Matcha is a concentrated form of green tea that comes as a fine powder and delivers more than 10 times the antioxidants of common green tea. The youngest and smallest tea leaves are sheltered during the growing season, then are hand-harvested and processed using the whole leaf. Matcha is the only tea so processed, and the only one in which the whole tea leaf is consumed. Matcha green tea is said to have antioxidant levels 6.2 times that of goji berries, seven times that of dark chocolate, 17 times that of wild blueberries and 60.5 times that of spinach.
Legend has it that the ancient Chinese emperor Shennong was the first to discover matcha. The tea was processed into a powder and these “mud cakes” were embraced by the Japanese monks in the eighth century. Zen Master Eisai records “ tea is the ultimate mental and medical remedy.” Matcha is the tea of Sado, the Japanese art of tea ceremony.
Matcha is currently in the news as one of the foods of the “empowered eating” trend of 2015, reported by CBS. Besides being an antioxidant powerhouse, it contains the amino acid L-theanine that increases alertness and metabolic rates without any jittery side effects.
Tufts University has given it high marks for its ORAC Score, a measure of its “oxygen radical absorbance capacity” at 1,300 units per gram.
Caroline Cahan, tea buyer for Southern Season, has observed the use of matcha as an ingredient in a wide range of foods, not just as a beverage.
Michael Whiteman of Baum + Whiteman reports “seeing it in pesto and donuts.”
Southern Season offers a variety of matcha teas, including latte options. It is available at their coffee and tea service counter and in the tea aisle. Traditionally blended with a bamboo whisk, Southern Season also sells an aerolatte to froth milk that makes blending matcha tea a snap. Whole Foods Market and The Spice and Tea Exchange also sell matcha. Tapio, a boba tea cafe on Spring Street, plans to incorporate matcha into its menu.
Prices range per brand, but typically in the $12-$15 range for a can that makes between 25-30 drinks.
High-end matcha sells for $165 per 20 grams.
Buddhist monks continue in their traditions of consuming this beverage of “calm alertness.” Bodybuilders make it a part of their routine for its metabolic and detoxing properties. Gwyneth Paltrow tweets “drink of choice, new dreamy discovery to warm up a wintry day” @gwynethpaltrow.
This not-so-new “green juice” is typically served on its own as a shot. It can be used to create lattes and because of its powdered form, it also is added to baked goods, desserts and other beverages.
Energy beverage drinkers also are turning to matcha for its added health benefits and nutritional values.