What is matcha and what does it do?

Matcha is EVERYWHERE. I’m even drinking some right now. It’s in shots, lattes, teas, puddings and many other things from franchised coffee places to boutique health establishments. It’s been used by Buddhist monks for thousands of years to achieve a state of zen - one of calm attentiveness - before meditation. 

Whilst it comes from the same plant as green tea, camellia sinensis, it is grown in a certain way to achieve a unique nutrient profile. Matcha relies on being deprived of sunlight for 3 to 4 weeks before it is harvested. This increases the chlorophyll content of the plant, darkens its colour to that ‘matcha green’, and raises its amino acid levels.

After harvest, the stalks and stems are removed and the remaining leaves crushed into a very fine powder. This powder contains all the benefits of the whole green tea leaf, concentrated to ensure greater levels of nutrients and antioxidants than we find in typical green teas. This also means a greater boost of caffeine than you’ll find in green tea. 

Of course, there are many extra benefits to a matcha latte that extend way beyond making it a beautiful shade of green. This article is going to look at just some of the health benefits of matcha, and the properties it holds. 

What is matcha good for?

Antioxidants: Matcha is high in catechins, a natural compound found in teas which hold antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can help the body fight oxidative stress from free radical damage which can lead to chronic illness. When you make the usual green tea steeped in hot water, you don’t drink the whole leaf. With matcha powder, you do! This means you get more catechins, more antioxidants and more flavour than with a regular green tea - up to 137 times more! (Weiss and Anderton, 2003)

It may help protect the liver: There is a reason the liver is a ‘vital’ organ. It plays a crucial role in flushing out toxins and processing nutrients, amongst other things. Drinking green tea has been shown to reduce kidney and liver damage, and decreased risks of liver disease (Yin et al., 2015). 

It might help keep your breath fresh: Matcha contains polyphenols, which are plant compounds. These are thought to hold antibacterial properties, which can significantly improve bad breath. It is believed to have the capacity to neutralise two sulphur compounds in the mouth which are responsible for bad breath (Lodhia et al., 2008).

Boost to brain function: Extensive studies on the effect of matcha on the brain have shown that it has the ability to improve attention, reaction time, and memory, especially in older people (Ide et al., 2014). Matcha also contains more caffeine than its green tea counterparts, which has been linked to improved cognitive function. The real benefit of the elevated caffeine levels in matcha, however, are linked to the presence of the amino acid L-Theanine. This amino acid alters the way that the body reacts to caffeine, helping you avoid not only those caffeine jitters, but also the dreaded crash! (Dietz, Dekker and Piqueras-Fiszman, 2017)

It can help you to relax: If that wasn’t enough, L-Theanine can also help to reduce stress levels and increase feelings of relaxation whilst sharpening your focus, by increasing the levels of alpha waves in your brain (Nobre, Rao and Owen, 2008).

It promotes heart health: Green tea has been shown to promote heart health in a number of ways, and with matcha having the superior nutrient profile, it is easy to understand why drinking matcha may help to prevent heart disease and keep you healthy. Studies have shown that green teas can help to reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, which is another risk factor in heart disease (Zheng et al., 2011).

It may help you lose weight: Green tea extract is often included in many different weight loss supplements. This is because studies have shown in the past that green tea can speed up metabolism. This in turn leads to increased levels of fat burning from energy for a period of up to 24 hours. Matcha during moderate exercise has also been shown to increase fat burning, and increase energy expenditure (R, W and Ms, 2009).

It may help to support PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), is a common condition affecting women. It is characterised by inflammation and oxidative stress affecting the ovaries, as well as increasing the levels of type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Matcha’s effects on weight loss, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help to support and lessen the symptoms of PCOS (Maleki et al., 2021).

Are there any potential side effects for Matcha? 

The high amount of caffeine in matcha can cause some side effects if drunk in excess. This includes insomnia, diarrhoea, irritability and headaches. It’s best to stick to two cups a day and no more, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine. 

As you’re ingesting the whole tea leaf, the potential for ingesting contaminants, pollutants and heavy metals is much higher, which is why it’s important to ensure that any matcha you drink is third party tested. (Brzezicha-Cirocka, Grembecka and Szefer, 2016)

Vivo Life’s Matcha is made from 100% Organic Japanese Matcha leaves and nothing else. It is grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides or fungicides, and is third party tested to make sure that your Matcha is pure and heavy metal free. And you don’t just have to use it to make tea! You can put matcha in smoothies, add it to your protein shakes, hot drinks or cereals. It adds a light earthy flavour to your favourite smoothies and lattes, and you can even bake with it!

Sources: 

Weiss, D.J. and Anderton, C.R. (2003). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 1011(1-2), pp.173–180. doi:10.1016/s0021-9673(03)01133-6.

Yin, X., Yang, J., Li, T., Song, L., Han, T., Yang, M., Liao, H., He, J. and Zhong, X. (2015). The effect of green tea intake on risk of liver disease: a meta analysis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, [online] 8(6), pp.8339–8346. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4538013/.

Ide, K., Yamada, H., Takuma, N., Park, M., Wakamiya, N., Nakase, J., Ukawa, Y. and Sagesaka, Y.M. (2014). Green tea consumption affects cognitive dysfunction in the elderly: a pilot study. Nutrients, [online] 6(10), pp.4032–4042. doi:10.3390/nu6104032.

Nobre, A.C., Rao, A. and Owen, G.N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, [online] 17 Suppl 1, pp.167–168. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18296328/.

Zheng, X.-X., Xu, Y.-L., Li, S.-H., Liu, X.-X., Hui, R. and Huang, X.-H. (2011). Green tea intake lowers fasting serum total and LDL cholesterol in adults: a meta-analysis of 14 randomized controlled trials. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 94(2), pp.601–610. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.010926.

R, H., W, V. and Ms, W.-P. (2009). The Effects of Green Tea on Weight Loss and Weight Maintenance: A Meta-Analysis. [online] International journal of obesity (2005). Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19597519/.

Maleki, V., Taheri, E., Varshosaz, P., Tabrizi, F.P.F., Moludi, J., Jafari-Vayghan, H., Shadnoush, M., Jabbari, S.H.Y., Seifoleslami, M. and Alizadeh, M. (2021). A comprehensive insight into effects of green tea extract in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 19(1). doi:10.1186/s12958-021-00831-z.

Brzezicha-Cirocka, J., Grembecka, M. and Szefer, P. (2016). Monitoring of essential and heavy metals in green tea from different geographical origins. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, [online] 188. doi:10.1007/s10661-016-5157-y.

Dietz, C., Dekker, M. and Piqueras-Fiszman, B. (2017). An intervention study on the effect of matcha tea, in drink and snack bar formats, on mood and cognitive performance. Food Research International, [online] 99, pp.72–83. doi:10.1016/j.foodres.2017.05.002.

Lodhia, P., Yaegaki, K., Khakbaznejad, A., Imai, T., Sato, T., Tanaka, T., Murata, T. and Kamoda, T. (2008). Effect of green tea on volatile sulfur compounds in mouth air. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, [online] 54(1), pp.89–94. doi:10.3177/jnsv.54.89.