Matcha: The Perfect Coffee Substitute

Whenever we start to wonder if our body is becoming too dependent on anything, we like to take a pause from it to break the cycle. And one of the biggest things we have an on-again-off-again-relationship with is coffee. On one hand, we love our comforting morning ritual -- the taste, smell and the added energy boost it provides. But on some days, we start to rely too heavily on the warming pick-me-up, to where one cup becomes two, or even three! So, what’s the best way to give our systems a coffee reset? There’s always the cold turkey method, typically consisting of a quick switch to herbal teas and cutting caffeine out completely. But our newest and now favorite warm beverage alternative is matcha. Loaded with nutrients and a wide-offering of health benefits, read all about the perfect coffee substitute below.


What is matcha?  

Matcha is a green tea that comes from a shrub native to China, Camellia Sinensis – the same plant species black and white tea come from. This vibrant green beverage originated in Japan, and its literal translation is "powdered tea" – "cha" means tea and "ma" means powder. Although we've only over the past few years noticed matcha on the rise, from local cafes to national chains and at-home kits, matcha has been used in Japan as a ceremonial beverage for centuries.1 

Matcha is the only tea where the entire leaf is ground and ingested in powder form versus steeping its leaves in water and removed. Therefore, it has a rich, grass-like flavor and is considered the most beneficial green tea in the world. Green tea is known as the healthiest form of tea due to its lack of processing, resulting in extremely high nutrient levels.1 

The matcha green tea plant is grown in the shade for about 20 weeks before it is harvested, producing more theanine (an amino acid), caffeine and chlorophyll (which makes the powder a vibrant green). During processing, the veins and stems are removed, the leaves are laid out to dry, and it is then ground into a fine green powder called matcha.1   

How much caffeine does matcha have?  

In comparison to an 8oz cup of coffee, matcha has about 30% less caffeine. But even more importantly, due to matcha's high amino acid content, our body absorbs the caffeine much slower than coffee, allowing its energizing effects to last longer and steadier. So, one cup of matcha can keep us feeling awake for most of the day versus chasing the coffee's caffeine peaks and drops. By drinking matcha, we also feel more productive than when we drink coffee because there is plenty of L-theanine, the "feel-good amino acid," in matcha, which can lower our stress levels and provides calming effects, similar to the way we feel when we meditate. That means instead of getting the jitters or crashing, as we do with coffee, we'll actually be more relaxed, happy, alert and centered.2  

What are the health benefits of matcha?  

In comparison to a regular cup of brewed green tea, matcha's fine powder has 10 times the nutritional value and 137 times more antioxidants. It also has 5 times the amount of chlorophyll, which is considered a superfood, due to its strong anti-cancer effects, the ability to protect our blood and heart and reduce joint inflammation. In general, green tea contains powerful polyphenol antioxidants called, EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which can boost our metabolism and promote weight loss – even increase our ability to burn more fat while exercising.2 This high level of antioxidants, higher than any berry, can help us fight disease, decrease cancer growth, improve brain function, protect from brain disease, reduce heart disease risk, reverse diabetes as well as keep our skin healthy and slow down signs of aging.3, 4 

What's the best way to drink matcha? 

The first time we tried matcha, we didn't understand all the hype – it tasted super bitter and too grassy. But after we went to a proper café and tried a fancy almond milk matcha late, our taste buds approved. You can now find matcha at most coffee or tea cafes, but you can also find it in smoothies and desserts. So, here are a few pointers. The best tasting matcha is typically ceremony grade (which is creamier and sweeter) from Japan, while kitchen grade is more for baking. A 30g tin of matcha should cost around $30 or more – any lower of a price than that, then it probably isn't the best quality. It's also important to make sure the color of the powder is bright, jade green in comparison to poor quality versions which can be more of a yellow or brown hue. Want to try making it at home? Follow these steps below.  

  1. Start with 1 teaspoon of matcha and about 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of water  
  2. Sift 1 to 2 teaspoons of matcha into a cup using a small sifter 
  3. Boil your water. Let it sit for a minute and then pour over powder.  
  4. Use a chasen (traditional bamboo whisk) and whisk vigorously in a zig zag motion until the tea forms a layer of froth. 
  5. Enjoy your matcha tea straight from the bowl, preferably ceramic. 

“There is something in the nature of tea that leads us into a world of quiet contemplation of life.” ― Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living