What is Matcha and Why is it so Popular?

By: Sophia Erickson

If you have been on social media the last year, you have probably seen a mysterious and intriguing green beverage grace your feeds.You may be wondering, “What is this funky looking beverage and why do so many people like it?”. The answer is matcha, and it’s giving coffee a run for its money. 

What is it?

Matcha is a fine powdered green tea that is made by grinding the leaves and stems of the green tea plant (Unno, 2018). This process preserves all of the rich nutrients, making it a superfood beverage with tons of antioxidants and even some caffeine. Now don’t get me wrong – matcha is described as having an umami flavor and will taste different from your typical cup of coffee; but, when combined with your favorite milk and a little bit of sweetener, I bet it will become your new go-to morning beverage. 

Benefits of Matcha

Besides the fact that matcha is tasty, trendy and “instagrammable”, it also has a ton of health benefits including increased energy, an immunity boosting qualities and loads of vitamins. If I have not completely sold you on the idea of matcha quite yet,  let’s take a deeper look.

  1. Matcha Increases Energy & Concentration 

Matcha is unique because it contains l-theanine, which is an amino acid that allows for the slow release of caffeine throughout the body (Dodd, 2015). As a result, matcha drinkers get an extended energy boost without any anxiety, jitters or mid-day slump, which are side effects people often experience after drinking coffee or energy drinks.

Drinking matcha can also help improve focus and concentration. This is because l-theanine has the ability to increase the production of alpha waves in the brain, which induces a relaxed state of mind with more mental clarity and alertness (Nobre, 2008). 

  1. Matcha Can Help Protect Against Disease 

Matcha also helps to strengthen the immune system and can protect the body from many diseases. Matcha contains a special catechin antioxidant called EGCg that both prevents and treats infections(Reygaert,2018). This is beneficial to your body for warding off illness such as the flu, a cold, or strep throat, especially with winter approaching.

Matcha also contains polyphenols, which are potent antioxidants that are being explored as “therapeutic agents aimed to alter brain aging processes and to serve as possible neuroprotective agents in progressive neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases” (Weinreb, 2004).

  1. Matcha is Full of Vitamins and Minerals

Besides the abundance of antioxidants, matcha also contains vitamins B, C and E (Chacko, 2010). This is important because vitamins help the body function properly. There are many different types of vitamin B, but matcha contains thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3), which help the body break down and release energy from food while also keeping the skin, eyes and nervous system healthy (Kennedy, 2016). Vitamin C Helps to maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones, cartilage and cells and otherwise helps with wound healing (Traber, 2011). Finally, vitamin E helps the body maintain healthy skin and eyes, and strengthens the immune system (Traber, 2011).

Overall, if you haven’t tried matcha yet, I think it’s worth a sip. And if you don’t want to spend $5 or more on a matcha from a coffee shop (the drink is notoriously pricey), here is my favorite at home matcha latte recipe!

My Favorite Matcha Latte

  • Combine 2 tsp of matcha powder with 1 Tbsp hot (not boiling) water, 1 Tbsp of honey and 1 tsp of vanilla extract, into a mug 
  • Whisk together with a bamboo (or metal) whisk until the powder is fully dissolved 
  • Froth (or heat) ¾ cup of oat milk 
    • If you want an iced matcha latte, skip this step and just combine the mixture with cold milk!
  • Pour oat milk into the mug, top with a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!

Reference List: 

Chacko, S. M., Thambi, P. T., Kuttan, R., & Nishigaki, I. (2010). Beneficial effects of green tea: a literature review. Chinese medicine, 5, 13. https://doi.org/10.1186/1749-8546-5-13

Dodd, F. L., Kennedy, D. O., Riby, L. M., & Haskell-Ramsay, C. F. (2015). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood. Psychopharmacology, 232(14), 2563–2576. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-015-3895-0

Kennedy D. O. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy–A Review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068

Nobre, A. C., Rao, A., & Owen, G. N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific journal of clinical nutrition, 17 Suppl 1, 167–168.

Reygaert W. C. (2018). Green Tea Catechins: Their Use in Treating and Preventing Infectious Diseases. BioMed research international, 2018, 9105261. https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9105261 

Traber, M. G., & Stevens, J. F. (2011). Vitamins C and E: beneficial effects from a mechanistic perspective. Free radical biology & medicine, 51(5), 1000–1013. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2011.05.017

Unno, K., Furushima, D., Hamamoto, S., Iguchi, K., Yamada, H., Morita, A., Horie, H., & Nakamura, Y. (2018). Stress-Reducing Function of Matcha Green Tea in Animal Experiments and Clinical Trials. Nutrients, 10(10), 1468. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10101468

Weinreb, O., Mandel, S., Amit, T., & Youdim, M. B. (2004). Neurological mechanisms of green tea polyphenols in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry, 15(9), 506–516. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jnutbio.2004.05.002

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