Matcha: The vibrant green, healthy powder making its way into mainstream coffee shops and winning over the hearts of men and women alike. Matcha may have originated from Chinese and Japanese cultures as part of prestigious tea ceremonies, but it has since gained popularity in countless culinary, confectionery, and even alcoholic forms around the world.
So what exactly is Matcha?
Many enjoy its’ rich, unique flavor but are largely unaware of its roots (pun intended). In Japanese, the word “ma” translates to “powder” and “cha” means “tea”. Matcha powder is derived from the green tea plant but is much more meticulously harvested than the green tea you find in your typical tea bag. During the last 20 days or so before plucking the tea leaves, the plants are covered to protect against direct sunlight and continue to mature at a much slower rate but with a much more concentrated amount of chlorophyll, caffeine and amino acids like theanine. Once the highest quality leaves have been picked, de-stemmed, de-veined, dried and ground into a fine powder, its ready for consumption. Since matcha uses the entire leaf, the powder creates a much thicker and “creamier” consistency when prepared than compared to the tea you get from steeping green tea leaves in hot water, and therefore has a notably higher potency as well.
Benefits of Matcha
Studies have found multiple benefits of utilizing matcha both internally and externally.
- Skin Health
Studies have shown that the high concentration of polyphenols, micronutrients and antioxidants, such as catechins & EGCG, found in matcha powder fight free radicals that cause premature aging and skin damage. Along with properties like chlorophyll, matcha helps to remove toxins from the skin and reduces inflammation, making it particularly beneficial for those that suffer from rosacea and acne. The best part? You can enjoy matcha both topically (in face masks) and in an array of food and beverages.
- Heart Health
We might not be able to protect our heart from feeling the pain of a bad breakup, but we can shield it against heart disease, cancers and high blood pressure with those same polyphenols that support healthy skin.
Unlike coffee, matcha provides a ‘clean’ type of caffeine that doesn’t dehydrate the body, cause jitters or set you up for those notorious crashes. Monks have harnessed the zen-inducing powers of matcha for centuries. The soothing yet mental awareness matcha evokes within the mind (thank you, L-theanine) is used as the perfect conduit for long, meditative states, or in more modern times, getting sh*t done! Reducing the stress hormone, cortisol, is just another incredible byproduct of this ancient elixir, so sip up and zen out.
- Fat Burner
We’ve all been guilty of a little stress-induced food binging in our life, so just as reducing cortisol levels is a welcome side effect of matcha, so is the decrease in impulse eating and belly fat that tends to coincide with it. Other studies have shown it increases weight loss when consuming matcha before a workout by elevating your metabolic rate as well.
- Brain Health
Those hard working catechins don’t stop at protecting the skin and heart, they also work their magic on protecting against both nerve cell and mental function decline. Additionally, L-theanine has been known to reduce the decline in cognitive function. These compounds in green tea plants have also been studied for its positive effects on preventing memory loss, even in more extreme cases like Alzheimer's disease.
So you know it’s good for you, but the question of how to utilize Matcha may have you a little apprehensive still. Don’t be! There are SO many great ways to use it and more and more companies have taken the guesswork out of making recipes by creating some pretty awesome beverages, snacks and to-die-for desserts. Who knew being healthy could be so fun and delicious!