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Mind & Body

Everything you need to know about matcha

What are the benefits, what does it taste like and how do you even prepare it? SUZANNE SCOTT has the lowdown on the green stuff

Beauty
BEAUTY BENEFITS
Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jessica Alba have all spoken of their love for matcha

We have herbal infusions, fruit teas, moon milks – and now, matcha. Is this just another trend, or are there real health benefits associated with drinking it? Read on for all the answers…

What is matcha?

Essentially, matcha is green tea, but whereas a cup of traditional tea is made by diffusing leaves with hot water (usually in a bag), matcha is made by grinding the leaves into a powder then adding hot water – or milk, for a matcha latte – so that you reap the benefits of consuming the entire leaf. Green tea leaves, just like black ones, are picked from the Camellia sinensis tea bush, but while the leaves that go into green tea are steamed and dried soon after harvest, the leaves destined for black tea are dried and crushed.

“Matcha tea is very high in antioxidants, amino acids, and chlorophyll (a detoxifying plant pigment), which gives it its beautiful bright green color,” says Texas-based nutritionist McKel Hill, founder of wellness website Nutrition Stripped. “All green teas have antioxidants, but because matcha is so concentrated, you get even more in one cup.”

Hill also praises matcha for its amino acid content: “The amino acid L-theanine is prevalent in matcha and it’s known to have a relaxing effect on the mind and body – monks traditionally sip matcha tea to help ease their mind for meditation. It’s also known to increase serotonin, dopamine, GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid] and glycine levels in the brain.”

Does it contain caffeine?

As it comes from the same bush as green and black tea, matcha contains roughly the same amount of caffeine (between 10-50mg per cup), which is significantly lower than coffee at around 60mg a cup – even still, limit it to daytime and abstain come evening so it doesn’t interrupt your sleep. “The subtle caffeine content in matcha helps with focus — it also slowly absorbs into your system so you don’t get that big spike that a cup of coffee might cause,” says Hill.

What does matcha taste like?

Well, not unlike regular black tea – earthy but not overly herbal. To the uninitiated (and to anyone who typically dislikes herbal teas), matcha can seem unappetizing, but the taste is pretty inoffensive. Some people say matcha makes them feel mildly queasy when drunk on its own, but adding a dash of milk should remedy that.

Are there different types of matcha?

There are two types of matcha, ceremonial and culinary, with the former (used in the Japanese Koicha tea ceremony) generally accepted as the best quality and the best tasting. “Ceremonial matcha is grown in the shade and handpicked for a better flavor; it’s more rounded and without any of that ‘grassiness’ that some people complain about,” explains Sasha Sabapathy, chef and founder of Glow Bar in London. “The best is sourced from a region in Japan called Uji, very close to Kyoto.”

How do you prepare matcha?

You can drink it hot or iced, with milk or without – if you want to add milk, you have your choice of regular, almond, oat or coconut. You can even skip the water if you want to enjoy something creamier and more comforting.

However, for a traditional matcha latte, mix your chosen powder with a little cold water to create a paste and add hot – not boiling – water. “Boiling water ruins the delicate flavor,” explains Hill. Top it off with a dash of almond, oat or cow’s milk and whip with a whisk to combine the liquids.

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