Foods to Watch: Matcha Tea

matcha-green-tea-set-450x297Matcha, also called Macca, may just follow in the footsteps of other trend setters in the food world much like pomegranate, coconut water, Acai berries and the list goes on. So what do we need to know about this up and comer tea and will it live (or leave) up to the hype?

Matcha has been part of Japanese culture since the 12th century and is grown by gradually shading the plant, with full growth occurring in darkness. Matcha is a “powdered tea” and unlike other green teas it is not steeped in hot water but rather grounded into a fine powder and whisked with hot water. This preparation process makes a frothy beverage that many describe as having a strong vegetable like taste, spinach or grassy.

Matcha is reported to compensate for its growing conditions by producing increased amounts of chlorophyll and amino acids. Matcha reportedly has 20 times the amino acids of regular, loose leaf green teas. Catechins, are a type of antioxidants present in green teas.  EGCg (Epigallocatechin gallate) is a type of catechins, known for its strong cancer-fighting properties and it is reported to make up 60 percent of the catechins found in matcha.

Much scientific evidence is present for the health benefits of green tea, although very few studies have specifically focused on Matcha. Matcha’s reported health benefits include increasing energy and metabolism, being cancer fighting and improving cardiovascular health. A preliminary study published in 2009 in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2009 looked at rats with type 2 diabetes and found that treating the animals with Matcha led to decreased levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. Matcha also appeared to protect the rats from liver and kidney damage.

As there is a lack of supporting research and minimal human studies, Matcha cannot currently be recommended as a standard principal treatment or prevention of any health problem. Although, it’s possible that drinking Matcha (or other forms of green tea) may help enhance your overall health. Matcha is generally considered safe, although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) warn that green tea may cause stomach upset and constipation in some individuals. Further, the NIH cautions against consuming >5 cups of green tea daily due to the caffeine content and as excessive consumption of Matcha or other forms of green may trigger certain side effects. As with any tea or supplement, make your healthcare provider aware if you drinking Matcha and taking other medications, herbs or supplements.

Skylar’ Bottom Line: Quality. Quality. Quality. There are many low-grade Matcha tea alternatives. You want to purchase your tea from an importer who moves through their stock quickly so that you get a fresh product. Look for Matcha that is bright, electric green.


Sources and Helpful Links:

Yamabe N, Kang KS, Hur JM, Yokozawa T. “Matcha, a powdered green tea, ameliorates the progression of renal and hepatic damage in type 2 diabetic OLETF rats.” J Med Food. 2009 Aug;12(4):714-21.

Boehm K, Borrelli F, Ernst E, Habacher G, Hung SK, Milazzo S, Horneber M. “Green tea (Camellia sinensis) for the prevention of cancer.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 Jul 8;(3):CD005004.

Arab L, Liu W, Elashoff D. “Green and Black Tea Consumption and Risk of Stroke. A Meta-Analysis.” Stroke 2009.

Iso H, Date C, Wakai K, Fukui M, Tamakoshi A; JACC Study Group. “The relationship between green tea and total caffeine intake and risk for self-reported type 2 diabetes among Japanese adults.” Ann Intern Med. 2006 Apr 18;144(8):554-62.

Health Benefits of Matcha Tea: An Interview with Tea Expert Sebastian Beckwith. Assessed at:

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