With matcha flavoured drinks, desserts and lattes appearing in all well respected health food stores and cafes, it begs to ask the question should we be swapping our regular coffee for a matcha latte.
Matcha is becoming the queen of the tea world due to its wide array of health benefits and its unusual yet refreshing taste. Traditionally matcha has been consumed in Japanese tea ceremonies for hundreds of years but recently this green super powder is being consumed worldwide as a popular drink or choice and it’s now even being added to cooking, ice creams, smoothies and desserts! It would seem that we are going mad for matcha!
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Matcha is made from the whole green tea leaf which is dried and ground into a fine powder. The tea is made by whisking this fine green powder with hot water. Matcha is very high in antioxidants and drinking matcha tea is thought to have significant health benefits by protecting our cells from the damaging effects of environmental toxins and stress.
In Japan matcha tea is consumed out of very small cups throughout the day which would be the equivalent of 1 -2 cups of matcha tea here in Australia. An estimated serving of matcha is ½ teaspoon depending on how strong you like the flavour of your tea. Before you get too carried away and start turning everything you touch matcha green there are some health warnings when it comes to going green. Matcha tea contains caffeine and because you are ingesting the whole dried powered leaf as opposed to drinking infused tea leaves, the caffeine content tends to be much stronger than standard tea. Caffeine can increase blood pressure, accelerate the heart rate, stimulate the nervous system and can aggravate symptoms of stress and anxiety so it’s not recommend to drink more than 1 – 2 cups (1tsp of powder) of matcha tea per day (providing no other caffeinated beverages are being consumed). If someone has anxiety disorders, high blood pressure or heart problems they are best to refrain from caffeine consumption all together.
In Australia matcha tea tends to be blended with milk and natural sweeteners (matcha tends to have a somewhat savoury taste which is why many people prefer to add honey or agave syrup to sweeten the taste) which can significantly up the calories. Adding milk to the tea may decrease the health benefits as milk proteins may bind to the health promoting flavonoids thereby inhibiting their bioavailability. And you thought you were being ultra healthy drinking that matcha latte eh?
If you have been getting carried away with this innocent looking green powder you could experience palpitations, increased blood pressure and insomnia which can all be symptoms of excess caffeine intake. Matcha tea is high in natural plant chemicals called salicylates and histamine which can produce allergy type symptoms such as wheezing, stuffy nose, ADHD, rashes and hot flushes in people with a salicylate or histamine intolerance.
The pros vs cons?
Matcha tea tends to be higher in health promoting substances including antioxidants, powerful polyphenols such as EGCG and L-Theanine. These beneficial properties of matcha have been linked to fat-burning capabilities and antioxidant cell protection. Matcha is higher in salicylates, histamine and caffeine than regular tea and may be too stimulating for sensitive individuals. The increased caffeine content should be consumed in moderation to minimise any risk of side effects associated with high caffeine consumption. Whilst drinking matcha tea certainly has health benefits, it is not recommended to add matcha powder to smoothies, baking, icecream, lattes and anything and everything in between due to its high caffeine content.