Green tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world.
It offers various potential health benefits, such as weight loss and improved heart health (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Matcha, a particular variety of green tea, is marketed as even healthier than other types. It is grown and prepared differently than other green teas. What’s more, the whole tea leaf is consumed.
However, you may wonder if matcha lives up to the hype.
This article explains whether matcha is healthier than other green teas.
What Is Matcha?
Matcha and regular green tea both come from the Camellia sinensis plant, which is native to China.
However, matcha is grown differently than regular green tea. The tea bushes are shielded from sunlight for about 20–30 days before harvest.
The shade triggers an increase in chlorophyll levels, which turns the leaves a darker shade of green and increases the production of amino acids.
After harvesting, the stems and veins are removed from the leaves. They are then stone-ground into a fine, bright green powder known as matcha.
Because the whole leaf powder is ingested, matcha is even higher in some substances — such as caffeine and antioxidants — than green tea.
One cup (237 ml) of standard matcha, made from 4 teaspoons of powder, generally packs about 280 mg of caffeine. This is significantly higher than a cup (237 ml) of regular green tea, which provides 35 mg of caffeine.
However, most people don’t drink a full cup (237 ml) of matcha at once because of its high caffeine content. It’s more common to drink 2–4 ounces (59–118 ml). Caffeine content also varies based on how much powder you add.
Matcha, which can have a grassy and bitter taste, is often served with a sweetener or milk. Matcha powder is also popular in smoothies and baking.
Matcha is a type of powdered, high-quality green tea. Grown and prepared differently than regular green tea, it has higher amounts of caffeine and antioxidants.
How Is It Prepared?
While regular tea is made from soaked leaves, matcha is made from ground, whole leaves.
It is usually prepared in the traditional Japanese way. The tea is measured with a bamboo spoon, or shashaku, into a heated tea bowl known as a chawan.
Hot water (about 158°F or 70°C) is then added to the bowl. The tea is whisked with a special bamboo whisk, called a chasen, until it becomes smooth with froth on top.
Matcha can be prepared in several consistencies:
- Standard. Most people mix 1 teaspoon of matcha powder with 2 ounces (59 ml) of hot water.
- Usucha (thin). This thinner version uses about half a teaspoon of matcha mixed with 3–4 ounces (89–118 ml) of hot water.
- Koicha (thick). Sometimes used in Japanese tea ceremonies, this thick version takes 2 teaspoons of matcha for 1 ounce (30 ml) of hot water. There is no foam, and a higher grade of matcha is required.
Remember that you don’t need special equipment to make a good cup of matcha. A cup, a teaspoon, and a small whisk will do just fine.
To prepare matcha tea, mix 1 teaspoon of powder with 2 ounces (59 ml) of hot — but not boiling — water. Use a whisk to make a smooth drink with froth on top.
Health Benefits of Matcha
Since matcha is simply a variety of green tea, it has most of the same health benefits.
However, because matcha is more concentrated in antioxidants, a single cup (237 ml) may be equivalent to about 3 cups (711 ml) of regular green tea.
Human studies on matcha specifically are limited, but animal studies suggest that it may reduce the risk of kidney and liver damage while lowering blood sugar, triglyceride, and cholesterol levels (6).
Here are the main health benefits associated with drinking matcha green tea.
Packed with Antioxidants
Dietary antioxidants counteract free radicals in your body, protecting cells and tissues from damage.
Matcha is very high in antioxidants, especially catechins. Its most powerful catechin is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).
What’s more, whole-leaf teas contain more antioxidants than tea bags or ready-to-drink products (9).
One study found that matcha contains up to 137 times more antioxidants than a low-grade variety of green tea and up to 3 times more antioxidants than other high-quality teas (10).
May Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the biggest cause of death worldwide. Many factors are known to increase heart disease risk (11).
This is mainly attributed to the antioxidants and plant compounds in green tea, which are found in even higher amounts in matcha.
May Aid Weight Loss
However, keep in mind that green tea is only a very small piece of the weight loss puzzle — and not all studies agree that it helps.
A recent review concluded that the weight loss effects of green tea are so small that they are not of clinical importance (25).
May Boost Relaxation and Alertness
In addition to being a great source of antioxidants, green tea contains a unique amino acid called L-theanine.
In fact, matcha boasts much higher levels of L-theanine than other types of green tea.
L-theanine also modifies the effects of caffeine in your body, increasing alertness without causing the drowsiness that often follows coffee consumption.
Matcha is loaded with antioxidants and offers numerous health benefits, potentially reducing heart disease risk while aiding weight loss, relaxation, and alertness.
Safety and Side Effects
Some side effects and risks are associated with matcha consumption.
Because matcha is highly concentrated in both beneficial and harmful substances, it’s generally not recommended to drink more than 2 cups (474 ml) per day.
By consuming matcha powder, you are really ingesting the whole tea leaf — along with everything it contains.
Using organic matcha may reduce your risk of exposure to pesticides, but even organic leaves may still contain substances from the soil that are harmful when ingested in large amounts.
Liver and Kidney Toxicity
Matcha contains about three times more antioxidants than high-quality regular green tea.
As such, 2 cups (474 ml) of matcha may provide equal amounts of plant compounds as 6 cups (1.4 liters) of other high-quality green teas.
Some individuals have shown signs of liver toxicity after consuming just 6 cups (1.4 liters) of green tea daily for 4 months — or about 2 daily cups (474 ml) of matcha (42).
It is not recommended to drink more than 2 cups (474 ml) of matcha per day. Matcha packs extremely large amounts of many plant compounds and may harbor contaminants from the soil or environment.
Matcha Is Healthier Than Regular Green Tea
Matcha is a special, powerful form of green tea. It comes from the same plant but is grown and prepared very differently.
Since the leaves are ground into powder, you end up consuming the whole leaf.
For this reason, matcha may have even more benefits than regular green tea. Just make sure not to consume more than 2 cups (474 ml) per day.
Matcha has skyrocketed in popularity lately, with matcha shots, lattes, teas, and even desserts appearing everywhere from health stores to coffee shops.
Like green tea, matcha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, it’s grown differently and has a unique nutrient profile.
Farmers grow matcha by covering their tea plants 20–30 days before harvest to avoid direct sunlight. This increases chlorophyll production, boosts the amino acid content, and gives the plant a darker green hue.
Once the tea leaves are harvested, the stems and veins are removed and the leaves are ground up into a fine powder known as matcha.
Matcha contains the nutrients from the entire tea leaf, which results in a greater amount of caffeine and antioxidants than typically found in green tea.
Studies of matcha and its components have unearthed a variety of benefits, showing that it can help protect the liver, promote heart health, and even aid in weight loss.
Here are 7 health benefits of matcha tea, all based on science.
- High in antioxidants
Matcha is rich in catechins, a class of plant compounds in tea that act as natural antioxidants.
Antioxidants help stabilize harmful free radicals, which are compounds that can damage cells and cause chronic disease.
When you add matcha powder to hot water to make tea, the tea contains all the nutrients from the entire leaf. It will tend to have more catechins and antioxidants than simply steeping green tea leaves in water.
In fact, by one estimate, the number of certain catechins in matcha is up to 137 times greater than in other types of green tea (1).
One study showed that giving mice matcha supplements reduced damage caused by free radicals and enhanced antioxidant activity (2).
Including matcha in your diet could increase your antioxidant intake, which may help prevent cell damage and even lower your risk of several chronic diseases (3).
Matcha contains a concentrated amount of antioxidants, which may reduce cell damage and prevent chronic disease.
- May help protect the liver
The liver is vital to health and plays a central role in flushing out toxins, metabolizing drugs, and processing nutrients.
Some studies have found that matcha may help protect the health of your liver.
One study gave diabetic rats matcha for 16 weeks and found that it helped prevent damage to both the kidneys and liver (4).
Another study gave 80 people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease either a placebo or 500 mg of green tea extract daily for 90 days.
After 12 weeks, green tea extract significantly reduced liver enzyme levels. Elevated levels of these enzymes are a marker of liver damage (5).
Furthermore, an analysis of 15 studies found that drinking green tea was associated with a decreased risk of liver disease (6).
However, it’s important to remember that there may be other factors involved in this association.
More research is needed to look at the effects of matcha on the general population, since most research is limited to studies examining the effects of green tea extract in animals.
Some studies have shown that matcha could prevent liver damage and decrease the risk of liver disease. However, additional studies are needed to look at the effects on humans in the general population.
- Boosts brain function
Some research shows that several of the components in matcha could help enhance brain function.
One study in 23 people looked at how people performed on a series of tasks designed to measure brain performance.
Some participants consumed either matcha tea or a bar containing 4 grams of matcha, while the control group consumed a placebo tea or bar.
The researchers found that matcha caused improvements in attention, reaction time, and memory, compared to the placebo (7).
Another small study showed that consuming 2 grams of green tea powder daily for 2 months helped improve brain function in older people (8).
Additionally, matcha contains a more concentrated amount of caffeine than green tea, packing in 35 mg of caffeine per half teaspoon (about 1 gram) of matcha powder.
L-theanine has also been shown to increase alpha wave activity in the brain, which may help induce relaxation and decrease stress levels (13).
Matcha has been shown to improve attention, memory, and reaction time. It also contains caffeine and L-theanine, which can improve several aspects of brain function.
- May help prevent cancer
Matcha is jam-packed with health-promoting compounds, including some that have been linked to cancer prevention in test tube and animal studies.
Matcha is especially high in epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a type of catechin that has been shown to have powerful anti-cancer properties.
One test tube study found that the EGCG in matcha helped kill off prostate cancer cells (15).
Keep in mind that these were test tube and animal studies looking at specific compounds found in matcha. Further research is needed to determine how these results may translate to humans.
Test tube and animal studies have found that the compounds in matcha may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
- May promote heart health
Some studies have shown that drinking green tea, which has a similar nutrient profile to matcha, may help protect against heart disease.
It may also help prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, another factor that may protect against heart disease (22).
When combined with a well-rounded diet and healthy lifestyle, drinking matcha may help keep your heart healthy and protect against disease.
Studies show that green tea and matcha can decrease several heart disease risk factors.
- Helps you lose weight
Take a look at any weight loss supplement and there’s a good chance you’ll see “green tea extract” listed in the ingredients.
Green tea is well known for its ability to enhance weight loss. In fact, studies show that it may help speed up metabolism to increase energy expenditure and boost fat burning.
Another study in 14 people found that taking a supplement containing green tea extract significantly boosted 24-hour energy expenditure, compared to a placebo (26).
A review of 11 studies also showed that green tea reduced body weight and helped maintain weight loss (27).
Although most of these studies focused on green tea extract, matcha comes from the same plant and should have the same effect.
Some studies show that green tea extract helps increase metabolism and fat burning, both of which may aid weight loss.
- Matcha tea is very easy to prepare
Taking advantage of the many health benefits of matcha is simple — and the tea tastes delicious.
You can make traditional matcha tea by sifting 1–2 teaspoons (2–4 grams) of matcha powder into your cup, adding 2 ounces (59 ml) of hot water, and mixing it together with a bamboo whisk.
You can also adjust the ratio of matcha powder to water based on your preferred consistency.
For a thinner tea, reduce the powder to a half teaspoon (1 gram) and mix with 3–4 ounces (89–118 ml) of hot water.
If you prefer a more concentrated version, combine 2 teaspoons (4 grams) of powder with just 1 ounce (30 ml) of water.
If you’re feeling creative, you can even try whipping up matcha lattes, puddings, or protein smoothies to boost the nutrient content of your favorite recipes.
As always, moderation is key. Although matcha is brimming with health benefits, more is not necessarily better.
In fact, liver problems have been reported in some people who drank high amounts of green tea daily (28).
The maximum tolerable intake of matcha powder is unclear and depends on the individual. To be safe, make sure to consume matcha in moderation.
It’s best to stick to 1–2 cups per day and look for certified organic varieties to take advantage of matcha’s many health benefits without risking any side effects.
There are many ways to prepare matcha, so you can choose the one you like best. It can also be incorporated into a range of different recipes.Bottom line:
Matcha comes from the same plant as green tea, but since it’s made from the entire leaf, it packs in a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.
Studies have revealed a variety of health benefits associated with matcha and its components, ranging from enhancing weight loss to decreasing the risk of heart disease.
Best of all, the tea is simple to prepare, so you can incorporate it effortlessly into your diet and give your day a burst of extra flavor.Reference:
Written by Rachael Link, MS, RD on February 24, 2020
Written by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) — Updated on February 22, 2019