What is Matcha

Matcha powder is being hailed a superfood, but what makes this popular Japanese organic green tea the best to buy for health benefits? How is it different from regular green tea?

Principally native to China (and South or East Asia), all green teas originate from the Camellia sinensis shrub. This is the plant species used to make green tea, yellow tea, white tea, pu-erh tea, oolong tea and black tea. The difference is the cultivation and method in which leaves get prepared for consumption, in turn grading their quality.

Green tea can range from low to high grade, whilst Matcha is considered high grade, as it’s far less processed – because the leaves aren’t heated, preserving natural nutrients. It all depends on the region and processing which alters antioxidants, caffeine and nutritional properties. However, Matcha is recommended to be dissolved in warm, rather than boiling water (unlike regular tea) – for optimum benefit and flavour, to avoid a grassy taste.

Regular green tea is often sun-dried, fried, baked or roasted once harvested, to prohibit ripening, with leaves rolled to remove moisture prior to packaging. Rolling, drying, and the processing of regular tea removes catechins such as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) an anti-carcinogen that attacks free radicals, like UV rays, radiation, pollution and chemicals that can lead to DNA or cell damage.

Likewise, water can only extract a fraction of green tea’s benefits. Although catechins, caffeine and theanine are soluble, the insoluble components such as the proteins, nutrients, carbohydrates and dietary fibres can only be benefited from when consumed.

Matcha green tea leaves are shaded from sunlight in the final few weeks before harvest, to create a sweeter flavour and increase chlorophyll content. This practice is usually only reserved for the finest teas, as it slows the growth of plants, increasing theanine content. The tenderest part of the leaves are plucked, steamed, and then ground into a fine powder. Consuming leaves whole, rather than throwing them away in a tea bag or straining them out, means you get the full benefit of the raw leaf.

Other teas may go through fermentation processes changing the structure of antioxidants, negating their powers. Whereas the gentle process of Matcha though more costly (hence the price difference, due to the higher quality and higher concentration) preserves all antioxidants, whilst grinding produces the extra leaves of EGCGs.

Consequently, not much Matcha is required per cup, which balances out the cost. One gram or a fifth of a teaspoon contains 61% EGCG with amino acids, vitamins and other antioxidants – so when drinking a single cup of Matcha, it’s equivalent to the benefits of drinking 10 cups of regular green tea. Matcha leaves the other green teas behind!