You may have noticed that recently the term “Matcha” (not to be confused with maca) is popping up everywhere: in online articles, on restaurant and cocktail menus, on my Pinterest tea board, and in smoothie recipes.

With Matcha showing up so frequently, you might be wondering, what the heck is it and why has it suddenly become so popular.

What is Matcha?

Matcha BowlMatcha is actually a form of green tea. However, Matcha is distinct from green tea in a number of ways:

1. With green tea, you steep then discard the leaves.  With Matcha, you’re actually consuming the whole leaf that has been dried and grown down into a fine powder.

2. Due to its powered form, Match is more commonly used in baking, cooking, and to make desserts and lattes, than green tea.

3. Most Match has more caffeine, polyphenols, and antioxidants, including EGCG, and more L-Theanine than average green tea. In this regard, research suggests Matcha to have greater fat-burning capabilities, cancer preventing powers, and to provide more mental stimulation and clarity.

4. Matcha tends to be shade-grown more so than most green tea (hence the increased caffeine levels), which also means more chlorophyll, and thus more detox power.

5. Green tea tends to be more affordable, especially on a per cup basis, than Matcha. Many people balk when they first find out the price of Matcha; I know, I did.  But there is a range of Matcha from cooking grade to ceremonial grade with the former being more affordable, a better place for the Matcha explorer to start. (Or try Matcha with a low-commitment single-serve stick.)

Why Has Matcha Become So Popular?

Matcha has been riding on the coattails of the rise in popularity of green tea. It has also been banking on the interest in the health-promoting properties of green tea, which arguably, Matcha has more of.  Because the concentration of polyphenols, catechins, and antioxidants is seemingly greater in Matcha, purveyors and lovers of Matcha tout those benefits as being even greater than in green tea.  This has definitely caused a surge of interest from health bloggers and coaches, and nutritionists, who say Matcha packs even more health-enhancing punch.

The second reason I see Matcha has become so popular is because its so versatile: it goes well in sweet or savory dishes, soups, stews, donuts, pastries and desserts, smoothies, with fish, made into tea lattes, or drunk in its traditional whipped frothy form. Plus, it adds a spot of green color, that appeals to the health conscious, even when its in Macarons. Because of it earthy, versatile flavor, it has become the hot new darling of foodies and restaurateurs alike.

Matcha Recipes

Matcha Cookies

Traditionally, Matcha powder is whisked with hot water to create a frothy antioxidant-packed beverage to keep you alert and your brain firing on all cylinders. But most coffee shops these days are offering it as tea latte, packed with sugar and milk. (Ask about the sugar content, or make it at home, if you’re trying to maximize the health boosting benefits).

For more culinary approaches, check out this PDF of Matcha Crusted Halibut in a Light Matcha Dashi and Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream. Or, for a power-packed smoothie, try this recipe. For more matcha recipes, check out my matcha pins on pinterest.

 

Note: I don’t actually know if Matcha is any ‘healthier’ than any other type of tea, and likewise, I don’t know if its benefits justify the higher cost. You’ll have to discover that for yourself: buy Matcha online.

Pictures courtesy of flickr users: jrasku and isaaclicious.

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