A deep dive into the health benefits, little known facts, and mythology surrounding this traditional green tea beverage.

Photo by David Leong (Flickr)
Photo by David Leong (Flickr)

Even though matcha has been a popular drink in South Korea and Japan for over 900 years now, matcha has been all the rage as of late. It seems every coffee shop, big or small, offers some type of matcha beverage in a tea or latte form. Blenz Coffee has recently been promoting their matcha drinks, claiming they provide a multitude of health benefits. On their website they write that drinking matcha is associated with:

  • A strong caffeine boost without an energy crash or jitters
  • 10x the antioxidants than a cup of green tea
  • The ability to aid in increasing the metabolism and lowering blood pressure
  • Increased concentration.

Other sites claim that matcha is a superfood that aids in the prevention of cancer and obesity. With all these benefits, why are we still drinking anything other than matcha? Before we trade in our regular cup of green tea for a this rather expensive matcha, we should question if these assertions about all the health benefits ring true.

Matcha is different from other forms of green tea due to the way in which it’s consumed. Matcha is produced from tencha leaves. After the leaves are harvested and steamed, they’re stone-ground into a powder. Us consumers then take this powder, add boiling water, and voila! we have our beloved tea. Unlike regular steeped green tea, with matcha we consume the entire leaf. Because of this, the tea is full of antioxidants that bring us these alleged health benefits.

The antioxidant ECGC is three times higher in matcha tea than in regular green tea. This antioxidant is known to aid in the prevention of cancer by slowing the growth of damaged cells. However, Time writes that studies regarding matcha as an anti-carcinogen have been inconsistent. Most studies are population-based where they compare the health of those who drink the tea to those who don’t. It’s currently inconclusive whether or not matcha truly prevents cancer, but studies have shown that there is an association between matcha tea and better health.

ECGC is also responsible for helping with weight loss by lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels. A study was done that showed that a group of mice that were fed a high-fat diet with a high percentage of matcha had lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels than the mice who only ate the high-fat diet. A similar study done on humans had near results as the subjects who consumed a higher percentage of matcha had lower levels of cholesterol than those who did not consume the matcha.

In addition to the various health benefits of this tea, sources claim that matcha gives its drinkers a caffeine boost that doesn’t cause jitters or crashes. This is due to matcha’s lower levels of caffeine in comparison to coffee. There is around 53-72mg of caffeine in a cup of matcha and around 95mg in a cup of coffee. Matcha’s caffeine is released slowly over time, which is what prevents the typical coffee jitters.

Drinking matcha is also said to give you better concentration. This is because the tea acquires an antioxidant called L-theanine that boosts alpha waves in the brain. This relaxes the mind and provides people with mental clarity.

Although some studies are inconsistent, overall, matcha does seem to have several health benefits. These benefits are diminished, though, when matcha is consumed from brownies, smoothies, or lattes as the added sugar dilutes the antioxidants. But, when choosing between matcha and regular green tea or coffee, consider matcha’s additional benefits.