Matcha has become a popular beverage in recent years, and this vibrant green drink has peaked the interest of the health-conscious and avid foodies alike. But what is Matcha and what makes it so popular?
While most types of tea are infused, meaning that the tea leaves are steeped in hot water to produce flavor, Matcha is a powdered tea. This means that the leaves in Matcha tea are ground into a fine powder and put directly into the water, so they are consumed instead of being simply used for flavor. Because of this, the caffeine level in Matcha is much higher than in other teas, making it comparable to coffee. The powdered leaves are also what gives Matcha its signature green color that makes it stand out from all other teas.
Matcha has seen a surge in popularity in the U.S., but its roots are in Ancient Japan. This tea originated thousands of years ago, and its name is the combination of "Matsu", meaning "to rub," and "cha," meaning "tea" in Japanese. In Ancient Japan, samurai warriors would drink Matcha green tea before going into battle because of its energizing properties, and Zen monks drank it to remain alert, focused and relaxed during meditation.
Matcha goes through a pretty detailed process before it makes it into your cup. The leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant are shaded from direct sunlight for approximately 20 days before they will be harvested. This process drastically increases the level of chlorophyll in the leaves, which gives Matcha its dreamy green color. Leaving the leaves in darkness also increases the level of amino acid L-Theanine, which is said to help promote relaxation. Each leaf is hand-picked and dried to be ground up into a powder with a stone.
Matcha comes in a powdered form instead of whole leaves like traditional teas, so it is much more concentrated, and, because you drink the powder directly, you get a lot more nutritional benefits.
On top of Matcha having a much higher concentration of caffeine, it is also rich with antioxidants and enhances your immune system while boosting your metabolism. Studies have shown that Matcha enhances your mood and cognition, reduces stress and fights cavities. And while most energy drinks contain a lot of added sugar and are high in calories, Matcha gives you an energy boost without harming your waistline.
You don't need to stick to drinking Matcha tea in order to reap the benefits of this healthy green powder. Matcha is also a popular and trendy ingredient in many baked goods, including Matcha cupcakes, Matcha pancakes and Matcha shortbread cookies.