From lattes to smoothies, cocktails, ice cream and even energy bars, matcha has found its way into a lot of our food. But, “what is it?” you may be asking yourself. Well, join us as we uncover more about the popular superfood.
We’ll guide you through the wondrous world of matcha, where you’ll learn what it is and how matcha benefits your health. We’ll also treat you to imaginative ways you can incorporate matcha into your nutritional routine with healthful, delicious recipes or add a creative twist to existing 8fit recipes.
What is matcha?
First things first, matcha is derived from the leaves of a specific strand of green tea called camellia sinensis, which is grown and processed in a unique way. Matcha is a bit of a Japanese food superstar, as it contains the highest quality of concentrated green tea available on the market. But what makes it so special?
Three weeks before harvest, the soon-to-be matcha leaves are shaded from direct sunlight. By doing so, the chlorophyll levels go up and produce the characteristic vibrant green color it’s known for. On top of that, providing shade boosts the amount of caffeine content in matcha. This isn’t a problem though, as shade-growing also increases the production of L-Theanine in the plant, an amino acid that promotes relaxation!
After the plant is harvested, the next step is to hand pick the leaves, discarding the veins and stems, before laying them out to dry. Once dry, they’re stone-ground into a very fine powder that becomes matcha as we know it. This potent powder is then stored in airtight receptacles away from any light to seal in its powers, i.e., its beautiful color and antioxidant qualities.
Matcha green tea benefits
Matcha also comes in the leafy form too, but it’s the powder that’s become most widespread. Both have the same health perks, but one of the most common matcha powder benefits is it’s much more concentrated and as such perfect to use in baking and drinks. Here are some matcha benefits that are sure to impress you.
Full of antioxidants
Antioxidants are always a hot topic. Why? Because they’re a powerful substance that slows down cellular oxidation, i.e., the aging process. There are a host of elements that can slowly damage and age our bodies over time from the sun’s UV radiation, stress, and exposure to pollution or toxins to name a few. Antioxidants fight the adverse effects of these triggers (in some cases like sun damage, even reverse it) for a younger-looking (and feeling) body. You can find antioxidants in raw fruits, green vegetables, and our beloved, dark chocolate. But none of these can beat the level of antioxidants found in matcha.
When it comes to antioxidants, matcha is packed with catechin, which is a potent antioxidant scavenger, seeking out oxidative damage and restoring balance by neutralizing it. These protective substances have the potential to combat everything from high blood pressure and heart disease risk to inflammation and even obesity.
Calming and uplifting
The relaxing effects of matcha are a result of the L-Theanine as previously mentioned. This amino acid reduces levels of chemicals in the brain that are linked to stress and anxiety. Another trait of L-Theanine is its ability to create dopamine and serotonin, which serve in enhancing mood, improving memory and increasing concentration. No wonder Buddhist monks and experienced meditators alike enjoy a cup of the brew regularly.
Matcha, like most teas, contains caffeine, and as it’s made from crushed whole tea leaves, the caffeine content is relatively high. But don’t fret, in the form of matcha the stimulant is released slowly into your bloodstream. Swapping your regular afternoon warm beverage for matcha will result in more focus and energy, plus it can slightly boost your metabolism. When paired with the calming L-Theanine, you can enjoy a hike in energy minus the jitters or caffeine crashes!
Supports weight loss
As we explained earlier, matcha is rich in L-Theanine, shown to have a positive impact on the body mass index (BMI). This could be a useful addition to a healthier lifestyle change and support weight management. If you’ve wondered what that slight umami taste in green tea is, then that is also a result of L-Theanine. Matcha’s tiered flavor profile also goes a long way in satisfying your taste buds and in turn your appetite.
Our favorite matcha recipes
Here’s how to drink it the traditional way:
In a medium-sized bowl, firstly add hot water.
Then slowly whisk in the loose matcha powder to the water with a bamboo whisk.
Finally, stir and add to a clay matcha bowl.
To add a modern twist to your matcha use, why not try incorporating it into lattes, smoothies or your morning oatmeal. Check out some inventive matcha-forward recipes:
- ½ cup steel-cut oats
- ½ cup steel-cut oats
- ¼ cup almond milk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp matcha powder
- Fruit to top (banana, coconut, mango)
- Pinch of salt
- Optional: 1 tsp honey or maple syrup
- Bring the almond milk to a simmer in a pot. Add oats with a pinch of salt and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 8-10 minutes, depending on the quality of your oats.
- Once cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and matcha powder. Mix until well combined.
- Pour into a bowl and top with sliced banana.
Take it up a notch!
Feel free to experiment with other recipes you would usually make and just add a sprinkle of matcha and see if you can create a match-a made in heaven. If you’re looking for other similarly mouth-drooling recipes, be sure to sign up to 8fit Pro to access our complete recipe book. You’ll discover even more tasty treats like Turmeric Latte with Pistachios, Coffee Mint Smoothie, and Green Smoothie Power Bowl.