What is matcha powder?

Matcha is the result of green tea leaves that are steamed, stemmed and ground into powder. This process makes the tea powder pure and potent, but is it good for you?

Recently while standing in line at a coffee shop, the person at the counter ordered a green tea with matcha powder. Immediately, I was curious. After all, aren’t we all curious about ingredients that might enhance our caffeinated beverages?

What is matcha?

Matcha means powdered tea.  The powder comes from green tea that is steamed, stemmed and then ground into powder. This process makes the tea powder quite pure and potent. This premium green tea has origins in both China and Japan in the 7th-10th century, which is pretty far back when you consider it’s still relevant and selling at our most popular coffee houses!

Why are people using matcha powder?
  • Although it contains caffeine, matcha (when used alone) contains almost a third less caffeine than a cup of regular black coffee and far less than the amount caffeine found in espresso coffee.
  • It’s quite pure in form. The entire tea leaf is used whereas with tea bags the entire leaf may not be in a tea bag. Water steeping a tea bag will only secrete a limited about of antioxidants.  
  • It has a sweet, grassy flavor. Tea is a plant-based food; eating plant-based food has been associated with good heart health.
  • The tea bag is eliminated. Matcha powder dissolves into water, milk or soy products, coffee, smoothies and baked goods. 
  • Some people say that drinking matcha tea gives them a sensation of mindfulness and relaxation. 
  • It is high in amino acid properties and antioxidant potency, more so than regular green tea.
  • It contains L-theanine, known to have a calming, relaxing effect.
Matcha powder: a few things to consider   
  • Tea leaves are grown in soil. Consider the quality of the soil, have leafs been exposed to pesticides or other contaminants?  Some tea contains significant amounts of lead in their tea leaves.
  • Read the package label. Look for product origin, if there are added ingredients and follow the directions and serving size as listed on the package.
  • Do not mix matcha powder with L-theanine supplements. Matcha already contains much higher levels of L-theanine than other types of green tea.
  • Using matcha powder will increase your caffeine intake. 
Caffeine has side effects, interactions and warnings, including:
  • Children and adolescents, those under prenatal care and individuals at high risk or with chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease should be mindful of the amount of caffeine they consume. 
  • Some antibiotics, and medications (anti-hypertensive) (asthma), and even herbals like Echinacea can interact or be interfered with, when combined with caffeine. 
  • Excess levels of caffeine can be deadly. Never mix or over consume caffeinated drinks such as sports drinks, energy drinks and caffeine pills.
  • Negative side effects are associated with caffeine and caffeine withdrawal. Caffeine affects the brain and other organs. 
  • Caffeine should be used in moderation. According to the The Food & Drug Administration healthy adults need to be below 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. Always check with your healthcare provider for their recommendation on your individual caffeine intake level.
Is matcha too good to be true?

If something seems too good to be true, it probably needs further examination.

The FDA regulates tea. This regulation includes a set of specific criteria that must be met by both sellers and manufacturers. This includes advertisement claims made by sellers and manufacturers.  All products must meet the FDA industry standards for nutrient content and requirements must meet and be listed in the FDA’s, 21 CFR 101.54(g). FDA Nutrient & Labeling.

Be guarded against claims which say ‘100% pure’ or other inaccurate health claims such as, ‘powerful antioxidants found in tea are believed to help prevent or cure cancer, Alzheimer’s and lower cholesterol,’ Claims using the term “antioxidant" must also comply with the  FDA Food Nutrient Content Claims.

To learn more about healthy eating, visit Michigan State University Extension.

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