The world is going through a serious health obsession. One in 5 articles I read has something to do with exercise or eating better, whether that’s 15 reasons why avocados are good for you or the next diet craze, 16:8. I don’t know whether that says more about my reading patterns than the world, but there’s no denying that we have become a lot more aware about how food and drink affects us. And it’s probably about time!
With this health focus, a type of tea has been featured in the press A LOT. Adding matcha to cakes, smoothies or having it as a matcha latte are just some of the examples I’ve seen. But what exactly is it? And why are health, sports and nutrition companies pushing it so much?
A powerhouse of goodness
Matcha is a powdered green tea originating from Japan from a plant called Gyokuro. Because the plant is shaded, it produces more chlorophyll which contributes to enriched antioxidant levels. As opposed to green tea where you steep the leaves and discard them, matcha is mixed with water and ingested, so naturally, one would think it’s better for you. However, studies have been inconclusive on how much our bodies are actually capable of absorbing from this goodness. Inconclusive but not disproving so what are the potential benefits?
- Has 60x more antioxidants than spinach and 137x more than green tea (source)
- Offers some protection against heart problems like high blood pressure and cancer development through a powerful antioxidant group called catechins
- Boosts metabolism, helping you burn up to 25% more fat
- Increases energy and exercise endurance – the special type of caffeine it contains will give you energy without the side effects of coffee so you’ll have energy for longer without crashing
- Strengthens the immune systems through the combination of nutrients: Potassium, Vitamins A & C, Iron, Protein, and Calcium.
Isn’t that just green tea though?
Yes, it is, but it’s stronger and it’s more versatile in a powder form. But it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, quite literally! Matcha has a very strong earthy flavour (a bit like boiled spinach) and in it can be quite bitter to the inexperienced tea drinker. While mixing it into brownies and lattes and smoothies sounds like a good idea, you need to remember that just by adding vitamins to a brownie, it doesn’t make it a healthy brownie, just a better one. You’re still consuming sugar and fat. Also, matcha is a very expensive ingredient to be wasting in baking! 30g could set you back as much as £20, though prices vary on the internet. Sports nutrition company MyProtein sell 100g for £19.99 and it’s organic so it’s unlikely to have lead contamination as that’s a worry with ingesting green tea, particularly from China.
The good news is that regular green tea provides many of the same benefits because at the end of the day matcha is still green tea. So if you don’t find the taste particularly appealing, you can just drink regular green tea. The results might be slightly diminished as you’re not ingesting the leaves, but remember that studies have been inconclusive regarding how much our bodies process by ingesting the stuff.
How do you make a cup of tea using them?
Both matcha and green tea are great. But what all that press doesn’t tell you is that matcha is very bitter. Even for me and I have tea without sugar! So while you’re drinking something healthy because of its many benefits, you will need to add some sort of sweetener (syrup, sugar, honey or whatever you use) which diminishes its nutritional value. Even so, here’s how I use it: mix 1/2 teaspoon with 80-100ml of water. The water should be about 70-80 degrees not boiling, in the same way as green tea. Whisk it until it turns frothy (traditionally done with a bamboo whisk in a warm container). Top up with frothy or ice cold milk depending on the season and preference to make a matcha latte. Or if you’re brave enough, drink it as it is.
And to make a cup of green tea like Green Tea & Apple for example, measure one teaspoon per cup if you make it in a teapot or about 1 1/2 for a mug. Add hot water at 70-80 degrees – my personal trick for that is to stop the kettle from boiling when the bubbles are forming just before it reaches boiling point. Steep for 2-3 minutes, remove the leaves and enjoy!
So whichever one you fancy drinking, or develop a taste for, one thing is for sure: green tea is incredibly good for you and it’s a great way of having a flavoursome drink while avoiding those nasty sweetened drinks and even alcohol!