Matcha is all the rage at the moment; it’s flavoring cakes, ice cream and a variety of different drinks. But what is matcha? What is it good for? Read on.
Matcha is green tea leaves (from the plant Camellia sinensis) that have been ground to a fine powder. Traditionally, the powder is then mixed with hot water (a little less than 100 degrees) and whisked with a bamboo brush until it froths. Voilà! A cup of matcha.
The leaves for matcha (“powdered tea” in Japanese) and green tea are harvested and processed in different ways. For matcha, farmers shade the plants for about three weeks before they are harvested, the longer time to increase chlorophyll, caffeine and theanine production. Farmers also remove the stems and veins when harvesting the plants. The leaves are then steamed to stop fermentation, dried and aged in a cold environment and only then are they (traditionally) stone-ground into a powder.
How Does Matcha Taste?
Green matcha tea tastes similar to green tea, as it comes from the same plant, but regular green tea is steeped in warm water, and with matcha, you drink the powdered leaves (or use the powder to flavor something). That means the flavor is much more intense. Because the harvesting process is slightly different, it also intensifies the flavor profile. It’s hard to describe exactly how green matcha tastes, but if you imagine a more intense version of green tea with more of a vegetal taste because of its the high chlorophyll and amino acid content, you get an idea. The two teas also have different tastes, depending on the grade of tea. Ceremonial grade and premium grade matcha is made from the top leaves of the plant and are sweeter and less bitter than cooking/culinary grade matcha, from the leaves of the lower branches.
Much like wine, chocolate, and coffee, each batch of matcha tastes slightly different due to where and how it was grown. And, if you decide to cold-brew matcha (yes, that’s quite possible), you will get a sweeter, less astringent flavor.
What Is Matcha Good For?
Many health benefits have been attributed to green matcha, thanks primarily to its “catechins” polyphenol compounds, a type of antioxidant. Studies have shown that polyphenols may help protect against viruses, heart disease and cancer, high blood pressure, aging, poor metabolism and poor blood-sugar regulation. As a result, matcha has been labeled a superfood.
As mentioned, matcha also contains caffeine and theanine; caffeine is known to cause alertness, while theanine has a calming effect on most people. Thus, matcha traditionally is used for meditation.
Be aware, however, that matcha also contains lead if grown in an environment where the mineral is found, and that means many places. Therefore, as with most things, you shouldn’t consume more than moderate amounts.
What Is Blue Matcha?
If you like following food bloggers or keeping up with the latest food trends in general, chances are you’ve heard about blue matcha. You may wonder what is the difference between blue and green matcha. We’ll tell you.
Blue matcha is a ground powder made from the butterfly pea plant (Clitoria Ternatea, aka Clitoris Principissae). Quite surprisingly, in botanical terms, it has little in common with green matcha. That also means it tastes different, if somewhat similar to green tea. The taste is just much more flowery and earthy.
The benefits of blue matcha are not as well-documented as with the green, but it is suggested that it may help with:
- stress and anxiety (calming effects)
- easing the pain (analgesic)
- blood flow
- evacuation of water (diuretic)
- inflammation (anti-inflammatory)
- microbes (anti-microbic)
Regardless of whether blue matcha will drastically improve your health, at least it can turn your smoothie bowls or cakes a delicious shade of blue.