Matcha tea: what it is, properties and benefits, how to prepare it, recipes

Matcha tea: what it is, properties and benefits, how to prepare it, recipes

Have you ever heard of matcha tea? Matcha tea, or mocha, is one of the finest varieties of green tea. Its beneficial properties have long been known in the East, where it is used in the ritual tea ceremony.

Often consumed as a detox drink, matcha tea is actually very versatile and can be added as an ingredient in numerous recipes such as the matcha latte, made famous by Starbucks.

What distinguishes it from other types of green tea? What are its beneficial properties?

It is rich in nutrients with antioxidant value and at the same time gives vigor and energy to your body. Its consumption brings all-round benefits to your body. It improves intestinal functions and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It has a detox and antiaging effect, and even acts on a psychic level, stabilizing mood.

Let’s see in detail all the characteristics of this green tea.

Matcha tea: what is it?

It is a variety of powdered green tea that comes from specific processing and cultivation techniques. It is used in the East for the tea ceremony, but also as a spice, or natural green coloring for sweets (cakes, biscuits, chocolates, ice creams). Thanks to its numerous beneficial properties and its versatility of use, it has also taken hold on the western market, as a drink, dye, or ingredient in numerous preparations.

You may be surprised to discover that it is actually obtained from selected varieties of plants belonging to the same species as classic green tea, black tea, or oolong tea, namely Camelia sinensis.

It is a shrubby plant of the Theaceae genus, i.e. plants whose leaves and shoots can be used to produce tea. They therefore contain neurostimulating alkaloids such as theine (or caffeine) and theobromine.

Matcha tea isn’t the only powdered green tea. There are also Funmatsu-ryokucha and Konacha, of less nutritional interest.

If you are interested in the topic, discover our in-depth study on green tea.

How to make matcha tea?

Matcha tea is made using only quality, shade-grown and hand-picked tea leaves.

After the harvest, which generally takes place in the month of May, the leaves are subjected to a steam treatment to protect them from oxidation, thus stabilizing the green colour, the flavor and the nutritional elements they contain. Finally, they are ground with granite stones to create a very fine green powder, often used in the tea ceremony.

To prepare matcha tea, therefore, it will be sufficient to mix the powder in hot water. Tradition has it that a bamboo whisk is used. And you don’t need to strain the drink before drinking. What is obtained is a green emulsion: the powder dissolves in hot water.

Tea ceremony

The tea ceremony exists in two versions, depending on whether a more or less dense tea is used. What makes the difference is not only the quantity of water added to the powder, but its preparation is really different, starting from the method of collecting the leaves.

  • Thick or thick tea ceremony (koicha). The tea is obtained from the youngest leaves present on the oldest plants of the plantation, older than 30 years; it tastes sweeter and sweeter than light tea.
  • Light or subtle tea ceremony (ushuaia). The tea is made from the oldest leaves of the youngest plants, less than 30 years old; it tastes slightly more bitter than thick tea.

Properties of matcha tea and nutritional values

Matcha tea is rich in vitamins, minerals, polyphenols and antioxidants (even more than the classic green tea), which make it a real panacea for health. That’s why it is widely used in the East in the tea ceremony, and beyond.

In fact, due to its numerous properties, this powdered tea has various fields of application. We find it in cosmetics, in the formulations of cleansing creams and scrubs. It is widely used as an ingredient in herbal teas and detox infusions, or as a natural remedy for those suffering from gastrointestinal or nervous disorders.

Among the many beneficial molecules present, we must certainly mention a class of antioxidant substances called catechins. In particular, Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), which we also find in green tea, known for its anticancer properties.

Furthermore, this particular oriental tea contains theine, or caffeine, and theobromine, stimulating alkaloids, also known as “nerve molecules”, due to their action on the nervous system.

But what are the nutritional values ​​of matcha tea? Here’s what 1 g of this powdered tea provides:

  • 0 kcal.
  • 0.5 g in proteine.
  • 50 IU of vitamin A.
  • 0.2 mg of iron.
  • Traces of other minerals and B vitamins, vitamins C, E, K.
  • Polyphenols, catechins, chlorophyll, L-theanine, theophylline, theine and theobromine.

Theine or caffeine? How much does powdered tea contain?

There is some confusion about this, but let’s clarify this concept. Theine and caffeine are exactly the same molecule, but take different names depending on whether they are found in tea (theine) or coffee (caffeine).

They are both alkaloids and share in all respects the same chemical structure, i.e. a double aromatic ring (1, 3, 7, trimethylxanthine).

For the more curious, caffeine and theine are formed by two ring systems, called purines. One with 6 carbon atoms, a pyrimidine, and the other with 5 carbon atoms, an imidazole ring.

And they both have effects on the nervous system: they are neurostimulant alkaloids.

The “confusion” comes from the fact that the two molecules were discovered at different times. Caffeine was isolated from coffee beans by a German chemist in 1815.

While the same molecule, with the name of theine, was extracted from tea leaves a few years later, in 1827. It took some time for researchers to understand that it was the same molecule. And this discovery earned the chemist Hermann Emil Fischer the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1902.

Caffeine and theine are therefore the same thing for chemists. Other synonyms, less used, that you can find are: guaranine (because they are present in guarana) and mateina (from the infusion of Yerba Mate).

But how much caffeine does a cup of matcha tea contain?

  • Coffee: 80 – 90 mg of caffeine.
  • Matcha tea: 55 – 65 mg of caffeine.
  • Black tea: 45 – 50 mg of caffeine.
  • Green tea: 25 – 35 mg of caffeine.
  • Oolong tea: 25 – 35 mg of caffeine.
  • White tea: 10 – 20 mg of caffeine.

Benefits of matcha tea

We have mentioned the antioxidant and detox properties of matcha tea. But this powdered tea is a true elixir of good health. Catechins and polyphenols (natural antioxidants) can help our body’s defenses and improve the lipid profile for the benefit of the circulatory system.

EGCG, more than other catechins, is in fact known for its cardioprotective properties: it helps reduce bad cholesterol, keeps blood sugar levels at bay and has a carminative effect, to the benefit of the digestive system. Matcha tea is therefore a valid ally for maintaining good health.

Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action

These properties are also common to green tea, thanks to the presence of polyphenols and catechins. But matcha tea contains a higher amount of these molecules (especially EGCG). The effect is therefore amplified compared to any other type of tea.

Catechins and other polyphenols protect cells from aging (antiaging effect). They reduce tissue inflammation and protect against the action of free oxygen radicals (ROS, NOS), protumor molecules.

Improve mood

Thanks to the presence of neurostimulant alkaloids, matcha tea is an excellent ally in a good mood. Not only theine and theobromine, which improve concentration, reduce tiredness and optimize performance in study and at work.

But also L – Theanine, which stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, giving a sense of well-being, with an anti-stress effect.

Speed ​​up your metabolism

It is no coincidence that matcha tea is often recommended in slimming diets. Thanks to its abundance of EGCG and other catechins, this green powder really kicks your metabolism. In fact, it has fat burning properties!

To go into detail, it stimulates thermogenesis, i.e. the conversion of white fat (lipid storage, static reserves) into brown fat (energy reserves used for heat production, fat that consumes energy – kcal – to maintain body temperature).

This conversion is modulated by Thermogenins (UPC), which are activated by cyclic AMP, or cAMP (energy molecule in cyclic form). In turn stimulated by the action of adrenaline and noradrenaline.

And matcha tea, what role does it play?

1 – Contains catechins which increase the activation time of this metabolic pathway. They inhibit the enzymes involved in the degradation of norepinephrine and adrenaline, allowing them to carry out their “undisturbed” action for longer.

2- Contains caffeine, which keeps cAMP levels high (inhibits the phosphodiesterase enzyme, involved in cAMP degradation).

In addition, matcha tea activates lipolysis (use of fats as an energy source), reduces the sense of hunger, keeps glycemic peaks at bay, improving glucose tolerance, and modulates blood cholesterol levels.

Detox effect

Another molecule that we haven’t talked about yet, contained in matcha tea, is chlorophyll. In addition to giving the typical green color of the powder, it has various beneficial properties for the intestine. It eliminates toxins and stimulates diuresis, favoring the purification of waste substances from the body.

Strengthens the immune system

Rich in vitamins and antioxidant molecules,…