Best Matcha Teas/Powders

Best Matcha Tea PowdersMatcha is a bright green powder, created by grinding and processing the whole leaves of the Camellia sinensis shrub using traditional Japanese methods. The Camillia sinensis used for matcha is the same shrub used for your standard cup of brewed green tea, but matcha powder contains the entire benefits of the shade-grown, stone-ground Camellia sinensis leaf. Not only do you receive the water-soluble extracts that would normally be present in a brewed green tea, but matcha also provides the entire nutrient content of the leaves.


The 4 Key Components of Matcha

Antioxidants:

One cup of matcha has approximately the same antioxidant content as ten cups of brewed green tea. With an ORAC analysis of 1573, matcha is truly an antioxidant powerhouse. The ORAC scale tests the “oxygen radical absorbing capacity” or antioxidant action of foods. For context, other “superfoods” don’t come close – blueberries have an ORAC analysis of 93, and goji berries rate at 253.

Catechins are some of the most powerful antioxidants in matcha. In particular, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is found in huge amounts in matcha – it makes up about 60% of all catechins found within matcha. Depending on the quality, 1g of matcha contains about 55mg of EGCG.

L-Theanine:

L-Theanine is an amino acid that has a high affinity for the brain, nervous system and adrenal glands. It has a rare action of promoting relaxation to the central nervous system while boosting alertness, improving memory, and sharpening attention [3]. It’s also responsible for the savoury “umami” flavour in all green tea infusions – higher quality matcha contains more theanine, giving it a more savoury taste.

Caffeine:

It’s true that matcha contains caffeine… a lot of caffeine. A strong cup contains about the same as a strong brewed cup of coffee – but without the caffeine spike and crash.

The caffeine in matcha is mostly metabolized into theophylline – a stimulant that sustains a gentle effect across 4 – 6 hours and relaxes smooth muscle. Caffeine in coffee, on the other hand, is mostly metabolized into theobromine, resulting in vasoconstriction, racing heart-rate, frequent urination, and the classic caffeine “peak” and crash.

Even better, the theanine in matcha takes the edge off the caffeine. People who are generally sensitive to stimulants may find that they are able to tolerate matcha. That said, it’s best to avoid all forms of caffeine, including matcha, at least 6 hours before bed time for a restful night’s sleep.

Pigments:

Wondering where matcha gets its bright green color? Two main types of pigments are present matcha – chlorophylls and carotenoids. Both of these act as antioxidants and assist in liver detoxification pathways [4].


Benefits of Matcha6 Beneficial Effects of Matcha Tea/Powder Consumption

#1 Matcha for Mind Power

Matcha is a popular nootropic and anecdotal evidence shows that it may help to sustain attention, boost productivity, and improve memory.

You may have heard about matcha’s origin story – Buddhist monks use matcha to promote attention during meditation while remaining calm. It’s believed that the combination of theanine and the caffeine metabolite, theophylline, that have the greatest effects on the brain.

  • Studies have shown that doses of L-theanine similar to that found in a cup of matcha can increase awareness, help to sustain attention on single tasks, and improve information processing [6].

Caffeine’s effects on attention have been well-researched – but its theophylline metabolite found in matcha is particularly effective at sustaining concentration over a longer period of time.

Evidence suggests that caffeine and theanine work synergistically together to improve memory and attention more than just each of them could alone. L-theanine has been shown to reduce the vasoconstrictive effects of caffeine, reducing side effects of anxiety or jitters and helping the mind to remain calm and focused [16].

  • A 2017 study tested the effects of 4g of matcha powder on participant’s cognition. Response speed, attention, word recognition and recall were all improved. This study also showed that drinking matcha was far more effective than eating it as part of a snack bar [7].

Looking more long-term, studies have showed that EGCG from matcha can promote brain cell regeneration within the hippocampus and may protect against age-related neurological issues including dementia [5].

  • A small pilot study of 12 elderly nursing home residents with cognitive dysfunction, aged 88 years, found that drinking 2g of matcha per day for three months improved the participant’s short-term memory and showed potential as a therapy to reduce the progression of dementia [8].

#2 Matcha for Energy & Exercise

Caffeine is mostly to thank for the energy boost after drinking a mug of matcha, but its theanine buddy helps to keep that energy steady. While caffeine upregulates cellular energy output and activates adrenaline receptors, theanine maintains calmness in nerves and glands. This combo gives a balanced, sustained energy boost that lasts 3 – 4 hours.

The antioxidants found in matcha have been shown to protect against exercise-induced oxidative damage to DNA, cell walls and proteins. This may help to improve exercise performance, endurance and recovery.

  • A 2008 study showed that drinking green tea for a week could reduce biomarkers of oxidative stress after weight training. Remember that brewed green tea has far fewer antioxidants than matcha – the results might be even more significant on matcha! [17]
  • Another study backed up these results by examining the effects of a green tea extract containing mostly catechins. A group of healthy men took the extract for four weeks and performed better at a strength training regime and showed lower biomarkers of oxidative stress than a group that took a placebo [18].

#3 Matcha for Mood

There are no studies showing the direct effects of matcha on mood, but plenty exploring the effects of its active constituents.

L-theanine has been shown to improve relaxation by reducing nervous system arousal and it can boost the synthesis of GABA – a neurotransmitter that calms nerve reactions, reduces anxiety, and promotes restful sleep. L-theanine also appears to boost serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters involved in feelings of happiness, contentment and pleasure.

  • A small trial in 2017 showed that taking 250mg of isolated L-theanine for 8 weeks relieved symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance in adults with Major Depression Disorder [9].

Other components of matcha may also help improve mood:

Antioxidants such as EGCG and other catechins could help to treat low moods by reducing oxidative stress in the brain and the gut. An 8 week study in 2009 showed that drinking green tea prepared from leaves that were high in EGCG improved the mood of middle-aged men [16].


#4 Matcha for Weight Loss

Matcha has recently been researched as a potential weight-loss aid. The results are limited but looking positive:

  • Drinking matcha may help to boost your resting metabolic rate. This means that you’ll burn more calories while going about your daily activities, and even while sleeping.
  • Normally, caffeinated drinks and supplements cause a boost in a major stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol causes fat around the hips and waist to resist oxidation – they refuse to be metabolized into ATP. In matcha, L-theanine keeps cortisol lowered, and green tea has been shown to stimulate those same fat cells to be burned for energy [15].
  • A Cochrane review in 2012 concluded that standard green tea preparations can induce small but statistically non-significant weight loss in obese or overweight adults [14]. Don’t be deterred – the green tea groups lost between 0.2kg to 3.5kg more than control groups – maybe not significant to the researchers, but pretty significant to anyone who is struggling to lose weight. And remember that matcha contains almost 10x the amount of active constituents than the green tea used in these studies!
  • A new study from 2018 has found that matcha can increase fat oxidation and weight loss during brisk walks. A small cohort of 13 female volunteers drank three cups of matcha the day before and then another 2 hours before going on a 30-minute brisk walk. Each drink contained 1g of premium grade matcha. The study concluded that fat oxidation was significantly increased compared to the control group [20].

Take away: Drinking copious cups of matcha may not induce much major weight loss on its own, but will likely give a fat burning boost to the effects of exercise and healthy diet.


#5 Matcha for Cardiovascular Health

Atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases are characterized by an increase in oxidative stress. With its rich array of antioxidants and high ORAC rating, matcha may help to prevent the mechanisms that can contribute to cardiovascular disease.

  • The catechins found in matcha have been shown to increase the concentration of vitamin E and vitamin C within LDL cholesterol carriers. By boosting these antioxidants, matcha may be able to prevent LDL peroxidation and reduce risk of atherosclerosis [10].
  • In 2016, a systematic review of 17 human trials concluded that a dose of at least 107mg of EGCG for 4 – 14 weeks can significantly reduce LDL cholesterol levels in circulation [19]. Depending on the quality, 1 teaspoon of matcha contains ~110mg of ECGC.

#6 Matcha for Immune Function

Camellia sinensis has been shown to:

  • Inhibit Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria that can cause stomach ulcers.
  • Impair the spread and severity of the influenza virus, especially in early stages of infection.
  • Reduce severity of Herpes simplex virus infection in early stages.
  • Fight Candida albicans infection and improve effects of conventional anti-Candida medications. [11][12][13]

Ceremonial Quality, Premium or Culinary Grade?

Matcha powders are usually designated a quality grade – ceremonial, premium or culinary.

Ceremonial Quality is the highest possible grade, named because it follows the standards of matcha that are used in Buddhist temples throughout Japan and China. Leaves are harvested from the top of the shade-grown Camellia sinesis shrub, undergo a traditional air-drying process, and are ground using granite mills. You should detect a “umami” flavor due to the high levels of theanine in ceremonial quality matcha. You’ll pay twice as much for this grade, but it has the strongest therapeutic actions.

Premium Grade cuts the costs of the ceremonial quality by about half, but sacrifices some flavor and nutrient concentration. As far as therapeutic benefits, they’re generally fairly similar with slightly lower theanine and antioxidant concentration, but this naturally varies between batches. Premium grade generally uses leaves picked from near the top of the shrub, and drying and processing may not be traditional.

Culinary Grade is designed for cooking and coloring foods. It usually has lower nutrient concentration due to the different harvesting and processing practices. Leaves are picked from the bottom of the shrub, and may give a slightly bitter taste.

Is it Authentic Matcha?

Green tea powder is frequently sold as “matcha”. Don’t be fooled – this isn’t true matcha! True matcha comes from particular cultivars of Camellia sinesis, follow traditional growing and grinding practices, and have a higher level of concentrated nutrients.

The production of genuine matcha differs from green tea in three main ways:

    1. Real matcha only comes from Japan. The latitude, climate and traditional harvesting methods used in the south of Japan ensure a particular taste and nutrient ratio in the final matcha powder
    2. Camellia sinensis grown for matcha is shaded for a few weeks leading up to harvest. This boosts the caffeine, L-theanine and chlorophyll content, weakens the stems and makes it easy to harvest by hand.
    3. For matcha, the Camellia sinensis leaves are harvested, de-stemmed and de-veined. The leaves are air-dried and then cold-milled by stone into a fine powder; never rolled, pressed or shaped like they are in green tea production.

If it’s not from Japan, it’s probably not “real” matcha. The highest quality matcha is said to come from the southern regions of Japan in Kyushu, Nishio, Shizuoka and Uji where altitude and climate are ideal for growing Camellia sinesis in a particular way to produce matcha.


Cautions & Considerations

Heavy Metals

Like all plants, Camellia sinensis takes up whatever minerals are found in the soil and deposits them in its leaves. Normally when you brew a cup of loose-leaf green tea, most of the heavy metals stay in the leaf and out of the tea – but with matcha, you’re consuming the actual leaf and potentially any heavy metals that may also be present [1] [2].

If you’re concerned about heavy metal contamination, buy from companies that regularly test their batches of matcha for heavy metals (and radiation!).

Green-tea Induced Asthma

Some people experience allergic asthma that is triggered by ingestion of any form of Camellia sinensis leaves, including matcha. If you have a reaction to brewed green tea, stay away from matcha!

Iron Deficiency

Catechens found in matcha can affect iron absorption, particularly in people who are already at risk of iron deficiency [4]. Speak to a nutritionist or naturopath for personalised advice.

Sleep Issues

Even though L-theanine helps to boost sleep-inducing GABA, the caffeine in matcha can contribute to difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Drink matcha at least 6 hours before bedtime. This gives the body enough time to excrete the caffeine, recover from its effects, and maximise the theanine conversion to GABA.

Caffeine Sensitivity

Some people with caffeine sensitivity are able to tolerate matcha due to its theanine content, but many others cannot. Speak to your doctor or nutritionist for personalised advice.


How to make MatchaHow To Prepare Matcha

Matcha tea is traditionally prepared by whisking the powder into warm water with a specialized bamboo tool. These are easy to find on Amazon, along with matcha spoons and cups. If you’d rather not bother with the accessories, no worries – you can just stir powder thoroughly into hot water. A matcha spoon serving equals about 2g of matcha which is about the same as ½ metric teaspoon.

While green tea is best brewed with very hot or boiling water, matcha is ideally prepared with warm-to-hot water (or milk) to avoid destroying its antioxidants. To retain the most nutrients, combine matcha with milk or water in a saucepan and heat over a stove until it reaches about 70C or 160F.

Tea not your style? Capsules and tablets are available too.

Using matcha in food is also an option. The bright green color adds a bit of fun to breakfast. Try adding your daily dose of matcha powder to raw “cheesecakes”, chia puddings, smoothies or oats.

NOTE: The caffeine content of matcha will inhibit the absorption of some nutrients in food.


Best 5 Matcha Powders and Teas

#5 Rishi Tea Everyday Matcha

Matcha TeaRishi offer a good culinary quality matcha for the average joe – if you’re looking for an introduction into matcha or want to reap some of the nutritional benefits while keeping the price low, this is a great place to start. Anecdotal reviews suggest that this product is truly of culinary grade and too bitter to drink without milk, but a good choice as far as culinary matcha powders go. This is ideal if you prefer matcha lattes with milk over drinking it plain with water – the sweetness of milk takes the edge of the bitterness.


#4 Kiss Me Organics Matcha Capsules (2.5g, 150 capsules)

Matcha PillsIf the convenience of capsules appeals to you more than a cup of matcha, then this supplement is a great choice. Kiss Me Organics have encapsulated 2.5g of culinary grade matcha into vegetarian-friendly capsules with no added fillers, binders or flow agents – just matcha! This product is GMO-free, gluten-free, peanut-free and totally vegan. While the culinary grade matcha will offer slightly less nutrient concentration than a ceremonial grade product, the convenience of capsules may make up for it. This is a great way to take a consistent, exact dose of matcha each day.


#3 KENKO Matcha Green Tea Powder Ceremonial Grade (30g)

Matcha PowderKENKO have sourced their matcha from the Nishio region of Japan and guarantee that their shrubes have been shaded for 2 – 3 weeks before harvest to ensure maximum nutrient composition. This is the real deal ceremonial grade matcha, and you can taste the difference. KENKO also test their products monthly for heavy metals and radiation to ensure maximum safety. Even better, this product comes with a USDA organic certification and is grown without fertilisers, pesticides or GMOs.


#2 Yamamasa Koyamaen Premium Seiun Ceremonial Grade Matcha (30g)

Best Matcha TeaOkay, we know… The expense of this matcha powder is prohibitive for daily consumption for most of us! But if you want to try a truly pure, traditional ceremonial grade matcha then this is it. Yamamasa Koyamaen are one of the premier producers of matcha in Japan and worldwide – this is the really, really good stuff. It’s worth trying it at least once to get a taste for high quality matcha so you have a benchmark with which to compare less expensive products. If you’ve got the funds, then this is a great choice – this potent matcha is going to deliver extremely concentrated nutrients.

View Yamamasa Koyamaen Matcha on Amazon Here


#1 Encha Organic Ceremonial Grade Matcha (30g)

Encha MatchaHere’s the middle ground – ceremonial grade matcha from the Uji region of the Kyoto mountains, for a relatively affordable price. Encha provide clear organic certification for their matcha and guarantee that they use the leaves from the premium first harvest of spring. This is a great, clean matcha with no preservatives, chemical fertilisers or GMOs, and frequently tested for radioactivity and lead.

Encha have performed an analysis on their matcha and found that each teaspoon (2g) contains ~240mg of catechins, including ~120mg of EGCG, 24mg of theanine and 60mg of caffeine – an ideal ratio. If you’re looking for a great quality matcha at a reasonable price, you’ve found it!

View Encha Matcha on Amazon Here


Further Reading:

About James Lyons

James Lyons (BHSc Nutritional Medicine) is a clinical nutritionist, medical writer, and educator. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and is passionate about improving public access to reliable and accurate health information.

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