Buddhist monks have enjoyed matcha tea for centuries - considered the highest quality tea, matcha makes them relaxed and focused, meditating for hours without the intensity of other caffeinated beverages. Its unique taste and nutritional composition sets matcha apart from other teas. Regular consumption of matcha may positively affect both physical and mental health - it is linked to many positive health outcomes, from prevention of cardiovascular disease to cognitive enhancement. Does matcha have caffeine and how does that impact our health?April 27, 2022 11:39 am February 22, 2022 5:33 pm
What is matcha tea?
Matcha is a type of green tea which is well-known for its health benefits. Young tea leaves are ground into a bright green powder. The powder is traditionally whisked with hot water to make a soothing tea.
This method differs from regular tea where the leaves are typically infused in hot water then removed.
The benefit of drinking matcha is that you also drink the leaves which contain a myriad of healthy nutrients! A good analogy to understand the importance of this is to imagine you are boiling spinach, then you drink the water and throw away the spinach! You would essentially be throwing away the majority of the nutrients which are concentrated in the leaves.
The highest quality matcha comes from Japan where it has traditionally been used for centuries in the Japanese tea ceremony. This elaborate ritual involves inviting guests over for drinking green tea and to enjoy the hospitality of the host.
Matcha leaves grow on green tea bushes which are kept in the shade. The leaves contain a compound called chlorophyll which increases when plants are in the shade. This is what gives matcha tea its vibrant green color!
Farmers carefully handpick the leaves from the bushes and finely grind them into a powder. Traditionally, the grinding process takes place in the dark in order to protect the nutrients found in the leaves.
Does matcha have caffeine?
Matcha has a reputation for being full of healthy compounds. In addition to free-radical fighting catechins, matcha also contains chlorophyll, theanine and caffeine.
We typically associate caffeine with coffee however it is also found in other foods and beverages. A cup of coffee contains anywhere between 95-200mg of caffeine per cup (sometimes more) whereas matcha tea contains around 70mg per cup.
Caffeine is naturally found in some plants. It is present in coffee, black and green tea, guarana, cocoa, cola and energy drinks. Chocolate, energy bars and some non-prescription medications such as cough syrup may also contain added caffeine. It’s a good idea to check product labels of such products if you are sensitive to caffeine.
Caffeine stimulates our nervous system and increases the amount of cortisol and adrenaline produced by our body. Cortisol is known as the body’s stress hormone. Our adrenal glands release cortisol, as well as adrenaline in response to a stressful situation. This is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” hormone.
The physiological effects of caffeine explain why we might feel overly jittery or nervous after one too many cups of coffee!
The USFDA considers 400mg of caffeine per day a safe amount for healthy adults to consume daily. So a daily cup of matcha does not significantly contribute to the recommended daily limit.(1)
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should check with your doctor before consuming caffeine. There are limits to how much caffeine should be taken for certain medical conditions and caffeine can interact with some medication.
Matcha vs coffee
Whilst matcha and coffee both contain caffeine in varying amounts, matcha also contains nutrients which can interact with caffeine. A particular compound called l-theanine, can mitigate the effects of caffeine on our nervous system.
L-theanine is an amino acid which is typically found in black and green tea and certain mushrooms. Research shows that l-theanine and caffeine taken in combination (as in matcha tea) improve performance in cognitively challenging tasks.(2). L-theanine may assist in feeling more relaxed while remaining aware and alert.(3)
A review of 49 intervention studies examined the link between green tea phytochemicals and mood and cognition. It was found that both L-theanine and caffeine have clear favorable effects on attention, memory, and suppression of distraction. In addition, L-theanine generated feelings of relaxation by reducing caffeine induced arousal.(4)
This may be helpful for those of us who are sensitive to the side-effects of a cup of coffee but who are still looking for a boost of alertness. Matcha is the perfect companion to those of us wanting to stay alert throughout the day without the jittery effects of caffeine.
If you are looking for an alternative to coffee because you are experiencing some of its common side effects, why not try a cup of hot matcha or a matcha latte? Not ready to go cold turkey on coffee? You can start introducing matcha into your day by adding some to your coffee and making a “dirty” matcha latte. You can also substitute one of your daily coffees for a matcha and gradually wean yourself off coffee.
“Research shows that l-theanine and caffeine taken in combination (as in matcha tea) improve performance in cognitively challenging tasks”
Some people like to drink matcha and coffee and there’s no need to stop drinking coffee if you don’t want to. But if you are experiencing side effects from coffee then give matcha a go and see the difference for yourself. You may find that it provides a gentle energy boost without the jittery feeling typically associated with coffee.
Matcha: an antioxidant powerhouse
Matcha is well known for its antioxidant properties, but what exactly do antioxidants do for our bodies and why are they good for us?
There are a wide variety of antioxidants found in foods, some of the most commonly known ones are vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene. They play many different roles in the body including fighting against free radicals which lead to oxidative stress. In the long term, this can lead to damaged cells and eventually chronic diseases.
In matcha tea, a particularly abundant type of antioxidant is catechins. Catechins from green tea have been linked to cardiovascular health. In fact, multiple studies have found that catechins exert protective effects on the cardiovascular system through anti-oxidative, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory and lipid-lowering effects. Moreover, tea catechins can improve blood lipid profiles as well, they reduce fat absorption in the gut.(5)
Tea contains Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin. EGCG helps to prevent oxidative stress which in turn contributes to protection against disease.Overall, consuming EGCG supports cardiovascular health and may be protective against heart attacks.
For instance, one study compared the EGCG content of regular green tea to that of matcha. Results showed that the content of EGCG in matcha green tea is at least three times higher than the highest value recorded in the literature for other green teas.(6)
In addition, a randomized placebo-controlled study in middle-aged and older adults also found that matcha has positive effects on mental health. Researchers found that consuming matcha with caffeine improved attention levels and work performance in psychologically stressed people compared to caffeine alone.(7)
There is evidence to show that matcha also has protective effects against cognitive decline. A study conducted in elderly women in Japan found a significant enhancement in cognitive performance following 12 weeks of matcha consumption compared to a control group.(8)
How should I take matcha?
Traditionally, matcha is taken as a hot drink mixed with water. You should choose the highest quality matcha if you are drinking it the traditional way – this is known as “ceremonial grade” matcha. To prepare matcha the traditional way, the Japanese use a bamboo whisk and a tea bowl. The matcha powder is sifted into a bowl using a sifter, then hot water ( no hotter than 80°C) is added and whisked vigorously until the tea achieves a frothy consistency.
If you’d like to use matcha in recipes like smoothies or cakes, a culinary grade matcha powder is more appropriate. The flavor of ceremonial grade and culinary grade matcha are different because they are made for distinct uses. Culinary grade matcha can be used in a variety of recipes. Add it to a green smoothie, spice up your pancake batter or add it to your morning porridge for a colorful antioxidant boost.
To learn more about the different types of matcha tea and various types of preparations, check out our article ‘What is Ceremonial Matcha?’.
You can use matcha to make delicious smoothies and matcha lattes. Try our lemon-infused matcha latte recipe for a nutrient packed morning pick-me-up!
How to choose the best matcha
If you are drinking matcha the traditional way, as we mentioned before, the highest quality matcha you can find is ceremonial grade matcha. Its incredible nutritional properties make matcha a great addition to your diet.
Given its rising popularity in the West in recent years, cultivation and production of matcha has increased significantly. Thus, unfortunately not all matcha grows in the traditional way. In fact, many producers use more modern farming techniques which include the use of pesticides and insecticides.
To ensure that you are getting the best possible health benefits from your matcha without the addition of any pesticides, we recommend choosing an organic variety.
Our Ceremonial Matcha Powder is 100% certified organic and sourced from small organic farms near Kyoto, Japan.
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