Since 2015, matcha has been rising in popularity amongst tea drinkers and Instagrammers alike.
But it turns out, matcha is nothing new. It’s actually been used in ritual tea ceremonies since the 12th century.
So why all the hype about matcha?
If you were thinking the word matcha means something special, think again. It literally means “powdered tea.” Matcha tea comes from the same plant that all tea comes from: Camellia sinensis.
Unlike regular green tea, matcha is shade grown 20-30 days before it is harvested. This process not only increases the amino acid content of the tea, but also the chlorophyll content which gives matcha its bright green color.
After the leaves are harvested, the leaves are steamed, dried and ground into a fine powder. When you drink matcha tea, you’re getting the nutrients from the entire tea leaf. This means you’re getting consuming more antioxidants.
Because matcha is made from the entire tea leaf, it contains more caffeine than regular steeped tea — three times the amount, to be exact.
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.
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.
Multiple studies have shown this catechin is protective against many types of cancers.
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. 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.