For years, green tea has gotten high marks for its amazing health benefits— it’s antioxidant-rich, great for your heart and gives your brain a bump. What if you could boost those benefits ten-fold?
Enter matcha, a powder made from young green tea leaves. The leaves are placed in shade for two to four weeks before harvesting.
“When it’s shaded for that long, you up the chlorophyll, you up the antioxidant level, and it just completely changes the profile of the plant,” said Dr. Mariza Snyder, author of “The Matcha Miracle.” “After they harvest, they steam, dry, then grind it with a stone grinder. You’re consuming the entirety of the leaf.”
Matcha has ten times more antioxidants than green tea, Snyder said. Chlorophyll, which she likened to blood for the plant, is detoxifying.
The tea itself has a taste that is similar to green tea.
“It has a really wonderful mouthfeel… a very vegetable type of taste, and it’s very savory,” Snyder said.
Matcha originates from Japan, where only royalty, Buddhist monks, and the samurai drank it. Samurai would drink it before battle to get hours of sustained energy— it can give four to six hours without a crash, like coffee can.
The antioxidants in matcha— 14 times that of wild blueberries— are especially beneficial because EGCG, which may boost heart health, lower cholesterol, prevent cancer and type 2 diabetes, and improve concentration. Matcha also contains L-Theanine, an amino acid that may improve mental alertness. One cup a day is all you need, Snyder said.
The most traditional way to make matcha is to whisk it with water that is hot but not boiling to preserve the antioxidants.
“You put in three ounces of water… then you just whisk in this “M” and “W” motion, like a zig-zag back and forth,” said Jessica Lloyd, co-founder and COO of Panatea, a matcha company based in the U.S. “It becomes this frothy, almost espresso shot amount of liquid.”
Matcha comes in different grades; ceremonial is delicate and meant to be whisked and can be enjoyed as a shot, with milk, hot, or cold. Culinary grade matcha is bolder and can be mixed into baked goods and smoothies.
“We try to incorporate matcha into a lot of different food and beverage options here,” said Michelle Gardner, owner of Chalait café in New York City. “We want to show off the versatility.” Their offerings include matcha Greek yogurt, a matcha latte, and matcha-infused salad dressings.
It’s more expensive than regular green tea bags, because making the powder is labor intensive— one tin takes about an hour to make. Pick the most vibrantly colored tea— which indicates a high level of chlorophyll— you can buy for a better taste and quality.
For Lloyd, drinking matcha has improved her overall health.
“Our skin was better, our focus was more in tuned, our energy levels were higher and more sustained,” she said of her experience with co-founder and husband, David Mandelbaum. “We realized that this was a superfood that really made us feel better.”