What is matcha tea?

Matcha is a type of green tea, made from the powdered leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Originally served at tea ceremonies in Japan, so-called matcha tea is now widely available and used in the food industry and in cooking.


Although from the same plant as green tea, matcha is grown differently and as a result has a unique nutrient profile. The plants are covered with bamboo mats during most of the growing period, which increases the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves and results in its characteristic bright green colour.

Made from the youngest, freshest part of the plant, the leaves are steamed to preserve their colour and nutrients, then dried using a specialist tencha-ro machine. The stems and veins of the remaining “tencha” are removed and the leaves are ground to a fine powder. This means when we enjoy a cup of matcha we consume the whole leaf rather than just an infusion of its leaves.

Some products sold as ‘matcha’ may in fact be powdered versions of green tea. These products look very similar so it’s not always easy to differentiate them – these are the powders often used in food products such as cake and ice cream.

Matcha benefits include:

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  • Rich in protective polyphenols
  • May boost brain health, function and alertness
  • May have a stress-relieving effect
  • May support a healthy heart
  • May be good for bone health
  • May aid weight management
  • May support blood sugar management
  • May improve gut health

Discover our full range of health benefit guides and read more about the profile of other teas in our series: including ginger tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea and rooibos tea. Check out our selection of matcha recipes including our delicious matcha latte or our matcha with vanilla.

Nutritional profile of matcha tea

Thanks to their unique growing conditions, the tea plants produce higher amounts of amino acids, including L-theanine, plant compounds called polyphenols as well as antioxidant nutrients such as vitamin C. Matcha is also relatively high in caffeine compared to other teas.

It’s worth remembering that the nutritional value of your prepared tea will depend on the temperature of the water you use – so always use hot, but not boiling water, for optimal results.

Ingredients and equipment to make matcha tea

What are the health benefits of matcha?

1. Rich in protective polyphenols

Compounds called polyphenols are known to protect the body against disease and make an important contribution towards a healthy, balanced diet. Matcha tea is especially rich in these protective plant compounds, although the tea is not necessarily as high in the catechins that green tea is famed for.

This is because the younger leaves and the shaded growing conditions produce lower levels of some of these compounds, such as epigallocatechin and epicatechin, while having significantly higher levels of others, such as epigallocatechin gallate. The unique manufacturing process also preserves much of the plant’s nutrient value.

2. Boosts brain health, function and alertness

Matcha is a concentrated source of polyphenols, chlorophyll, caffeine and L-theanine – all of which benefit brain function. As a stimulant, caffeine acts on the central nervous system, increasing energy metabolism throughout the brain as well as heightening alertness and memory performance. Caffeine also has antioxidant properties and in conjunction with the catechins in matcha, may help prevent the occurrence or progression of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

3. May have a stress-relieving effect

The amino acid L-theanine may have benefits for the nervous system. From a calming perspective, it helps increase levels of the relaxing neurotransmitter GABA which soothes and relaxes the mind.

However, how effective your cup of matcha is depends on the authenticity of its origin and the important process of shading during the growing stage, because this increases levels of L-theanine. Traditional Japanese matcha is rich in L-theanine, with lower levels of caffeine and catechins. Sadly, commercially processed matcha often fails to meet this ratio and as a result lacks these stress-busting benefits.

4. May support a healthy heart and cardiovascular system

Studies suggests that like green tea, matcha is a good choice if you’re looking to reduce your risk of heart disease and associated conditions, including heart attack and stroke. One way it may help is in its beneficial effects on cholesterol management.

5. May be good for bone health

Some studies suggest that by choosing tea, especially varieties of green tea, you may help strengthen your bones and as a result reduce your risk of bone fracture. Green tea, including matcha, appeared to be more beneficial in increasing bone mineral density than other kinds of tea owing to its higher levels of plant compounds, that reduced oxidation and increased antioxidant capacity.

6. May aid weight management

The plant compounds and caffeine in varieties of green tea like matcha may boost metabolic rate and speed up fat burning in those with a high proportion of abdominal fat, according to studies. These effects can be enhanced when the consumption of matcha is combined with a daily programme of 30 minutes of brisk walking.

7. May support blood sugar management

Studies suggest green tea, including matcha, may improve how responsive we are to the blood sugar hormone insulin. As a result, it may have a beneficial effect on our ability to manage our blood glucose levels.

8. May improve gut health

Plant compounds including polyphenols, pass unabsorbed to the large intestine where they are broken down by gut bacteria. In this way, they provide a source of fuel for the beneficial bacteria that reside in this part of the gut, allowing them to thrive and diversify and helping to improve gut function and modify the immune system.

How to prepare matcha tea

Sift 1-2 tsp matcha powder into a tea bowl and add hot – but not boiling – water. Whisk the tea vigorously in a zig-zag motion until it’s frothy and enjoy!

Is matcha tea safe for everyone?

Matcha tea is generally recognised as safe for most of us. However, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, it’s advisable to limit the total number of caffeinated drinks you consume, including matcha. Consuming too much caffeine from any source may disrupt your sleep and, in some people, increases anxiety; if this is relevant to you, look to reduce your intake and aim to have your last caffeinated drink at about 12 noon. Other groups who should limit their caffeine intake include pregnant women.

If you’ve been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anaemia you should be aware that, similar to other teas, matcha contains tannins. These natural compounds interfere with the absorption of iron, hence it’s wise to avoid drinking tea with your meal – instead wait for at least one hour before you have a brew.

What should I look for when buying matcha tea?

When purchasing matcha check that the powder is vibrant green in colour, that it has an ultra-fine silky texture and is packaged to limit exposure to air and light. You should expect to pay a little more than for other green teas because of the specialised growing conditions and manufacturing process. Your cup of matcha should be aromatic with a fresh but grassy smell and a hint of sweetness.

The matcha used as an ingredient in food products is unlikely to be a premium matcha and more likely to be a powdered green tea, so is unlikely to contribute the same, if any, health benefits.

Overall, is matcha tea good for you?

Tea offers numerous health benefits – it’s a relaxing drink that helps increase our attention and focus, is heart-friendly, good for the gut and may help manage blood sugar. Tea, and especially matcha, makes a useful option if you are looking for a flavourful, low-calorie, unsweetened hot drink.

Looking for more information on how much caffeine is in tea? Our in-depth guide compares different types of tea and discusses which factors affect the caffeine content.

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Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a registered nutritionist with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including Good Food. Find her on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_


All health content on goodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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