Ready to take your morning caffeine habit to the next level? It may be time to replace your loose leaves or cup of coffee with matcha. A powdered form of steamed and dried green tea leaves that has been used in Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries, matcha tastes like a grassier, brighter version of the regular stuff. Think of it as the "healthy espresso of green tea," say David Mandelbaum and Jessica Lloyd, owners of matcha purveyor Panatea. So just how healthy is the green powder? A study found that one serving of matcha has 137 times more disease-fighting polyphenols, called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), than a brewed mug of conventional China Green Tips — the equivalent of up to 10 cups of regular green tea! With such an antioxidant punch, it's no wonder that matcha just may be the new superfood. Read on for why it could just be a miracle in a mug.
Weight-loss concentrate: EGCG has been shown in some lab studies to boost metabolism, and other research has shown that EGCG may help stop the growth of new fat cells. While more studies are still needed to confirm results in humans, add to this the fact that drinking green tea instead of sugary drinks can help you save calories, and opting for a healthy matcha-based drink (like this lower-calorie version of Starbucks's green tea latte) may just be a wise weight-loss decision.
Disease-fighter: The concentrated levels of antioxidants in matcha are hard to beat, especially considering catechins in green tea have been shown to have cancer-preventing as well as immune-boosting effects, including helping prevent high-risk health workers from catching the flu.
Daily detox: Matcha may just help keep your body functioning in tip-top shape; a lab study in rats with type 2 diabetes found that a daily dose of matcha provided a protective effect on their liver and kidney systems. Other research has found that green tea drinkers had a 33 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes by helping reduce blood glucose levels — the more green tea they drank, the lower the risk.
Jitter-free energy: A serving of matcha has less caffeine than an espresso, but its nutrient makeup just may give you more energy. Because the tea leaves used to make matcha are protected from sunlight before being harvested and steamed, the leaves retain much of their natural chlorophyll (which is why matcha is so green), a substance that has been shown to help boost energy. Plus, green tea is an excellent source of the mind-calming amino acid L-theanine, which means you may just feel more awake and alert without the late-afternoon caffeine crash.
When buying matcha, be sure and check each product so you know you're buying high-quality tea with the most health benefits. "The more vibrantly green the matcha is, the higher the chlorophyll and amino acid content," David and Jessica advise. Also, check labels and watch out for additives and sugars, which some matcha products contain. For the perfect cup, David and Jessica recommend heating water until before boiling (180°F) and whisking in matcha powder in a "M" or "W" motion.