Matcha doesn’t have to be one those far-distant trends you only see in fancy cafés and Instagram feeds – there are so many things matcha brings to the table that you can incorporate into your everyday life, whatever that looks like for you.
We’ve linked up with ENSO MATCHA co-founder Natalia to get the low down on all-things matcha. From health benefits to fitness aids plus answers to the most pressing questions like, ‘what does matcha actually taste like?’, read on to learn more about this power ingredient.
Put simply, matcha is finely ground green tea leaves. Unlike regular green tea (which is steeped in water) with matcha, you’re consuming the entire leaf. That’s why matcha has 10x the nutritional benefits of regular green tea and a much more complex, interesting flavour.
The tea leaves are grown for several weeks under shade; limiting sunlight increases chlorophyll production, which is why matcha has such a strong, vibrant colour. It also increases the production of theanine, which is responsible for some of matcha’s incredible health benefits.
The leaves are picked, steamed, dried, de-stemmed and de-veined by hand, before being ground into a fine powder. It’s a lengthy process and takes over an hour to grind just 30g of matcha!
There’s a range of different elements that contribute to the flavour profile of matcha including the region, soil, weather and growing techniques. Matcha is to Japan what Champagne is to France! Matcha’s taste is complex and difficult to explain, but it’s moreish. It has a unique taste with a touch of bitterness and a lingering sweetness.
The grade of matcha impacts the taste. There are 3 popular grades of matcha outside Japan; culinary, premium and ceremonial. These go by different names depending on the brand.
Ceremonial matcha uses the youngest leaves. It has the most umami flavour, sweet and without much bitterness.
Premium matcha is not quite as sweet and delicate as ceremonial, but less bitter than the culinary. It’s enjoyable to drink on its own, and great when used in lattes.
Culinary matcha tends to be more bitter and stronger in taste so that the flavour of matcha can still be enjoyed when mixed with other ingredients in cakes, bread and so on. It’s not necessarily lower in quality, it’s just intended for different purposes. It doesn’t have the same level of sweetness as the premium or ceremonial grade.
Matcha is a very versatile ingredient in the kitchen. You can add it into lattes, smoothies, desserts, cocktails and even in noodles! When cooking with matcha, you still get its energising properties and nutritional benefits. Here are some examples of how to use it in food and drink.
Because of the high antioxidants content, you can also use matcha for homemade face masks, moisturizers and other beauty products.
Matcha has some incredible health benefits, thanks to the special combination of L-theanine and caffeine. It’s one of the richest all-natural sources of antioxidants, containing 137 times more antioxidants than regular green tea! Some of the main, scientifically-proven benefits are:
1. Gentle energy boost – Matcha gives you a boost of energy for up to 6 hours, without the caffeine crash, jitters or side effects from drinking coffee.
2. Concentration & clarity – The combination of caffeine and L-theanine, which is almost exclusively found in matcha, promotes heightened concentration, increased focus and mental clarity.
3. Better mood & reduced stress – L-theanine also promotes increased dopamine and serotonin production, which helps improve your mood and reduce stress.
4. Support your immune system – Because matcha is rich in antioxidants, it can help to support your body’s immune system.
Thanks to its ultra-high antioxidant content, matcha can help protect the skin against free radicals which can cause premature skin ageing. It also helps fight against sun damage and blemishes as the caffeine acts as an anti-inflammatory. Matcha is a great ingredient for face masks that’ll give you a fresh, glowing complexion.
Yes, matcha does contain caffeine. It normally has 30% – 50% less caffeine than a cup of coffee, but there are clear differences in how your body absorbs the caffeine in matcha and coffee. Coffee is absorbed very quickly, giving you a sudden spike of energy. That’s why you’ll often experience a racing heartbeat and jitters, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine. The L-theanine in matcha helps your body absorb the caffeine slowly. The result is a gentle yet noticeable increase in energy which lasts longer but with no crash afterwards. Click here for more info on how they compare.
Matcha is still a caffeinated drink, so it’s possible to consume too much of it. 1-2 cups are more than enough to keep you focused, energised and relaxed throughout the day.
A lot of people like to drink coffee before their workout for the extra energy boost, which can help improve performance at the gym. But for many, drinking a coffee (especially first thing in the morning) is too harsh and we get unpleasant side effects.
Matcha can replace coffee for your pre-gym caffeine hit. You’ll still get a great energy boost, without the crash afterwards. It can be added to a smoothie or protein shake, your morning oats, or you can just drink it on its own/with milk.