Matcha is a superhero of teas. This vibrant, emerald-colored, powdered Japanese green tea contains antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals that deliver health benefits unsurpassed by other food or drink, including traditional, loose-leaf green tea.
In fact, matcha boasts multiple times the nutritional and health benefits in one cup than a cup of a regular, loose-leaf green tea. You would have to brew and drink 10 cups of loose-leaf green tea to get the ECGC, antioxidants, L-theanine, vitamin C, carotene, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and overall nutritional value you can get from just one cup of matcha.
Matcha protects against a host of illnesses and health problems, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other degenerative issues. And it also has tons of amazing benefits for the look of our skin.
What is Japanese green tea or matcha?
Matcha is a finely ground powder of green tea leaves, grown and processed in a particular way. The tea bushes of Camellia sinensis destined to become matcha are grown under tents to shade them in the last few weeks before harvest. Thanks to this, the plant produces more concentrated amounts of chlorophyll, theanine and caffeine.
Most importantly, matcha contains loads of catechins, of which the best-known is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). As one of the world’s most potent antioxidants, EGCG is suggested to reduce inflammation and protect the heart and brain from disease and is potentially promising in studies against cancer.
It is also one of the strongest anti-angiogenesis compounds out there, which is particularly important to the prevention of cancer (as cancer cannot grow without blood vessels, and ECGC might protect against the formation of new blood vessels around the tumors).
Twenty studies were assessed and the results suggest that oral administration of green tea can be effective in the scavenging of free radicals, cancer prevention, hair loss, and skin aging plus protection against the adverse effects associated with psoralen-UV-A therapy.NIH Study
Grades of Matcha Green Tea Powder
Ceremonial grade Matcha
Used for centuries in the traditional Japanese tea rituals, ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality available. It is made by removing all stems from the plant, and only the youngest tea leaves are ground to powder. The resulting powder is vibrant green in color, with a very delicate taste and fine texture.
Ceremonial grade matcha is naturally sweet, and due to its mild flavor, it is best enjoyed by itself as the addition of milk might smother the tea’s natural flavor.
Premium grade matcha is the next highest quality of matcha powder available. The taste is still excellent and the color is a vibrant green, though not quite as concentrated as the ceremonial grade. It is also more economical, giving you possibly more bang for the buck.
Culinary grade matcha isn’t necessarily a lower quality product, but it is prepared differently for a different use. It is less vibrantly green and a little bit more bitter due to more tannins present in the powder.
Culinary grade matcha has a robust, green grass aroma and it is divided into several subgrades from kitchen grade through ingredient grade to classic grade. It is best used for culinary purposes but of course, it can be drunk as well.
Top Uses of Matcha for Health and Beauty
1. Drinking Japanese Green Tea “straight”
When we drink regular loose-leaf tea, we discard the leaves after steeping. To make matcha, the leaves of the green tea are pulverized and consumed in their entirety. Since none of the rich nutrients go to waste, matcha holds the ultimate green tea superpowers for health.
I love my matcha either hot or cold. It is wonderful all by itself. Just take 1/2 teaspoon on matcha powder into a cup or a bowl, pour a cup of hot (but not yet boiling) water. Whisk with the special bamboo matcha whisk to dissolve the powder and make a bit of foam.
2. As latte or chai
Adding milk (or oat milk or a soy beverage) to matcha makes for a superb latte. It will energize but also mellow you, unlike coffee.
3. In smoothies
For a complete breakfast or mid-afternoon pick-me-up, I like to mix up half a banana, some yogurt, a scoop of collagen peptides or protein powder, and a spoonful of matcha. Looks and tastes delicious.
4. In baked goods
Matcha is an easy way to add green tea flavor and color to your baked goods (for Christmas or St. Patty’s Day). It’s best to use culinary grade matcha here. This grade is more earthy and pairs nicely with vanilla, ginger, chocolate, and lemon-flavored baked creations. Matcha is an excellent addition to cookies, muffins, pancakes, scones, and the like.
5. In ice cream
Ever since my first Japanese green tea ice cream taste in a sushi restaurant, it was love at first taste. And so, one of my favorite uses of culinary matcha is to make a green tea ice cream. I make it with coconut milk for a dairy-free version but it would be delicious with regular milk and/or cream.
Matcha for Beauty
Drinking matcha protects skin from free radicals, which can cause premature aging, damage skin cells, and lead to dull and sallow look. But not only drinking matcha will help regain and maintain that radiant and healthy glow.
But you can also utilize matcha’s highly concentrated vitamins and minerals by using this miracle powder in topical skincare products.
Topical application of green tea extract should be potentially effective for atopic dermatitis, acne vulgaris, rosacea, androgenetic alopecia, hirsutism, keloids, genital warts, cutaneous leishmaniasis, and candidiosis.NIH STudy
6. Japanese green tea masks
Making and enjoying a matcha face mask is like having a mini tea ceremony just for yourself. Just mix equal parts of matcha powder with cosmetic clay (bentonite for oilier skin and white or French green clay for drier skin). Mix it with water or plain yogurt and a touch of honey and you’ve got yourself an amazing mask packed with antioxidants, minerals, and exfoliating compounds.
7. Creams and lotions
The best way to incorporate matcha into DIY skincare products is to add it to the water phase when making lotions or creams. Aside from the therapeutic benefits mentioned above, the matcha will impart a nice aroma and a hint of green coloring to the final product. Like in these matcha colored solid lotion bars.
8. Oil infusions
Since I don’t use essential oils in my eye balms, I love to add caffeine or ECGC to combat dark circles and signs of aging. Infusing a teaspoon of matcha in one ounce of light oil like argan, evening primrose, or meadowfoam makes for a wonderful oil for the eye area. It can be used alone or mixed with a bit of beeswax to make a balm (DIY recipe coming soon)
9. Soap making with Japanese green tea powder
If you crave a vibrant and all-natural coloring agent for your handmade soaps, use matcha. Not only does it look beautiful and has a faint green-grassy aroma, but it will also be highly beneficial to your skin.
10. Matcha Green Tea for Stress Relief
Matcha’s high concentration of the amino acid L-theanine helps reduce stress and promotes a sense of restful focus. This Japanese green tea is excellent to combat the stresses of daily life; even better, this calming effect does not induce drowsiness but instead a clear and alert mind with greater focus.
Moreover, L-theanine and EGCG so abundantly present in matcha act on our serotonin and dopamine systems, which can lead to an overall sense of happiness. Matcha will also energize you without the crash and jittery side effects of coffee and sugary sodas.
The general advice for buying matcha is: buy the highest quality you can afford.
My first ever Japanese green tea powder was poor quality, bitter, and brownish-green. This experience turned me off matcha for a long while. Only after I tried my first cup of ceremonial grade matcha, this wonderful tee became a daily ritual.
One of my favorite places to get a superb quality match is Kari Matcha, endorsed by Dr. Weill. Once you become hooked, it makes sense to settle on a reputable source and get a subscription with a discount.
Enjoy and let me me know how you use matcha!