What is Matcha? Matcha's Top 7 Health Benefits

It’s supposed to make you slim, fit and healthy, help against signs of ageing and even cancer. What is this wonderplant you ask? Matcha! In Japan, matcha green tea was and still is the best and noblest tea, which used to be reserved only for the elite. Find out more about what matcha is and how you can enjoy the health benefits of matcha at home.

Rebecca Höfer Jun 16, 2022
What is Matcha? Matcha's Top 7 Health Benefits

What is matcha?

Matcha tea belongs to the green tea varieties and is traditionally drunk in Japan. Originally, the tea probably came from China, but was forgotten there. Unlike "normal" green teas, however, matcha tea is not prepared as a decoction of tea leaves, but from a poisonous green powder.

This powder consists of finely ground leaves of the green tea variety "Tencha" from which the stems have been removed. For Matcha of the highest quality, the tea farmers even remove the leaf veins by hand.

What remains is the pure leaf, which is also consumed whole in the tea. Since matcha tea is a so-called "shade tea", the tea bushes are shaded with bamboo mats or similar four weeks before harvesting. This process not only increases the amino acid content of the tea, but also the chlorophyll content which gives matcha its bright green color. When you drink matcha tea, you’re getting the nutrients from the entire tea leaf which in turn means even more whole, beneficial plant compounds, such as antioxidants, than by drinking brewed tea .

Is matcha green tea?

 Matcha literally translates to “powdered tea.”

Both matcha and green tea come from the same tea plant: Camellia sinensis. Matcha, which is made from finely ground green tea, usually contains more secondary plant compounds than green tea, because the powdered tea leaves are also drunk.

Green tea also has secondary plant substances, as well as a variety of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, but because of the low intake, these do not contribute significantly to meeting the body's needs.

Briefly explained: Most of the active substances in green tea are water-soluble. They pass into the tea water when brewed. Since with Matcha the entire tea leaf is absorbed in powder form, all the water-insoluble ingredients also enter the body. This means we absorb 100% of the healthy plant compounds when we drink Matcha. The powdering of the tea also ensures a particularly good bioavailability, i.e. absorption in the body. Matcha therefore provides energy and vitality in a gentle way.

Compared to other green teas, Matcha also has many antioxidants, polyphenols, caffeine and minerals, especially potassium and calcium.

What is in matcha?

Matcha contains lots of antioxidants such as catechins. In fact, Matcha contains 137 times the amount of antioxidants than regular green tea. One other ingredient that makes Matcha so beneficial compared to normal green tea for example is the amount of a catechin called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short. Matcha tea has about three times as much EGCG as other green tea. Various studies have investigated the effect of EGCG on cancer cells, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. 

Matcha also naturally contains caffeine (also known as teein). However the caffeine in matcha is not as stimulating as caffeine in coffee for example (more on that later). Other important ingredients in matcha are amino acids such as L-theanine, chlorophyll, various vitamins, calcium, iron and potassium.

What does matcha taste like?

Matcha kind of tastes like fresh grass and spinach with milky and creamy notes. The Japanese call this flavour "umami". A good matcha is never bitter or astringent - otherwise it is not a good quality matcha.

matcha tea

Does matcha have caffeine?

Because matcha is made from the entire tea leaf, it contains more caffeine than regular steeped tea — three times the amount, to be exact.

But how does matcha compare to coffee?

On average, one cup (8-oz) of brewed coffee contains 95mg of caffeine, although that number can vary greatly depending on the type of coffee. For example, 12-oz of cold brew can contain 150-240 mg caffeine.

Matcha, on the other hand, contains around 70-80 mg of caffeine per cup.

While the difference in caffeine is minimal, the type of caffeine in tea makes all the difference. Why? Because the body metabolizes it differently.

Unlike the caffeine in coffee, which is quickly released into the bloodstream, the caffeine in matcha is slowly released. This is because the caffeine molecules in matcha (and green tea) bind to the catechins. As the catechins break down, caffeine enters the bloodstream slowly over a 6-8 hour period.

This process also prevents adrenaline and insulin spikes, which prevents the dreaded caffeine crash and drop in blood sugar.

Top 7 matcha health benefits

1. High in antioxidants

Good things come in small packages — and tea leaves are no exception!

Matcha green tea has one of the highest antioxidant ratings. The Oxygen Radical Absorbence Capacity (ORAC) value is 1348 units per gram. That’s 13x the antioxidants in pomegranates and 15x the antioxidants in blueberries.

Studies have shown the high antioxidant content in matcha tea can prevent cell damage caused by free radicals.

Matcha green tea also contains a class of antioxidants known as catechins. And it’s particularly high in epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG — 3 times more than other green teas.

2. It may protect against certain cancers

Speaking of EGCG, multiple studies have shown this catechin is protective against many types of cancers.

Prostate cancer: A 2008 study published in “Oncogene” found that the EGCG in green tea helped kill off prostate cancer cells.

Breast cancer: A 2006 meta analysis found women who drank the most green tea lowered their risk of breast cancer by 22%.

Colon and rectal cancers: A 2008 study of 69,710 Chinese women found regular green tea drinkers slashed their risk of colorectal cancer in half.

Skin cancer: Lab studies show that drinking green tea or applying green tea directly to the skin can help prevent UV-triggered skin cancer by absorbing UV damage and scavenging free radicals.

Lung cancer: In 2008, researchers found EGCG in green tea can inhibit the migration of bronchial tumor cells in the lungs. And it’s not just EGCG that plays a role in matcha’s cancer-fighting abilities.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), EGC, ECG, and EC are also powerful cancer fighters.

3. It's calming

Want to feel more zen? Drink matcha!

Matcha green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that puts you in a calm and meditative state. No wonder Buddhist monks have been drinking matcha for centuries!

Because matcha is shade grown, the L-theanine content in matcha green tea is 5 times the amount than other green teas (20 mg vs 4 mg).

Unlike the caffeine in coffee, when the caffeine in matcha green tea is combined with L-theanine, you won’t end up with the jitters. Instead, you’ll feel more calm and alert.

4. It can improve your focus & concentration

The L-theanine and caffeine combo can also increase your focus.

In 2008, researchers tested the effects of cognition with and without caffeine. Participants were tested on word recognition, rapid visual information processing, critical flicker fusion threshold and attention switching.

The results, which were published in “Nutritional Neuroscience,” found L-theanine and caffeine improved both speed and accuracy of performance and reduced distraction.

Other studies have shown matcha is beneficial in sustained attention as well as memory.

5. It's good for your heart

Green tea is one of the best drinks for heart health — and matcha, which is a kind of green tea, is no exception!

Here’s how green tea (and matcha) can benefit your heart:

According to a 2009 study published in “Stroke", drinking 3 cups of green tea a day reduced their chance of having a stroke by 21%.

A 2011 meta-analysis found that people who drank the most green tea had a 28% lower risk of coronary artery disease than those who drank the least green tea.

Another 2011 meta-analysis of 14 controlled trials found that green tea significantly lowered LDL (bad) cholesterol as well as significantly lowered triglyceride levels.

6. It may help with weight loss

Are you looking to lose weight? Matcha may help.

According to a 2009 meta-analysis of 11 different studies, researchers concluded there’s a link between green tea (specifically, the antioxidant EGCG) and weight-loss and weight management.

A 2005 study published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” also supports green tea’s weight-loss properties. Over the course of 12 weeks, participants who consumed catechin-rich green tea extract showed significantly lower body fat mass, BMI, and body weight than those who consumed less.

7. It can improve your physical performance

Forget Gatorade, if you’re an athlete, matcha is where it’s at!

Caffeine is commonly used as a stimulant in sports. And studies have shown, on average, caffeine can increase physical performance by 11-12%.

Caffeine can also improve physical performance by making the fatty acids in fat tissue available for use as energy.

Where to buy matcha powder

Due to its increasing popularity, matcha tea is now available more frequently. Tea houses, Asian shops, pharmacies and some specialty shops sell the green tea powder. And of course you can also buy (organic) matcha tea online. The reason for a higher price point compared to regular tea is the complex production process and the fact that the best quality comes from Japan.

Since only a few tea growers master the production, the production volume is not that high and the Japanese prefer to drink their tea themselves instead of exporting it. Therefore, matcha tea is also produced in China, where the powder is cheaper, however with lesser quality.

We only use high quality matcha from Japan in the Power Matcha mix. Together with four other clean, organic and natural ingredients such as wheatgrass, moringa and maca, this mix contains even more beneficial antioxidants and gives you more stamina, energy and focus throughout the day. You can  not only simply use it in a classic Matcha latte but also mix it into smoothies and snacks. Get your brainpower from nature’s best!