you do with matcha? There are a variety of different ways to utilize matcha powder, all of which provide you with the benefits of the plant. In addition to drinking it warm or cold, you can also:

  • Make a green tea and lemonade drink to cool off after a workout
  • Top your pancakes or waffles with some fruit and a sprinkle of matcha powder for a healthy alternative to butter and syrup
  • Toss a little powder into your stir-fry dishes for a unique burst of flavor
  • Sprinkle some matcha over your yogurt parfait for a delicious breakfast
  • Add matcha tea to your smoothie, cocktail, or latte for an added burst of energy
  • Dust your favorite meals (fish and poultry especially) with powder for a naturally sweet and grassy flavor
  • Use matcha instead of your go-to seasonings for a healthier option
  • Add matcha powder to your coffee instead of sugar for a natural sugar substitute (and brilliant green color!)
  • Blend matcha with your cream cheese, mayo, or hummus for a healthy, savory sandwich topping
  • Spruce up your guacamole with a serving of matcha powder
  • Use matcha powder as a delicious and colorful topping for your movie night popcorn

These are only a few of our favorite ideas, but the uses for matcha are virtually endless! You can check out Shape.com for a more complete list, or you can experiment by adding matcha to your favorite dishes!

green monster smoothie

What are the benefits of matcha? Matcha leaves are believed to be a fantastic source of antioxidants. While regular steeped green tea is healthy because of the antioxidants it contains, only some of those nutritional properties are extracted when placed in boiling water. With matcha, you are encouraged to eat the entire leaf, which allows you to ingest all of the healthy components. Matcha is also used as a natural energy source. Unlike coffee, caffeinated soda, or pre-workout supplements, matcha doesn't give you that jittery burst of energy. It is also used to boost your metabolism and burn calories, calm your mind, pack in extra vitamins, enhance your mood, and prevent disease. Some claim that it can even lower your cholesterol and blood sugar! With so many benefits, why not give this vibrant, powerful powder a shot?

Matcha is so easy to incorporate into your diet, that it seems almost ridiculous not to give it a try. It can help promote weight loss, natural energy and a healthy lifestyle. To learn more about matcha, you can check out our sources here: Shape, Eater, Matcha Source.