If you’ve been to any coffee shop recently – anywhere – you’ve likely seen Matcha on the menu. So, what is Matcha exactly, and what’s all the fuss about? In our five tasty tidbits below, we break down Matcha green tea and reveal some of the reasons behind the craze.
- Matcha Origins
Matcha originated in China and dates all the way back to the Tang Dynasty (7th-10th century) – the advent of green tea cultivation. Zen Buddhists consumed it ritually, and eventually the powdered tea traveled from China to Japan sometime in the 12th century. Its popularity began to fade in China, but it was enjoyed by both Japanese monasteries and Japan’s noble class alike.
Back then, Matcha was prepared through the process of roasting and pulverizing tea leaves. Then, during one particularly harsh winter, farmers covered their tea plants with reed and straw to protect them from the frost. Japan Objects explains that the farmers, “realized the shading made the plants compensate for the lack of sunlight by producing more chlorophyll within the new shoots to help facilitate photosynthesis, thus enhancing the amino acid content of the new tea buds.”
It’s these hand-picked buds that are processed into the rich tasting Matcha we know today. This process is called oishita (shade-grown) cultivation. This method refines the Matcha to have a richer taste and the deep green color we know and love.
- Popularity Rise
Since it was challenging to make, Matcha didn’t become widespread until the 18th century, upon the development of a more efficient production method. Today, “Matcha is rapidly growing in popularity as the alternative to coffee,” Erin Young shares in her article, “5 Healthy Alternatives to Coffee”.
A few years ago, it was difficult to find a cup of Matcha; now it’s popping up everywhere. Business Insider explains, “according to Google Trends, the search term "Matcha" started to spike in January 2014 and [has hit an all-time high]. Everyone's trying out the antioxidant-filled tea that's been a staple in Japan for centuries.” It’s joining the ranks of kale, chia seeds, acai and goji berries. So, what’s all the fuss about? Why has Matcha become so wildly popular? Read on to discover the host of health benefits Matcha provides.
- Health Benefits
It could be argued that no other tea offers the amount of health benefits Matcha does. The list goes on and on, so we’ve bulleted as many as we could. Matcha:
- Slows aging— Catechin in Matcha boosts collagen and protects elastin.
- Increases energy – Matcha contains less caffeine than a cup of coffee but the amino acids in it are processed more slowly so it boosts energy without the crash.
- Eliminates toxins – Chlorophyll can help improve liver function, which can help increase your body’s ability to flush out toxins.
- Controls cholesterol – Lowers both total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels
- Improves concentration and memory – L-Theanine aids with alertness and task switching.
- Provides a good source of fiber – It can prevent insulin spikes and slow the development of Type 1 Diabetes.
- Boosts immune system – Matcha contains potassium, vitamins A and C, protein, and calcium – all of which support immune function.
- Aids in weight loss: The concentration of ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) in Matcha is 137 times greater than a standard cup of green tea, which boosts metabolism, decreases appetite and increases calorie burn.
- Promotes relaxation and calm – L-theanine has been shown to increase alpha wave activity in the brain, which may help induce relaxation and decrease stress levels.
- Fights cancer and many other chronic diseases: Antioxidants in Matcha prevent free radicals from destroying cells.
- American Matcha
When it comes to Matcha, there are different levels of quality. The higher quality Matcha, the better the taste. Like anything, the quality of the finished product relies on the quality of the initial ingredient. And what you’re being served at coffee shops and cafes here in the U.S. is staggeringly different than true Matcha served in Japan. Chain coffee shops here lace their Matcha powder with heaps of sugar and add milk, masking the taste of the tea. You may never realize it, but a grande Matcha green tea latte with whole milk at Starbucks contains 32 grams of sugar – more than your recommended daily allowance – in one 16oz drink. Also, milk not only masks the taste of the Matcha, but it’s been proven to remove some of the health benefits. Dairy binds to the proteins in tea and, according to NPR, “the binding may make it tough for the body to absorb the flavonols and get the health benefits.”
It’s up to you whether you want to add milk or sweetener to your Matcha. It’s best to make your Matcha at home, so you know what’s going in it. Soiree’s Matcha Cha Cha is 100% organic, ceremonial grade, Japanese stone ground green tea, so you know you’re getting quality ingredients!
- Making Matcha at Home
It’s so much easier than you think! Simply dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of Matcha Cha Cha powder in a mug of hot water, stir it or froth it, and enjoy. For more details and ways to make Matcha, read our blog post on “Making the Perfect Matcha Latte”.
Becky Goplin is a Marketing Manager and Content Specialist working from her home in Madison, WI. You can catch her typing away on her MacBook, sipping on a chai latte. Find her on Instagram @bgoplin and Twitter @BeckyGoplin.