Trend alert! Have your social media feeds been clogged with green recipes promising benefits of clean energy without the crash? Enter matcha.
Matcha is a powdered green tea, traditionally served in Japan. What makes it unique is that instead of the leaves being steeped in hot water and then discarded as you would when making a cup of green tea, matcha contains the whole tea leaf.
While it has been growing in popularity in the West for years, it seems to have exploded onto the mainstream market rather recently, leaving some to wonder, is matcha the trendy miracle food of 2016?
Because matcha imparts a bitter flavor, it is usually combined with something sweet. For instance, if you order a green tea latte at Starbucks, what you get is a powder that is primarily sugar with some matcha powder mixed into steamed milk.
Nowadays unsweetened matcha is easy to find in U.S. stores, with many major tea brands carrying matcha powder (as well as matcha “concentrate” and “charcoal”, among other things). As with anything, be sure to read the ingredients label to know what you’re purchasing.
So what’s all the buzz about? I chatted with some fans of matcha and here is what they have to say:
“I love matcha because of its robust flavor and versatility. It comes in a powdered form, and the opportunities to incorporate it into dishes are endless!”
–Chris Vogliano, environmentally-focused registered dietitian and blogger at EthicalFoodWarrior.com
“I dig that it gives me an energy boost that’s less jittery than coffee.”
-Ashlee Piper, eco-lifestyle expert, media personality and founder of TheLilFoxes.com
“Preparing matcha provides a similar ritualistic gratification to preparing coffee, and the tea has more body to it since you are consuming the full powdered leaves. One of the best parts is that the caffeine doesn’t affect me the same way [as coffee]. I feel energized but not panicked.”
–Joshua Katcher, founder of Brave GentleMan and editor of TheDiscerningBrute.com
And here’s what they like to do with matcha:
JK: “It’s versatile (lattes, shots, iced and various combinations) which makes it ideal for the coffee-drinker (or former coffee drinker).”
CV: “I’ve tried it in dishes such as matcha ice cream, matcha muffins and even matcha yogurt breakfast bowls. It’s a great way to add a floral flavor and boost the antioxidant power of your dish!”
AP: “I like to make a latte with coconut milk and lemon essential oil with matcha. Or add a touch (too much and it makes everything bitter) to a green smoothie. And I add it to banana nice cream.”
While you’ll find loads of claims of the miracles matcha works on human health scattered around the Internet, the evidence is lacking. The Natural Medicines Database does not yet have a professional monograph on matcha (a go-to credible resource to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of various foods and supplements), likely because a literature search of matcha in humans turns up next to nothing.
The matcha studies that populate in PubMed were conducted in animals, save for two old studies from the 1980s and 90s looking at how lifestyle factors affect one’s risk of bladder cancer (one study suggested matcha intake decreased the risk, the other one found no link).
So while it’s too soon to make health claims specifically about matcha, we do know that green tea is healthful, antioxidant-rich and is rated by the Natural Medicines Database as “likely effective” for helping to lower high cholesterol and “possibly effective” for preventing coronary artery disease, endometrial cancer, high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease.
What’s the verdict? Consume matcha because you like it, not because it’s trendy. To go beyond matcha tea and lattes, here are a few fun recipes to try:
Matcha Chia Pudding from One Ingredient Chef
Have you tried matcha? What’s your favorite way to enjoy it? Share with us in the comments below!