Matcha Benefits That'll Have You Rethinking Your Daily Coffee

Read up on the benefits of matcha tea and learn how to make matcha at home.

Close Up of Matcha Latte
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Matcha has become a fixture in cafés across the U.S., and it's easy to see why. The green tea powder is earthy, energizing, and delicious, and it offers loads of nutritional benefits (in addition to a pretty green base for latte art). Here, registered dietitians spill the tea on the health benefits of matcha and how to make matcha drinks at home.

What is Matcha?

First, a quick explainer on a common tea plant known as Camellia sinensis. The plant is a medium-sized shrub, which can used to create green, black, or white tea, depending on which leaves or buds from the plant are harvested, according to NC State University.

Matcha is a green tea that's made from the Camellia sinensis plant, but it's cultivated and produced in different ways from other teas. For starters, tea plants for matcha are generally grown under more shade than those grown for standard green tea. This makes the leaves produce more chlorophyll, a natural green pigment found in plants, according to Miho Hatanaka, R.D.N., L.D., registered dietitian and founder of ZEN Integrative Nutrition, who is of Japanese descent. The leaves are then dried — just like those for standard green tea — but are also grounded up in a stone mill or machine. The result is a bright green powder that's mixed with hot water to make matcha tea, a traditional Japanese drink, according to an article in the journal Foods.

Matcha is an important element of Japanese culture. Matcha has been consumed in Japan since the 12th century, and it's a traditional part of tea ceremonies and events, according to registered dietitian Asako Miyashita, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., who is of Japanese descent. However, it's become more of an "everyday" drink in Japanese homes in the last 20 years, notes Miyashita. Additionally, in the last two decades, "many Japanese food industries [have] started to use matcha in products such as cheesecake and chocolates," she says.

Matcha Nutrition

Matcha tea benefits have a lot to do with its antioxidant content. Much like regular green tea, the bright green powder is teeming with the disease-busting, health-promoting antioxidant compounds. Matcha antioxidants include various types of flavanols, phenolic acids, and catechins, which are collectively known as polyphenols, according to Hatanaka. As mentioned, matcha offers the green pigment chlorophyll (another antioxidant), as well as caffeine, and L-theanine, an amino acid with stress-relieving effects. In fact, matcha powder contains approximately 10 times more L-theanine than standard green tea, according to Miyashita.

The exact nutritional profile of a matcha tea will depend on the brand and how you prepare it (i.e. whether you add milk or a sweetener). But for a general idea on nutrient break down, check out the nutrition facts for ITO EN matcha LOVE Japanese matcha green tea powder, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). A serving of two grams or one teaspoon includes:

  • 5 calories
  • 0 grams protein
  • 1 gram carbohydrate
  • 0 grams fat
  • 0 grams fiber
  • 0 grams sugar

Matcha Health Benefits

Thanks to the rich nutritional profile of the tea, you can count on reaping plenty of matcha benefits each time you enjoy the drink. Here's what the green powder can do for you. (

Reduces Risk of Chronic Disease

In case you missed it above, matcha is packed with antioxidants. Need a refresher? "Antioxidants neutralize the effect of free radicals, [or] reactive substances often derived from processed foods, environmental toxins, chemicals, etc.," explains Hatanaka. When present in excess, free radicals damage cells and cause oxidative stress, increasing the risk of chronic conditions such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease, according to a review published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. But antioxidants — including those found in matcha — can keep free radicals in check, thereby reducing the risk of such diseases.

As mentioned, matcha is impressively high in polyphenols. It's also teeming with vitamin C and chlorophyll, as noted by an article in the journal Molecules. The antioxidant properties of these compounds can help quell inflammation (another contributor of chronic disease) and enhance immune function, further staving off chronic ailments, according to Hatanaka. Needless to say, this matcha health benefit is impressive.

Manages Stress Levels

There's a reason why drinking matcha feels so blissful. Matcha powder contains L-theanine, an amino acid that lowers stress levels, according to Miyashita. It works by reducing cortisol (aka the "stress hormone") and increasing alpha wave activity in the brain, which is associated with relaxation, shares Miyashita. "Also, L-theanine boosts GABA levels to promote relaxation and help with sleep," she adds. GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect on your nervous system. That said, if you're looking to manage your stress levels via food, you can try taking advantage of this matcha powder benefit.

Provides Steady Energy

As a type of green tea, matcha contains caffeine, a substance that enhances mental alertness, says Hatanaka. But since it contains the whole tea leaf, it contains more caffeine than standard green tea, she notes. Consider this: According to data in an article in the journal Molecules, two grams or one teaspoon of matcha powder contains between 37.8 to 88.8 milligrams of caffeine. (The exact amount varies by brand, FYI.) To put things into perspective, an 8-ounce serving of standard green tea contains 28 milligrams, while the same amount of coffee contains 96 milligrams, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Although matcha contains quite a bit of caffeine, it's less likely to cause jitters and restlessness compared to other caffeinated drinks (ahem, coffee). This is due to the high levels of L-theanine in matcha tea, as noted above. Here's the deal: "L-theanine is effective in stress reduction, especially in [the] presence of another amino acid called arginine, which is [also found] in matcha," explains Hatanaka. "L-theanine has a sedative effect that suppresses caffeine's stimulating effects," adds Miyashita Thus, the combo of caffeine and L-theanine provides a relaxed focus and slow, steady energy without the crash.

Supports Heart Health

Another matcha green tea benefit relates to cardiovascular function. Specifically, antioxidants (including those found in matcha) can help regulate oxidative stress and inflammation, a major contributor to heart disease. The catechins in matcha also help lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, according to Miyashita. This is key because high LDL cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis — or narrowing of the arteries — which can reduce healthy blood flow, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Potential Risks of Matcha

One more time for the people in the back: Matcha green tea powder is high in caffeine. Therefore, if you're sensitive to caffeine, you'll want to approach matcha with care, says Hatanaka. Consuming too much caffeine (from any source) can cause side effects such as restlessness, anxiety, jitters, muscle twitches, fast heart rate, and difficulty sleeping. If you typically don't consume caffeine on the reg, enjoy matcha in small amounts to start.

How to Buy and Prepare Matcha

Thanks to the popularity of matcha in the U.S. in recent years, the green tea powder is easy to find. Usually, it's sold in the tea section of supermarkets and health food stores. You can also buy it at specialty tea shops, should you be lucky enough to live near one. For the best quality and nutritional content, choose matcha that's grown and produced in Japan, recommends Miyashita. The reason? "Japanese matcha is grown in the shade rather than the direct sun," notes Miyashita. Refresher: This shade-grown aspect is what increases the plant's production of chlorophyll, a potent antioxidant. Also, if possible, go for stone-ground matcha (versus machine-ground), which has a smoother consistency, says Miyashita. (

At home, store matcha powder like you would any other tea. This means storing it an airtight container away from heat, light, odors, and moisture, according to Jee Choe, tea sommelier and founder of Oh, How Civilized, a tea and food blog. "Matcha doesn't really go bad, but since it's a powder, it will lose flavor over time," says Choe. "It's a good idea to jot down the purchase date of the matcha so you know how fresh or old it is."

When you're ready to enjoy the benefits of matcha, you have several options. To start, sift the matcha powder with a fine-mesh strainer. "Matcha clumps easily in water, so using a strainer [to sift it] helps to create smooth and clump-free matcha," says Choe. To prepare it the traditional Japanese way, you'll need one teaspoon of matcha and four tablespoons of hot water at about 175 degrees Fahrenheit, explains Hatanaka. Scoop the matcha powder into a small bowl, add the hot water, then whisk with a chasen, or a bamboo whisk specifically made for whisking matcha. You'll want to whisk vigorously for several seconds in a "W" shape, not in a circular motion, notes Choe. "Nothing can replace a matcha whisk to create perfect froth like the chasen, but if you're starting out, a handheld milk frother is a good alternative," she adds. Once frothy and combined, the matcha is ready to drink. You can enjoy it as is or add it to frothed milk and sweetener for a matcha latte, as Choe does in one of her recipes.

How to Use Matcha

Many people believe matcha is bitter, according to Hatanaka. "However, if [you're] using high-quality matcha prepared at the right temperature, it's actually sweet and savory," she says. Matcha tea also has a mild, grassy taste that works well with myriad ingredients.

If you're looking for ways to reap the benefits of matcha green tea, consider these tasty ideas:

With ice. For an irresistable cold beverage, prepare a matcha latte with your preferred milk and add ice cubes.

In smoothies. Give your next smoothie a caffeine kick with a teaspoon of matcha. The earthy flavor of matcha works especially well with tropical fruits such as mango and banana.

With lemonade. Due to the earthy elements of matcha, it tastes delicious with citrus. Mix iced matcha with lemonade for a flavorful homemade beverage, recommends Choe.

In waffles or pancakes. To make a matcha-infused breakfast, add a bit of matcha powder to your go-to waffle or pancake mix, says Choe. Start with one teaspoon of matcha per batch, then continue adding more until the batter is a light green color, she suggests. For a step-by-step tutorial, check out Choe's recipe for matcha waffles on Oh, How Civilized.

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