If you are a coffee/tea addict like myself, you may have heard about the latest health fad: MATCHA TEA, a ceremonial Japanese green tea. Is it just me or is it everywhere!? Most of you likely already know some of the benefits, but one popular aspect of matcha is that it is high in catechins, a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants remove toxic molecules (such as free radicals) that reduce oxidative stress and prevent cell damage. Of course, being a scientist, my next question was: is matcha too good to be true? Well, yes and no.
After searching for studies on matcha, I found that most of the benefits are based on the benefits of drinking green tea. There are actually very few studies on matcha tea itself. One study reports that matcha contains 137 times more catechins in comparison to China Green Tips green tea – yes they only tested one type of green tea. However, there’s no evidence on how much gets absorbed by our bodies. I was disappointed to find out how much of the evidence seems to be inferred and not directly from the source. Still, ever being the optimist, until I know it is harmful, I like to think they make some good points. And so I tried it for myself.
When I started drinking matcha tea, I drank it as a large cup of hot tea to substitute my morning coffee. I just followed the directions on the package, and to my dismay, it tasted “healthy” or also like bitter green tea, bad. I have slightly modified it since then, and drink it as a warm 2-ounce shot in the morning, with my milk frother to mix it (you could also use the traditional bamboo whisk). This way, I don’t taste it as much and thus don’t add anything to enhance the flavour. I have found it is healthier and economical to prepare your matcha at home as opposed to ordering a grande matcha latte, or smoothie, or matcha dessert from your local coffee shop, because the first ingredient is most likely sugar (as confirmed by my local barista)! No jokes, how amusing is it that when I was drafting this post at Starbucks, someone ordered a matcha beverage! I’m telling you, it’s EVERYWHERE. Getting back to my experience…
I did notice that my morning Imperial Matcha Tea had a different effect on me as compared to drinking coffee (again these are my own personal experiences). As opposed to my usual caffeinated buzz, I felt a focused alertness with a lack of caffeine jitters – it felt great! I didn’t experience caffeine withdrawal later in the day or any dehydration, which I usually experience after drinking my morning coffee. Unlike matcha, coffee is a natural diuretic that ends up flushing water out of your system. It is important to note that I don’t drink a lot of coffee, so I still retain caffeine sensitivity as opposed to someone who may drink 2-3 cups a day. Still, even the most avid of you coffee addicts might find the same thing I did. I have also tried Unicity’s Matcha Chi-Oka; I use the Natural Focus blend to improve my alertness during my intense study sessions, and in contrast use the Natural Energy blend for my 25km summer bike rides, or for any time I need a big energy boost!
As there aren’t many scientific reports, and the evidence is weak and extrapolated at best, but placebo or not, I am going to continue enjoying my morning (flavour-free) matcha shot, with an occasional coffee affair on the side. Still, I’m glad I looked it up. Just because an article makes health benefit claims, it is always important to check the sources and question their validity with your curiosity. So when you order that matcha brownie, remember it’s still a brownie. But have it anyway. Cuz hey, it’s a brownie! Let me end off by saying:
Matcha green powder
Take a power shot or two
Health boost to Re-boot
Co-written by Dr Shamina Kassum, a pediatrician by day – foodie by night, the type who doesn’t usually buy into health fads, but has agreed to try matcha tea – stayed tuned for our follow up post!