Do You Need It: Matcha
Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Welcome to today’s Do You Need It! The series where we take a minute to think ~ you’re waiting at the checkout counter ready to drop your cash, but should you really spend your money on this, or should you put your card back in your wallet?
Originating from Japan, holding great cultural significance as a ceremonial tea, matcha sky-rocketed into mainstream popularity here in the United States a few years ago; matcha is a favorite caffeine fix and moment-of-peace for many. You can find it featured in local or chain cafes across the country. But, since it's typically featured as a trendy-specialty item in American shops, it's often priced significantly higher than coffee. You’re in line at the coffee shop, the barista is silently begging you to make a choice, but you don’t know if you should spend just a couple extra dollars to get that matcha coconut-milk latte, or just order your black iced coffee and move on.
Well, let’s think about it.
Matcha is a fine powder made from green tea leaves. Rather than steeping the leaves, matcha tea is made by directly adding the ground powder to hot water. It has a much creamier taste than steeped green tea, and frankly, it’s delicious. Due to its concentrated form, it’s possible that drinking matcha can deliver a much larger quantity of the benefits found in traditionally steeped green tea. A serving of matcha tea containing 1-2 teaspoons can offer around five times more caffeine than steeped green tea, making it a serious contender for your daily energy fix.
But is it a better than coffee?
Drinking matcha regularly could offer you some serious health benefits; matcha contains antioxidants, notably, catechins and polyphenols. These antioxidants may help lower LDL cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, defend against cancer, and protect your heart-health. You can read more about the health benefits of matcha on WebMD. But drinking coffee also comes with its host of health benefits. Drinking coffee might reduce your likelihood of developing Parkinson’s Disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes, and could protect you from strokes and certain cancers (again, see Neil Osterweil’s article on Webmd for more detailed information). Both matcha and coffee, when consumed in moderation and when not accompanied by an overload of sugar, can be beneficial to your long-term health.
Now let’s talk about that caffeine fix
I know what you want to know; if you drink matcha in the morning instead of coffee, is it going to carry you through your school/workday without having to reach for two more cups? Alright, hear me out: the caffeine boost from matcha might be more effective than your fix from coffee, even though matcha contains a lesser quantity of caffeine. Matcha contains the amino acid L-theanine, which, pro-matcha sources suggest, allows the energy-release from matcha to be slower and more sustained than the hard-and-fast high-and-crash you get from drinking coffee. The combination of caffeine with L-theanine can help increase your alertness without the jitters and anxiety associated with high amounts of caffeine alone (you can read more about the effects of L-theanine on the brain at PubMed.gov), which could make matcha a much better option for people who are susceptible to experiencing anxiousness after consuming coffee.
So, in theory, rather than drinking coffee at breakfast and again on your break, if you start with matcha, you might be able to skip the second fix due to the steadier energy-release. If this is the case, then if you tend to buy your caffeine at a shop, you might be spending just as much in total during the day if you start with a pricier matcha drink and therefore avoid the second coffee purchase later in the day.
Personally, I love matcha, and I love coffee. They both give me enough energy to start the day, they both taste great; for me, it really depends on my mood. However, if you want to try making matcha your regular staple, be it for the taste or the jitter-free energy, the antioxidants or the taste, I highly recommend sticking to my number 1 rule: if you can make it at home, make it at home. Matcha is way overpriced in coffee shops, at least where I live in the USA; if you're on a budget, save your money and your time by brewing it at home, don't spend the extra bucks at the cafe. If you're in a pinch and need a caffeine-fix on-the-go, stick to your regular coffee or tea. You can purchase a bag of Kiss Me Organics Matcha for $15, which could last you an entire month if you drink a cup or two a day, while that amount of money would only cover maybe three drinks at major coffee shop chains. Is it more economical than coffee? Depends on where you buy it. But, if you’re going to do it, do it yourself.
For 4oz of hot water or plant-based milk, use 1-2 tsp of matcha powder to get your fix. Too much powder could overload you on caffeine, and/or result in a “grassy” taste. I typically have mine with a little plant-based milk and a tsp of agave syrup for sweetness.
In conclusion, do you need to buy that café matcha latte? No, you can have a lot more at home for a lot less.
I often use my morning coffee or tea-time to ground myself, find my footing and consider my intentions for the day. Do you drink matcha? Do you find that it gives you better energy than coffee? Let’s chat in the comments!