Keeping yourself and your family healthy and happy is a full-time job. And it’s one that changes all the time as medical understanding, the season, and your bodies change. But there are some things that don’t change. Drinking tea, the right kind of tea, is really good for your body. And the tea known as matcha definitely falls under the heading of the right kind of tea. 

Here’s what you need to know if you’re looking to increase your energy levels and your immunity with a delicious glass of matcha tea. 

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a vibrant, bright green tea powder that’s popular in many parts of Asia. It’s made of tea leaves that are steamed and dried before they’re ground into powder. This means you consume the entire leaf, which is why matcha may have even more benefits than regular tea. The taste of matcha is rich and layered and it has a unique scent similar to green seaweed. 

Matcha has been used in China since the Sui Dynasty, which was around 581-618 CE. 

At the end of the ninth century (the mid-Heian period of Japan), Japanese envoys to China brought matcha back to Japan. It was a hit, and the Japanese love of matcha continues to this day, which is why matcha is a staple of traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. 

Matcha makes for a great tea. But if you don’t like tea, you can adapt it to other recipes or add milk and a natural sweetener to make a nice latte. It does contain some caffeine, so if you’re sensitive then make sure not to consume more than 2 cups (474 ml) per day. 

Why is Matcha so Healthy?

Health enthusiasts rave about matcha because of its many health benefits. Most of these benefits come from the tea’s high L-theanine content. This is a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties. 

Matcha contains more of this amino acid than other types of green tea because it’s made from green tea leaves grown in the shade. This process increases its content of certain compounds, including L-theanine and chlorophyll. 

To grow matcha, farmers cover their tea plants for 20–30 days before harvest. This protects them from direct sunlight, increasing chlorophyll production, boosting the amino acid content, and giving the plant a darker green hue. 

To make matcha, the tea leaves are harvested, and the stems and veins are removed. The leaves are then ground up into the fine powder that has become known as matcha.

Studies on the Benefits of Matcha 

Matcha has strong stress reducing effects when its L-theanine content is high and its caffeine levels are low. 

For example, in a recent study, 36 people ate cookies containing 4.5 grams of matcha powder each day. They experienced significantly reduced levels of the stress marker salivary alpha-amylase when compared with a placebo group who didn’t eat any matcha.

Matcha is also high in antioxidants and can help protect the liver, promote heart health and brain function, and even aid with weight loss.  

How to Brew Matcha

To brew matcha at home, you will need special equipment and a different brewing method than you would use with normal tea. This method makes usucha, or thin tea. This is different to the matcha used in tea ceremonies, which is known as koicha, or thick tea. 

Equipment: 

  •  A matcha whisk
  • Tea bowl
  • A matcha spoon or teaspoon
  • A matcha strainer (optional)

Method: 

  1. Add 2 scoops or 1 teaspoon of matcha to the bowl and use a strainer to sift the matcha free of clumps. Adjust the amount of matcha to your preferences.
  2. Slowly add 1/3 cup of filtered hot water (~175°F).
  3. Lightly press the matcha whisk into the bowl and whisk in a quick back and forth motion until a smooth layer of foam is created.
  4. Enjoy immediately! 


photo by Jason Leung

Easy Matcha Recipes

You don’t have to drink matcha tea if you don’t like it. This ingredient can be added to other recipes to enjoy the same benefits but a wholly different eating experience. Here are a few quick recipes: 

Matcha Vegetable Soup

This is a warming, soothing and energizing healthy green soup that uses matcha.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chopped vegetables
  • 2 cups of water of more
  • 2 tablespoons of matcha powder
  • Olive oil to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, caraway, cumin or rosemary

Method:

  1. Roughly chop the vegetables and add to a pot with the herbs and oil
  2. Add the water and bring the soup to a boil
  3. Quickly remove the pot from the heat, add the lid and allow the soup to steam for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Whip the matcha powder with water to make a foam and add it to the warm soup. 

Green Pancakes

Who’s ever heard of green pancakes? This recipe can be fun to make on St. Patrick’s Day or with the kids.

Ingredients:

  •  Use a readymade pancake mix (preferably one using whole grain flour such as spelt)
  •  Add dry matcha to suit your color and taste palate. You may have to sweeten the mix if the matcha makes the mix bitter. 

Make the pancakes as directed on the packet. 

Matcha Breakfast Cookies

These matcha breakfast cookies are vegan, gluten-free, and made with nutritious ingredients as well as matcha for an extra hit of caffeine. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
  • 1 3/4 cups rolled oats, divided (OR 1 cup oat flour plus 3/4 cup rolled oats)
  • 1/2 cup shelled nuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 really ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 teaspoons matcha powder

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
  3. In a small bowl, stir the flax meal with 2 tablespoons of filtered water (this is sometimes called a “flax egg”). Refrigerate it for 5-10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients – the resulting “egg” should be thick and slightly gelatinous.
  4. If using rolled oats, pour 1 cup of the oats into a food processor or high-speed blender and grind them to a fine meal, 1-2 minutes.
  5. Transfer the ground oats (or oat flour) to a medium bowl, along with the remaining 3/4 cup oats, nuts, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine.
  6. In a separate bowl, stir together the banana, coconut oil, sugar, matcha and the flax egg.
  7. Fold the oat mixture into the banana mixture, stirring just until combined.
  8. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet spacing the cookies 1-2 inches apart.
  9. Bake until lightly golden, 12-14 minutes.
  10. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let sit for 10 minutes before eating. 

Once cooled, you can place the cookies in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place for up to 5 days. 


photo by Alejandra Ezquerro

The Takeaway

Matcha has been popular in Asian countries for centuries. And yet the western world is only starting to understand the benefits of this delicious powder. If you’re looking for an easy way to boost your immune system or lower your stress levels, then try drinking matcha in tea or adding it to recipes for a tasty health boost.

Matcha is only one of the many exciting ingredients that we study in-depth at the Academy of Healing Nutrition in New York and London. For a “food as medicine” approach to healthy living, see our online program. New classes begin every October, but you can join online anytime.