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 (, , , , ).
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.
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.
SUMMARY 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.
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.
SUMMARY 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.
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 ().
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).
EGCG has been studied extensively. It may fight inflammation in your body, help maintain healthy arteries, and promote cell repair ().
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 ().
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 ().
Drinking green tea may help improve several of these risk factors, including total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar levels (, , ).
Furthermore, green tea may protect against the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol, another major heart disease risk factor (, ).
Studies show that people who drink green tea have up to a 31% lower risk of heart disease than those who don’t (, , , ).
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
Human studies reveal that green tea increases your total calories burned by boosting your metabolic rate. It has also been shown to increase selective fat burning by up to 17% (, , , ).
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 ().
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 may increase alpha waves in your brain. These waves are linked to mental relaxation and may help fight stress signals (, , , ).
L-theanine also modifies the effects of caffeine in your body, increasing alertness without causing the drowsiness that often follows coffee consumption.
Thus, matcha tea may provide a milder and longer-lasting buzz than coffee ().
L-theanine can also increase the number of feel-good chemicals in your brain, leading to improved mood, memory, and concentration ().
Furthermore, studies indicate that powdered green tea may improve brain function and reduce age-related mental decline in older adults (, , ).
SUMMARY Matcha is loaded with antioxidants and offers numerous health benefits, potentially reducing heart disease risk while aiding weight loss, relaxation, and alertness.
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.
Matcha leaves may harbor contaminants — including heavy metals, pesticides, and fluoride — from the soil in which the plant grows (, , , ).
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 ().
SUMMARY 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 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.