If your morning brew is in need of a green upgrade, look no further than still-trendy matcha green tea powder. The super healthy, super caffeinated drink has been creeping its way into cafés across the country, and into consumers’ kitchens for the past few years, so now you can enjoy the Japanese export within the comforts of your own home.
Curious about matcha and its amazing healthy properties? We’re here to answer any questions you may have about its history, preparation, and nutritional value, and show you other ways to enjoy matcha besides brewing a cup.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha is a powdered green tea. Produced primarily in Japan, the tea bushes’ leaves are deprived of sunlight during the last few weeks of growth (i.e. shade grown), resulting in a vibrant green color that carries increased chlorophyll content.
Where Did Matcha Come From?
Preparation of powdered teas stem from China’s Tang Dynasty (618-907), though matcha was specifically prized by Japan’s Zen monasteries and social elites during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries.
How Is Matcha Made?
Whole tea leaves (after the shaded growth process) are carefully hand-picked and rolled out to dry. Once this is achieved, stems and veins are removed before the remaining leaf is stone-ground into a fine powder. Only half a teaspoon is necessary to brew a cup of matcha. Since matcha powder is stirred directly into water or milk (as opposed to strained through a tea bag), its taste is more potent than traditional teas.
Related Reading: 6 Tea Tips to Brew the Best Cup Ever
What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha?
Matcha boasts a bevy of proven health benefits. For starters, matcha contains high levels of L-Theanine, an amino acid that balances the tea’s caffeine content (which can equal about half the caffeine in an equivalent amount of coffee). This can help reduce anxiety by inducing calmness without sluggishness. L-Theanine is also healthy for your brain, promoting increased levels of focus and concentration.
Matcha also carries an extremely high antioxidant content. Its polyphenol count (cancer-fighting micronutrients) is said to be 60x that of spinach. Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a specific type of polyphenol, has also been proven to help with weight loss by burning stored fat as energy and inhibiting the formation of new fat cells. Green tea consumption of three to five cups a day is considered optimal for harnessing the full health benefits.
How Do I Prepare Matcha?
The traditional way to make matcha is to sift the finely ground green tea powder into a stone matcha tea bowl, pour in hot water or milk that’s just under the boiling point (10 ounces of hot liquid for every teaspoon of matcha), and then whisk the mixture until frothy with a small bamboo whisk.
Palais des Thés Matcha Tea Set, $64.99 on Amazon
This bespoke set is marketed as a matcha initiation box.
That said, you don’t need any special equipment; you can also just stir it with a spoon in your mug. If you use milk, it counts as a green tea latte, and if you don’t do dairy, you can use almond milk or another non-dairy milk of your choice. Either way, add a little sugar if you must, though it’s not traditional.
How Else Can I Use Matcha?
There are other ways to drink matcha, including in green tea cocktails, as an iced green tea in summer, or as a superfood addition to your morning smoothies. But aside from mixing it into liquid, matcha can also be incorporated into a variety of sweet and savory recipes, from ice cream to bread. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite matcha recipes below, but see our Ultimate Guide to Cooking with Matcha for even more info on how to use mighty matcha in your food.
If you’re not a fan of sipping from mugs, get your morning pick-me-up from this quick and delicious breakfast confection. Or at least save this bright green recipe for Christmas. Get our Raspberry Matcha Muffins recipe.
You don’t need to be a gourmet chef to make drool-worthy egg waffles in your own kitchen. In fact, all you need is some time, patience, and a little self-confidence (OK, and an egg waffle iron). You can do it! Get our Matcha Hong Kong Egg Waffles recipe.
Matcha’s versatility extends to crunchy chicken fingers, which makes it nothing less than a superfood to us. This is also a fun way to sneak “greens” into your kids’ diet. Get the Matcha Chicken Tenders with Ginger Citrus recipe.
Yes, you’ve just found yourself a new favorite treat for summer. Matcha and cream are a match made in hot weather heaven; add ginger cookies à la Coolhaus and you have your new ideal ice cream sandwich. Get the Matcha Ice Cream Sandwich recipe. (Less work, but no less delicious: Matcha Green Tea Popsicles.)
These may look like a dessert out of a Dr. Seuss book, but we promise they’re quite delicious. You may even forget that molten lava cakes taste best with chocolate. Get the Matcha Molten Lava Cakes recipe.
You’ve seen the Insta-famous dalgona coffee, but have you seen the matcha version of it? No need to be green with envy over anyone lucky enough to be sipping one, because they’re easy to whisk up at home. Get the Dalgona Matcha Latte recipe.
Where Can I Buy Matcha?
Look for high-quality matcha in grocery stores like Whole Foods, at local specialty tea shops, or online.
Jade Leaf Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder, $24.95 on Amazon
This organic matcha tea is ceremonial grade, which means it's ideal for brewing into a bright green cup of goodness.
Matchaccino Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder, $17.99 on Amazon
If you're using matcha in cooking or baking, or blending it into smoothies, you can get by with non-ceremonial grade green tea powder.
Tea Forte Single Steeps Organic Matcha Green Tea Sampler, $18.20 on Amazon
If matcha alone doesn't do it for you, try it blended with other flavors like chai, chocolate, coconut, and ginger.
Header image courtesy of Sitthipong Inthason / EyeEm / Getty Images