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The Buzz: Matcha

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What’s the buzz? Ditch your coffee for a matcha latte and you could live longer, weigh less, and feel better. What does the science say?

Matcha, a powdered green tea (pronounced MA-cha), is an ancient remedy turned trendy cure-all. Not only is it a popular coffee-shop drink, served as a latte, but it’s being used in everything from smoothies to baked goods to ice cream. Matcha is made from the same plant as green tea, but instead of steeping the leaves in hot water and then discarding them, the leaves are pulverized into a powder and consumed as part of a food or drink.

Green tea has been linked to many health benefits, including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers as well as weight loss, among other benefits. These benefits come from the catechins, a powerful antioxidant. Green tea is particularly rich in the polyphenol pigallocatechin 3-O-gallate (aka EGCG), which may slow growth of irregular cells, or those associated with some cancers. However, most of the research shows benefits only when drinking multiple cups per day.

Because matcha is such a concentrated form of green tea, and the full leaf is actually consumed, the thought is that one cup per day could be enough. Is more better? Maybe, but it’s not that simple. Matcha itself hasn’t been studied as thoroughly, but one study did show that the ECGC content in matcha tea is three times that of steeped green tea. It also contains more caffeine — about 70 mg per 8-ounce cup (made with 1 teaspoon matcha powder). That’s three times as much as a cup of green tea and about half that of coffee, so those looking for a pick-me-up that may provide some health benefits can rejoice. Some research suggests that consuming matcha with dairy milk may lessen the amount of nutrients absorbed, so downing a 20-ounce matcha latte may not be the best way to get your nutrients.

What’s the takeaway?

Sipping a cup of matcha tea (as well as green tea) is a healthful way to hydrate, but don’t be fooled by sugar-laden versions and matcha-flavored treats. Instead of a calorie-bomb latte from your typical coffee shop, make this one at home or try adding it to a smoothie for a breakfast on the go.

Read more on the benefits of tea here. For more on matcha, read here.