Matcha!! Although I have definitely heard of it for years, and have had the green powder in smoothies and lattes, I’ve never been a regular user. I’ve just always been a coffee kind of girl – something about that smell and the warmth and the strong jolt in the morning. Sigh. But lately, a good friend recommended a matcha brand she uses, so I decided to give it a solid try. I knew that the caffeine boost it gives is supposed to be smoother and longer lasting than that from coffee, that it helps to relax the mind and reduce stress, and that it is high in antioxidants, so….what’s not to love about all that?! I needed it, and I needed it right away. Unfortunately patience is not my strong suit, and the brand I chose, Organic Burst, took about a week to arrive from the UK. In the meantime, I got busy collecting some info to share for other interested newbies!
Matcha is huge in Japan, and has been gaining popularity in the US for years. So why all the fuss?!
For starters, a single serving contains 10-15 times the overall nutrients and 100 times more antioxidants compared to traditional green, white, black, and yerba mate teas (!!). This is because the hot water used to brew traditional teas extracts minerals from the leaves, however, some remain behind in the leaves – and not in your cup. Whereas with matcha, the entire leaf (and therefore all contained minerals) is ground up and consumed.
Matcha contains high concentrations of L-theanine, which is an amino acid known to help relax the mind, reduce physical and mental stress, and improve cognition and mood. Because of this, along with the caffeine, matcha is in a unique position to be both a stimulant and a relaxant. Buddhist monks used it during meditation, to keep them alert yet in a relaxed state. I don’t know about you, but as a mom to 3 young kiddos, staying in an alert yet relaxed state?! Yes, please!
As you can see from the pictures, the powder is an amazing bright green color. The chlorophyll (green plant pigment) is a powerful detoxifier, which helps eliminate toxins, chemicals and heavy metals from the body. What’s more, matcha is sugar free and rich in fiber.
Matcha (how many times can I use this word in one post) is very high in antioxidants as compared to other sources, as you can see below. While I knew this, I was surprised to see the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) score so much higher than foods such as pomegranate, blueberries, broccoli and spinach. According to a study at Tufts University, matcha’s ORAC rating weighs in at 1573 units per gram. The USDA recommends 3,000-5,000 ORAC units per day, and 2 tsp of matcha will give you 2,400 units.
All that said, I was skeptical that this mild green drink would be able to give me the same satisfaction as my typical one cup of super strong black brew in the morning. I am on day 4 and so far, yes! It gives me the same boost, and I like knowing that there are the extra health benefits noted above.
When you read about how matcha is grown and harvested, you’ve gotta have some respect for the leaves. Weeks prior to harvest, farmers cover the plants to protect them from sunlight. This is important because it helps to increase the chlorophyll levels and turns the leaves dark green. Once it is time to harvest, they gently pick the leaves, by hand, and sort them by grade. Ceremonial grade is the highest grade – only the youngest and highest quality leaves are chosen. After sorting, all of the fibers and stems are removed to prepare the leaves for grinding.
So I feel very zen when I prepare matcha in the morning, manifesting all this hard work into a little green blast of healthy deliciousness. (As clearly I am a dedicated matcha consumer after 4 full days.) There is a little bit of a process, typically involving a bowl and bamboo whisk. Since I’m not that fancy (yet?!) I use 4 ounces hot water (almost boiling but not), and add 1 tsp matcha powder (I would add more, but this stuff is expensive, yikes). At this point, you are supposed to use the fancy bamboo whisk in order to be totally legit, but I’ve been using an aerolatte electric one. Then I fill the rest of the mug with warm almond milk and a small squirt of honey and whisk again until frothy. Mmmmmmm.
I’m not saying everyone should run out and sub matcha for their coffee (which has many benefits also), just throwing it out there as an alternative if you’re into exploring! But be warned….I was so excited for mine to arrive and then had a moment of shocked silence when I ripped open the package and saw it fit into the palm of my hand (or two tiny person palms). I may or may not have said a few special words when I spilled some trying to take these pictures. I am going to search around for some other organic brands at different price points, and will update this post with that info shortly! Stay tuned….