Today I want to tell you about an energising, beautifying, health-promoting substance that costs just pennies per day and takes just seconds to prepare: matcha green tea.
You’ve probably heard about the benefits of green tea many times, and you may also have heard of matcha, but you may not know how it differs from regular green tea.
It’s actually a really important difference: matcha is a fine powder made of stoneground green tea leaves, so when you drink the tea you are actually consuming the leaves and all of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants they contain.
In regular green tea, you do not consume the leaves – they are left behind in the teabag, or teapot, so the only nutrients that make their way into your system are those that infuse out of the leaves into the water.
This is why matcha green tea is at least 10 times as nutrient-rich as the regular variety. You can easily see this difference just by comparing a cup of pale regular green tea to the opaque dark green you see in the photo above.
Yet despite being stronger than other green teas, matcha is actually less bitter – in fact its taste is wonderfully mild.
All green tea has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, thanks to its antioxidant content. But when it comes to antioxidants, matcha is in a class of its own.
Blueberries and pomegranates are known as two of the most antioxidant-rich foods, but when scientists at Tufts University compared matcha to these superfruits they discovered that it possesses an amazing 20 times more antioxidants.
But doesn’t green tea contain caffeine, I hear you ask…
It does, and here are the stats. You need around 1g of matcha powder to make a large (16oz, or nearly 500ml) cup of medium-strength matcha, and this will give you 35mg of caffeine. You may drink smaller cups of tea than I do, in which case the caffeine content will be lower.
A large cup of black tea would give you 50-100mg of caffeine, and a coffee of equivalent size would be anything from 200mg to over 300mg.
(Quick aside: if you are super sensitive to caffeine, kukicha green tea may be a better choice for you. This is made from the twigs of the plant, not the leaves, and has many of the same beneficial properties as leaf tea, but only around a quarter of the caffeine.)
Anyway. Here are the top 12 benefits of green tea. Some scientists say you need to drink at least 10 cups of green tea a day to fully experience them all. Or you can just drink one cup of matcha…
1. Regularly drinking green tea may slow the aging process, both on the inside and on the outside, due to the abundance of antioxidants and their free-radical-scavenging and anti-inflammatory properties.
2. The antioxidants in green tea protect the skin against sun damage.
3. Green tea reduces bad cholesterol in the blood and improves the ratio of good cholesterol to bad.
4. Green tea cleanses the blood thanks to its high chlorophyll content (again, just look at that greeeen). Chlorophyll is a powerful detoxifier, helping to eliminate heavy metals and other toxic substances from the body.
5. Green tea boosts both metabolic rate and fat burning. One study found that exercising immediately after drinking matcha green tea resulted in 25% more fat burning during exercise.
6. Green tea also helps regulates blood sugar, preventing insulin spikes and the resulting fat storage.
7. Green tea protects against cancer. There are many reasons for this, but the one that has interested scientists the most is an antioxidant called EGCG which is substantially higher in matcha green tea than in any other substance we consume, and is believed to be a powerful anti-carcinogen.
8. Green tea can help normalise blood pressure and can also help keep the lining of blood vessels relaxed and better able to withstand changes in blood pressure.
9. Green tea may also protect against the formation of clots, which are a leading cause of heart attacks.
10. Green tea protects against gum disease and tooth decay due to its anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties.
11. Regularly drinking green tea lowers Alzheimer’s risk due to its protective effect on brain cells.
12. Green tea can enhance mood and concentration and protect against depression. This is thanks to L-Theanine, an amino acid naturally found in tea leaves. Matcha first arrived in Japan, over 1,000 years ago, to aid Buddhist monks in their meditation practice, as it helped them remain alert yet calm. And like meditation, L-Theanine increases alpha wave activity in the brain, which promotes feelings of relaxation and wellbeing.
Matcha green tea may appear pricey, but a little goes a long way – as mentioned earlier, just 1g will make you a generous cup of this brew and you can maintain a matcha habit for just 25p a day
I love Clearspring’s Organic Matcha Green Tea Powder which retails at £9.99 for 40g.
Two insider tips for making the perfect cuppa:
1. Boil the water and let it cool for five minutes before mixing in the matcha powder as it can otherwise taste sorta “grassy”.
2. When you add the matcha powder to the hot water you have to whisk it or it will form clumps. The traditional way is to use a special bamboo whisk. I bought one, it looks beautiful and I still get it out on special occasions. But for everyday use, I cheat and put the powder and hot water in the blender – this gives a perfectly blended cup of matcha in five seconds, with no manual labour.