The Health Benefits of Matcha Powder (And A Few Cautions)

The Health Benefits of Matcha Powder (And A Few Cautions)

matcha title photo

Have you heard of matcha tea?

I won’t be surprised if you have. Matcha has grown in popularity over the last few years in the US mostly due to the expanding knowledge surrounding the health benefits of matcha powder. And while tea drinkers in Japan still mostly consume this wonderful leaf in a more traditional tea, the West has adopted matcha in a different way.

Ever had a latte, smoothie, cookie, or ice cream with green tea in it? Then you’ve probably had matcha.

Regardless of how or if you plan to incorporate matcha into your diet, I’m hoping this post will give you a basic understanding as to why you should (or shouldn’t).


matcha powder photo courtesy of dungthuyvunguyen and pixabay

What is Matcha?

About 5 years ago, you were lucky if you could find matcha in the grocery store or at your local coffee or tea shop. Now it looks to be everywhere. But even if you’ve heard of this green powder, you might still not know what it is.

Matcha is green tea that has been ground into a powder. It’s a little more complicated than that but in a nutshell, that’s it. Unlike traditional green tea where you drink the water steeped in the leaves, this drink mixes the green tea with the water and you drink both.

The history of matcha in Japan is said to have started around the 12th century when a Zen monk by the name of Eisai brought back tea seeds on a trip from China. China had been cultivating and consuming powdered tea before Eisai and reached its popularity during the Song Dynasty. During that time in China, Zen Buddhists formed a ritual around the preparation and cultivation of powdered tea by growing it in shade to increase the therapeutic benefits. This is what became known as Matcha.

However, while Matcha was losing popularity in China over the next few decades, it was thriving in Zen monasteries in Japan. And through growers in Japan, they perfected the process of cultivating Matcha into what we know today.

Cultivation of green tea that is to be turned into matcha varies a bit from regular green tea although both are produced from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. About 20-30 days before harvesting time, the plant is covered to prevent direct sunlight.

This process does a few things to the plant. First, the scarcity of sunlight forces the leaves to grow wider but thinner in order to reach the sunlight it needs. Second, research has revealed that through photosynthesis the amino acids like theanine which are responsible for a sweeter flavor turn into antioxidants like catechins which produce a bitter taste. So in shading the plant, photosynthesis is slowed to allow for a sweeter tea.


Which Grade of Matcha Should You Buy?Matcha powder with whisk and container photo courtsey of teechen and pixabay

To answer this question, you need to first decide what you plan to use it for.

Are you planning to brew up a nice cup of hot green tea? Or will you be using it to make another food that tastes like green tea?

Matcha comes in basically three grades: Ceremonial, premium, and culinary grade.

Ceremonial grade matcha is the green tea that is harvested in spring. This harvest is usually hand-picked and only the very top leaves are chosen. That makes this harvest highest in quality with the least bitter flavor. But because of these factors, it is the most labor intensive so it makes this grade the most expensive. This is the grade you drink if you are just brewing up a cup of green tea. Because the flavor is so subtle it doesn’t work well for cooking.

Premium is the in-between grade. It isn’t as sweet as a ceremonial grade but not as bitter as culinary. Not all sellers even offer this grade and some discerning tea drinkers do not even consider this an authentic grade of matcha. So don’t be surprised if you can’t find this one.

Culinary grade is the harvest that comes later in the season. This harvest is completely automated and the least desirable in flavor. But because of the bitterness of this harvest, it makes it perfect for creating a green tea flavor in other foods like smoothies or ice cream. This is also the least costly grade of matcha per gram. (1)


green tea leaves photo courtsey of DukeAsh and pixabay

What Are the Health Benefits of Matcha Green Tea?

I’m sure you have heard many times about the health benefits of green tea. Green tea is known to improve mental performance, protect the brain from cognitive degeneration, aid in weight loss, lower your risk for type II diabetes, prevent cardiovascular diseases, boost energy and physical performance, lower your risk for some forms of cancer, prevent illness, improve your mood and ability to relax, and maintain healthy youthful skin (2).

Catechins

The green tea plant, Camellia sinensis, is packed full of antioxidants. Dietary antioxidants prevent free radicals from forming in your body thus protecting from cell and tissue damage. Catechins are the antioxidant green tea is known for being very high in.

Do you remember that I mentioned this component is responsible for the bitter flavor?

The most powerful catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG has been studied extensively and has been shown as the primary catechin found in green tea at 60% of the total amount. This is the component that lowers your risk for cancer (6) and type II diabetes(5), prevents illness (3), lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (4), helps with arthritis (9), aids in weight loss(11), and improves your skin from the effects of age (7).

Matcha takes this to another level. Since you are ingesting the actual leaves of the plant, one cup of matcha is the equivalent of about 10 cups of steeped green tea. Or another way to look at it, matcha has 137 times more antioxidants than a low-grade green tea, and up to 3 times more antioxidants than other high-quality teas (8).

Caffeine and L-theaninemonk meditating photo courtsey of truthseeker08 and pixabay

Beyond the protective qualities of catechins, matcha has a whole host of other components that help. Matcha and green tea have been proven to help increase energy, alertness, and mood (10). Caffeine is present in matcha but the amounts are low enough that most can gain the benefits of it without getting the crash or jitters.

But green tea and matcha have a special balance that other caffeinated drinks like coffee lack. L-theanine is an amino acid found in high concentrations in matcha. If you remember, theanine is the component that gives the tea-leaf that sweet flavor.

By combining that with caffeine, it does wonders for your mood and gives you the ability to relax in tandem with increased energy and mental focus. L-theanine increases the production of alpha waves in the brain. These alpha waves are what increase relaxation and induce a state of mental clarity on the same level that can be found in meditation and yoga practice (12). In fact, this quality in matcha is exactly why the samurai warriors would drink tea before a battle or during training exercises. The samurai was instrumental in creating the art of the tea ceremony that we know today.

Lowers Cholesterol

In 2003, the first human study on the relationship between green tea and cholesterol was performed by Vanderbilt University Medical Center. During the 12-week study, they found the group that ingested 375 mg. capsules of green tea extract showed a reduction in cholesterol by 16 percent (14). That dose is the equivalent of 3.5 cups of matcha or 35 cups of regular tea.

Repairs and Rejuvenates Skin

The catechins in matcha are one of the leading contributors to why green tea can be used topically to keep our skin healthy and youthful as well as protect from UV damage and improve skin elasticity (13) but there is also tannins in green tea that help to shrink pores and reduce oil production associated with acne.

Make homemade face masks? Add a teaspoon of matcha to your recipe!

Rich in Vitamins and Minerals

And let’s not forget that green tea also boasts a nutrient profile that isn’t to be ignored. Matcha and green tea contains vitamin C, B2, folic acid, b-carotene (the precursor of vitamin A), vitamin E, saponins, fluorine, minerals (around 5-7% minerals, mainly potassium, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, as well as small quantities of manganese, zinc, and copper), and chlorophyll.

With that kind of nutrition, there is another reason to add matcha to your diet.


What Are the Bad Effects of Matcha Green Tea?

Now here are a few reasons not to drink matcha.

The most obvious one is caffeine. Although green tea has significantly less caffeine than other caffeinated beverages like coffee and energy drinks, it does still contain caffeine. A cup of coffee averages around 200 mg. per 6 oz. and energy drinks are roughly around the same amount per serving. A serving of soda averages around 35 mg. give or take with the highest amount being 69 mg. and the lowest at 23 mg. Green tea is around 25 mg. per serving (8 oz.).

So it isn’t much but it is present. Folks who have a sensitivity to caffeine or do not wish to consume caffeine for other reasons should stay away from green tea.

Another less obvious undesirable side effect comes from the catechins. Ironic isn’t it?

green tea supplements photo courtsey of aixklusiv and pixabay

For all the wonderful benefits that catechins provide, this same antioxidant can also do some less than favorable things. Studies have shown that EGCG can actually inhibit the absorption of iron (15). EGCG is known to inhibit an enzyme called myeloperoxidase, which might cause inflammation. But when the tea is consumed along with iron-rich foods, EGCG loses its ability to inhibit the inflammatory action of myeloperoxidase, thereby leading to inflammation (16).

So in other words, do not drink green tea at the same time you eat iron-rich foods or take iron supplements.

Another study on EGCG has shown it can cause liver and kidney damage when taking in high doses (around 700 to 2000 mg per day(16). This is the amount usually found in green tea extract supplements especially those geared for weight loss. Luckily, a teaspoon of matcha contains on average 100 mg of EGCG (amounts vary widely on brands). So drinking a few cups of matcha green tea a day will not hurt you but supplements might.


green tea latte photo courtsey of hoyas and pixabay

What Should You Take Away From This?

There are many good reasons to drink matcha. I personally drink matcha regularly and I love the stuff! It gives you a whole host of health benefits and I have seen its cancer-fighting ability firsthand.

About 12 years ago I was diagnosed with one of the two strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer. And over a year and a half from my original diagnosis, my doctor was getting concerned because it was getting worse instead of better. He told me at one visit that I was in the precancer stage and wanted to see me within 3 months versus the usual 6 months between visits before.

I cannot begin to describe the emotional state I was in at that moment. But what good did come out of that news was my decision to start searching for my own way to fight this. In my research, I came across articles about how green tea was showing great results in killing the HPV virus in studies conducted in Europe. It was that article that made me read more about green tea and find all this wonderful information that I just shared with you.

So I started replacing my cups of coffee throughout the day with cups of green tea. By the end of those three months, the doctor was astonished at the recovery my body was making at fighting off the virus. By the next visit, the virus could not be found in my cells at all. And I haven’t seen any signs of it since. I believe green tea had a part to play in that.

So despite the potential bad effects that can come from drinking any tea brewed from the Camellia sinensis plant, matcha and regular green tea are very good for you. But only in moderation. So its true, you can have too much of a good thing.


I really hope you found this article to be helpful. If you have any questions or information I did not cover about matcha green tea, please leave me a comment below and I will gladly get back to you.

Also, if you are interested in trying matcha for yourself, here are some brands that I have tried and recommend. For a ceremonial grade matcha on Amazon, I really liked Kenko and DoMatcha. For a culinary grade, I find Kenko to do very well.

And speaking of culinary grade matcha, not a big fan of drinking matcha tea straight? I have a Matcha and Pistachio Smoothie recipe that might be what you’re looking for.

Thank you for visiting Late Summer Mama!

Happy Brewing!


 

 

 

 



16 thoughts on “The Health Benefits of Matcha Powder (And A Few Cautions)”

  • I have heard, and I know the health benefits of matcha tea. Unfortunately, I do not drink coffee and of course stay away from green tea. A friend of mine brought me matcha tea together with the bowl and the ‘shaver’ if I can say like this :).

    I was suspected as having high blood pressure, and I would like to use the benefits of matcha tea, do you think matcha tea in recommend? I know that lowers the cholesterol, but I do not understand the implications for blood pressure.

    Thank you for an informative article.

    • Hi Dany! Thanks for visiting my post and taking the time to talk with me!

      My understanding is the the catechins in green tea help to lower your bad cholesterol and relax blood vessels. However, that’s for studies with people who drink tea regularly. 

      Since you don’t drink caffeine daily, it might have an opposite effect for you. Nothing dangerous and very temporary but you’re blood pressure might increase from drinking matcha. If you were to add it to your diet regularly, it’s been known to decrease blood pressure by about 2 mmHg. But that’s long-term not a short-term. 

      If you’d like to read more on it, there’s a good article by Time Magazine here.

      I hope this helps! If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch. 

      Thanks again and take care, Tina

  • Very interesting article, yes I have heard of matcha powder but no I have never tried it or even looked into its health benefits until now.

    lately i have been looking for something that is a good source of potassium for a relative and with this matcha containing potassium and so much i think its definitely worth a try. Many thanks for your thorough article i shall book mark it!

    • Hi Dianne! Welcome back! 

      I’m glad you found this article helpful! It’s really great that green tea can provide some extra nutrients with very little calories. You definitely won’t get as much potassium from green tea as you would something like a banana but every little bit helps, right?

      If you have any questions, please let me know. Also, if you check back in a few days I should have a matcha smoothie recipe posted you might like.

      Thanks again! Take care, Tina

  • I was just telling myself that I don’t think I have ever tasted this matcha tea but when you mentioned that if you have had cookie with green tea in it then you have probably had matcha, then I said ok I most certainly have. The health benefits of green tea are really amazing and this is a reason most people like to take it. 

    It seems that this sought of tea is taken a lot by adults. I would like to know if children can also take matcha tea especially if they can take it as the tea.

    • Hi Jay! Thanks for the visit and taking the time to connect with me!

      I’m glad you found the post informative! A bunch of people think they’ve never had matcha before. I know I didn’t think so but I fell in love with green tea ice cream the first time I had some. Little did I know that it was matcha and not steeped green tea in it! That was my first exposure to matcha and definitely not the last. 

      In regards to your question about giving matcha to a kid. I would say it depends on age to start with. I wouldn’t recommend any caffeine to a child under 5. If the child in question is drinking soda like Pepsi or Coke then it’s probably a safe bet that they could drink a cup of matcha instead. It would definitely be much healthier than soda!

      I hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please let me know. Thanks again, Tina

  • Thanks for the very informative article, never heard of Matcha Powder before. I have heard about green tea but never have really done any research on it. 

    This powder seems like it would be worth trying to see if it helps with weight loss; have you had any experience with the weight loss aspect?

    Sounds awesome the results with treating the HPV virus! That is always good to hear and makes trying this product even more appealing.

    Planning on trying a new drink before going to bed and may want to add some of this to the mix; how much energy boost to you feel when you drink it? Will it keep you up all night?  

    • Hi Chad! Thanks for the visit and talking with me!

      I have not had much experience with matcha as a weight loss aid. But I know that studies showed matcha and green tea will raise your metabolism and increase fat oxidation. 

      However, I wouldn’t depend on that solely to lose weight. Especially in light of the liver and kidney damage done by large amounts of green tea extract found primarily in weight loss supplements. Instead I would recommend using green tea like a pre- or post-workout aid. For example, put a 1/2 or full teaspoon of matcha in your workout drink or smoothie. It will help to boost your workout energy or recovery plus give your that extra increase to your metabolism at the same time.

      Also, green tea isn’t something I’d recommend to drink before bed as with any caffeinated drink. I’m not sensitive to caffeine but even I would have some trouble going to sleep just after drinking a cup. I guess it would really depend on your caffeine tolerance. I have a rule that I don’t drink any caffeine after 4 in the afternoon to make sure it’s out of my system by bedtime.

      I hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please let me know! Thanks again, Tina

  • I am glad I come across this article as I know someone that is fighting throat cancer. The doctor said the throat cancer was caused y the hpv virus. I know my children will be vaccinated against hpv but in the years past there was no preventative for hpv and most people don’t even realize they have it till years later. I’m going to share your page with him right away so he can also check into green tea. Thank you so much for this great story.

    • Hi Lance! Thanks for visiting my post and taking the time to talk with me!

      I’m very sorry to hear about your friend. I was only hitting the precancer stage so I got lucky I was able to turn it around before it became very serious. Thankfully, my child will also never have to deal with this virus as well. Apparently there is a vaccine for chickenpox too! Crazy.

      Matcha or green tea might be able to help your friend. I really hope so. Just please have him stay away from green tea supplements. He would benefit most from drinking it as a tea anyways as the catechins will start fighting the disease once it makes contact with the area. 

      The studies I read reported the best results from the green tea extract being placed on the wart topically. It’s a shame that such high doses cause a bunch of other problems instead which is why the drug was banned in Europe ultimately. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it works. Just don’t go overboard with it.

      If you or your friend have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out! I wish him all the best in this fight.

      Take care, Tina

  • I am on a journey to improve my health and lifestyle by actually reading the labels of the food I eat and by exercising regularly.  Since changing my eating habits, cutting out things that I should not eat and working harder to prepare food from a multitude of ingredients, I have definitely felt a lot better.  I have been on the lookout for a new way to help improve my health with something natural.

    I have considered green tea, but I do not know anything about it.  This article helps me understand a bit more about the role that green tea can play in my daily life.  I like the idea that these tea leaves are full of anti-oxidants that can offer health benefits.

    It is interesting to know that the conditions in which it is grown can affect the taste of the leaves when they are consumed.

    • Hi Josh! Thanks for visiting my post and taking the time to talk with me!

      I’m so happy to hear that you are looking for ways to improve your health! And it sounds like you are taking the right steps in that direction. I love matcha and green tea! It’s a really good way to lower your caffeine intake if you are an avid coffee drinker like I am. I like to switch to a cup of matcha or a matcha smoothie about mid day. It keeps me going but doesn’t affect my sleep.

      I thought the same thing about the conditions affecting the taste as well. I never realized that the astringent flavor came from the catechins and that shading the plant prevented the process of theanine turning into catechins. In retrospect I shouldn’t be surprised because many plants react similarly to changing conditions like that.

      If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out. And if you are interested, I plan to do my next post on a matcha smoothie recipe that might be right up your alley if you are looking for a healthy energy boosting drink.

      I hope to see you again soon! Take care, Tina

  • Thanks for sharing the the health benefits of Matcha powder. This powder seem to contain lots of great benefits. I love its property of lowering Cholesterol, its ability to Repair and rejuvinate skin and packed with vitamins and minerals. Good to know that the benefits supersedes the effects ig I take it in moderation as you have said as too much of everything is bad.

    Farewell.

    • Hi Barry! Thanks for visiting my post and taking the time to chat with me!

      Matcha and green tea in general is pretty amazing stuff! For the potential bad effects that could come from matcha, there are so many great benefits to this tea that really outweigh the bad. Unless you have a sensitivity to caffeine or have iron issues, the real only problem I found was taking too much. Luckily, to drink too much would take close to 7 teaspoons of matcha. 

      Depending on how much you put in one cup of tea, you are looking at between 7 to 14 cups in a day. Most people only ingest that much if it’s a supplement so just stay away from supplements with green tea extract and you’re good.

      Thanks again! If you have any questions please let me know. I’m here to help!

      Tina

  • I have always loved Green Tea, but only in the last year have I tried Matcha. Your honesty sharing the differences and your experience helped me understand more about the benefits. I enjoy the flavor, yet I moderate when I take it because of the caffeine. Thanks for the explanations.

    • Hi Bill! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and talk with me!

      I started out on green tea as well. I stayed away from matcha for years because I thought it was a “fake” green tea or like instant coffee to regular brewed coffee. How wrong I was! 

      I’m glad this post helped! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

      Thanks again, Tina

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