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Everything You Need To Know About Matcha

Matcha Green Tea

You’ve probably heard that Green Tea is really good for you.  Don’t get me wrong, it definitely is.

But what if there was something that was like Green Tea, only 100 times healthier?  Well, there actually is…

It’s called Matcha.

Technically, Matcha is Green Tea.  When you consume it, however, you’re getting about 100 times more nutrients, phyto-nutrients, and antioxidants than traditionally brewed Green Tea.

Sounds pretty good, right?

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about Matcha, including:

  • What It is
  • How It’s Made
  • The Wonderful Benefits
  • Preparation
  • Quality

And a whole lot more.  So if you’re ready to learn all about Matcha and, more importantly, how it can benefit you, let’s take it from the top…

What Is Matcha?

Matcha Green Tea Powder

Matcha is a form of a finely ground green tea.  It contains roughly 130 times the amount of antioxidants as traditionally brewed Green Tea.

How is this possible?

Simple.

You see, when you drink Matcha, you’re consuming the entire tea leaf.  This means you’re getting all of the nutrients in the tea.

When you drink regular Green Tea (brewed in hot water), only some of these nutrients seep out of the leaf and into the water.

It kind of makes you wonder why you would drink regular Green Tea at all…

The health benefits are largely attributed to several Flavonols and Flavanol compounds. Flavanols belong to a group of molecules called Catechins.  This is why you often see the level of Catechins listed on packaging for Green Tea.

There are four primary types of Catechins present in Green Tea:

  • epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)
  • epicatechin (EC)
  • epicatechin gallate (ECG)
  • epi-gallocatechin (EGC)

While these Catechins–especially EGCG–are believed to responsible for many of the benefits Matcha has to offer, there are two more important components that deserve an honorable mention.

  1. Caffeine
  2. Theanine

Caffeine is nothing special, as you probably know.  It’s a Central Nervous Stimulant which can elicit feelings of mental alertness, focus, and mood elevation.

Theanine, the lesser known of the two, is capable of inducing a state that is often described as ‘calm alertness’, without stimulation.

Although neither of these substances have particularly profound effects on their own, when combined, they actually be come synergistic.

We’ll talk about why the combination of Caffeine and Theanine is so special in a little bit though.  First, let’s discuss EGCG.

epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)

Epigallocatechin-3-gallate, more commonly referred to as EGCG, has been the central focus of much of the research on Green Tea.  Although it’s just one of the unique molecules present in Matcha, it’s solely responsible for many of the benefits.

EGCG Molecule

On average, Matcha actually contains over 130 times the amount EGCG as brewed Green Tea.

You would have to realistically drink like 100 cups of brewed Green Tea in order to get enough EGCG to really matter.  That’s why it’s often sold as a supplement in the form of Green Tea Extract.

Fortunately, since Matcha IS Green Tea, it’s also extremely rich in EGCG.  Just one normal serving of Matcha provides plenty of EGCG.

So. how does EGCG work and why is it so important?

In addition to being a powerful antioxidant, EGCG blocks the enzyme Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) which is responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, Noradrenaline, and Adrenaline.

This indirectly results in higher levels of these key neurotransmitters which just so happen to regulate things like:

  • Focus
  • Mood
  • Motivation

And these effects may be further enhance by Caffeine which triggers the release of some of the very same chemicals.

There are other similar Catechins found in Matcha which also reduce the action of COMT, but EGCG is by far the most powerful.

Because of that, many Matcha products disclose the amount of EGCG on the label.  Even if they don’t though, it’s a safe bet that there’s plenty of EGCG present.

Theanine

Theanine is a unique, non-dietary amino acid which is only found in Green Tea.  It is believed to the be the reason why Green Tea, despite containing a fair amount of Caffeine, is not particularly stimulating.

Theanine Molecule

By itself, Theanine has has anxiety-relieving and calming properties.  Unlike many other “calming” agents, however, Theanine actually doesn’t cause any drowsiness.

Since Theanine is naturally found alongside Caffeine in Green Tea, a lot of research has looked at how these two molecules interact.

Interestingly, Theanine has been shown to enhance the cognitive improvements seen with Caffeine while reducing the negative side effects such as jitters and anxiety.

Theanine is the reason why Matcha, despite containing a fair amount of Caffeine, is energizing and calming at the same time.

How Is It Made?

Green Tea Field

Matcha is grown from the same plant as Green Tea and Black Tea, Camellia sinensis.  Like ordinary tea, the quality of the Matcha is influenced by several factors, including:

  • Growing
  • Cultivation
  • Processing

Anywhere from 4-6 weeks prior to harvest, growers shield the plants from the sun.  This may seem odd since we’ve all been taught “plants need sunlight”, but it actually serves a valuable purpose.

According to traditional growing techniques, cultivated over 1000s of years, cutting the plants off from the sun towards the end of the growing season causes the plant to produce more key nutrients.

As it turns out, research supports this.  Shading treatment has been shown to increase levels of EGCG, Caffeine, and Chlorophyll.

After the leaves are harvested, they are steamed in order to prevent oxidation and retain their brilliant green color.

How the leaves are finally dried has the largest impact on the finished product though…

In a recent 2016 study, researchers tested several different common tea leaf drying techniques and measured levels:

  • Flavonoid Content
  • Phenolic Content
  • Chlorophyll Content
  • Vitamin C Content
  • Free-Radical Scavenging Ability
  • Color

What they found was that different methods of drying the leaves yielded large variations in the composition of the leaves when tested.

After drying, the leaves are de-stemmed and de-veined.  At this stage, it’s called Tencha.  Tencha is a type of Green Tea which is commonly used with no further processing.

The last and final step in Matcha production is when the Tencha, which is now thoroughly dry, is ground up into a very fine powder.  That fine, bright green powder is Matcha!

What Are The Benefits Of Matcha?

Matcha Benefits

People have been drinking Green Tea for thousands of years because of the health benefits.  The notion that it’s “good for you” is nothing new.  Still, it’s nice to see modern science validating many of these alleged benefits.

There’s really no denying the health benefits at this point…

Fat-Burning And Weight-Loss

Perhaps the most popular reason why people drink Matcha or use Green Tea supplements is for weight-loss.  Luckily, there have been quite a few studies involving the potential impact of Green Tea and it’s related compounds specifically on fat-burning and weight-loss.

A 2010 study published in the English Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that EGCG supplementation increased fat-oxidation rates.  Furthermore, EGCG further enhanced the increase in fat-oxidation caused by Caffeine, indicating the two may be synergistic in regards to burning fat.

Similar results have been obtained in other studies as well.

But it’s one thing to increase fat-oxidation.  It’s another thing entirely to lead to long-term weight-loss.  So how about some longer-term studies?

One study found that high catechin consumption (in the form of green tea) resulted in subjects losing an average of 1.2.kg (2.4 lbs) over 3 months.  When green tea catechins were paired with exercise, another study noted weight-loss in the neighborhood of 2.2kg (4.8 lbs) over 12 weeks.

A meta-analysis which compiled data from 49 different studies, specifically on the impact of green tea catechins on weight-loss and obesity, concluded that consumption of green tea catechins can induce weight-loss of about 1.2 kg (2.5 lbs) in 12 weeks.

It was also concluded that Green Tea Catechins are more effective for inducing weight-loss when combined with Caffeine, as is the case in Matcha.  It has the highest level of Catechins AND the highest level of Caffeine.

Due to the combination of Caffeine and EGCG, Matcha encourages fat burning.  It’s similar to Green Tea Extract in this regard.

Energy And Alertness

There are a very mechanisms by which Matcha can potentially increase mental energy and alertness.

As we mentioned earlier, Matcha is rich in EGCG, a molecule which prevents the breakdown of Catecholamines like Noradrenaline.  Although it’s possible that the EGCG in Matcha could amplify the effects of endogenously produced Noradrenaline, Matcha also contains Caffeine.

Caffeine alone triggers the release of Catecholamines such as Noradrenaline and Dopamine which are chiefly responsible for the feelings of increased alertness and focus that well love Caffeine for.

Combined withe EGCG, the stimulating effects of Caffeine may be amplified.

As if that weren’t enough, Matcha also contains Theanine, a calming amino acid which has been shown to augment the benefits of Caffeine while reducing the negative aspects (such as jitters, anxiety, etc.).

Theanine is the reason why Green Tea isn’t overly stimulating, but instead provides a smooth rush of energy with no noticeable crash.

Matcha is not particularly high in Caffeine, but the combination of Caffeine and Theanine can provide a nice energy boost.  Heavy Caffeine users may have to drink more to feel the effects.

Cognitive Enhancement

One study found that higher consumption of green tea is associated with lower likelihood of cognitive impairment.  Caffeine and Theanine supplementation has elsewhere been shown to improve aspects of cognitive function.

Caffeine by itself is energizing, but Caffeine and Theanine is best described as “a calm alterness”.  Theanine removes many of the bumps associated with Caffeine use.

A lot of people who use Caffeine experience some sort of crash afterwards, but Theanine can help smooth out the transition.  Theanine and Caffeine are one of the few combinations that can truly be considered synergistic.

It just so happens that the only place in nature that these two ingredients can be found together is in Green Tea.

Matcha contains a few molecules which can potentially improve brain function, memory, and focus.

Cardiovascular Health

Tea consumption has long been thought to be protective against cardiovascular disease, but until recently, this had not been investigated scientifically.

A 2011 study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands found that consumption of green tea was able to improve various parameters of cardiovascular health.

These findings support those of previous studies in which green tea catechins increased Nitric Oxide production in human subjects.

There is also some preliminary evidence indicating that the component of Green Tea can manage Cholesterol by inhibiting the enzyme Squalene epoxidase.

Overall, there’s no denying the cardiovascular benefits of Matcha.

Matcha is good for your heart and cardiovascular health in general.

Skin, Liver, And Kidney Health

Matcha supplementation has been shown to protect the liver and kidneys in type 2 diabetics.  The antioxidant properties of Green Tea are believed to be generally beneficial for the organs (including the skin).

Since you’re actually consuming the whole leaf (in crushed up powder form) when you drink Matcha, you’re getting A LOT more antioxidants than if you were to sip on some Green Tea.

So it stands to reason that…

Matcha provides the same general health benefits as Green Tea, but to a greater extent.

How To Make Matcha

How To Prepare Matcha

There are a few ways you can prepare your Matcha…

Traditionally, Matcha is prepared by whisking 1-2 tsp of powder with a small cup of hot water (170 degrees F is ideal).  Whisking it is the hard part here.

If you’re not concerned with the consistency of your Matcha, and just want to obtain the health benefits, you have some other options.

You can simply mix 1-2 tsp of Matcha powder with cold water and drink it.  This is actually have I do it because I really don’t care about what it tastes or feels like.  For what it’s worth though, it still tastes good, but if you don’t mix it well enough you end up with chunks of Matcha powder.

Another way to do is is simply to take it in capsule form.  1-2 tsp of Matcha contains the same phytonutrients no matter how you consume it, so capsules are a fine option if you’re not really a tea person but still want the health benefits.

Quality Is Key

All tea is not created equal.  Some teas are of higher quality than others.  Any tea drinker can tell you that

Matcha is no exception.  It can be difficult to tell the good from the bad sometimes, but in general, quality Matcha is:

  • Bright Green
  • Fresh Smelling
  • Not Bitter

If you’re Matcha checks those boxes, you’re all set.  You’ve probably got some good Matcha.

You won’t be able to discern the phytonutrient profile based on those criteria alone, but it’s a start.

How Much Caffeine Is There In Matcha?

1 tsp of Matcha contains anywhere from 30-60mg of Caffeine and typically around 20mg of Theanine.  This is more or less an ideal ratio of Caffeine to Theanine for the purposes of enhancing cognitive function.

You won’t feel overly stimulated from a normal serving or two of Matcha, but if you drink enough of it, you’ll definitely feel the buzz.  Fortunately, Theanine helps negate the negative impact of too much Caffeine.

This means Matcha is unlikely to cause the dreaded “crash” that so many users of Caffeine have to deal with.

The Bottom Line

If you like Green Tea but you haven’t tried Matcha yet, what are you doing?!  Compared to Green Tea, Matcha has loads more antioxidant and phytonutrients.  In terms of health benefits, it has the clear edge over every other kind of tea you could possibly consume.

When you think about it, there’s really no reason to stick with plain old Green Tea when you could just as easily go grab some Matcha.  It’s WAY better.

Have anything to add about Matcha?  Comment below…

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