If you’re not sure if matcha will become a daily ritual, editor at large Christine Muhlke recommends buying a tin within the $14 to $18 range (save the under $10 matcha for baking and the over $30 for when you’re ready to commit). Some of Muhlke’s favorite brands are Chalait, Panatea, Matchaful, Kettl, and CAP Beauty, and Ippodo (seasonal releases are available at their Manhattan storefront on East 39th Street).
Matcha is a type of green tea made by taking young tea leaves and grinding them into a bright green powder. The powder is then whisked with hot water. This is different from regular green tea, where the leaves are infused in water, then removed. Drinking brewed green tea “is a bit like boiling spinach, throwing away the spinach and just drinking the water,” says Louise Cheadle, co-author of The Book of Matcha and co-owner of the tea company teapigs. “You will get some of the nutrients, but you’re throwing away the best bit.” With matcha, you’re drinking the whole tea leaves.
Matcha typically has more caffeine content than green tea, similar caffeine to black tea, and less caffeine than brewed coffee. Because matcha is produced from shade-grown tea bushes, the tea leaves tend to retain more of their caffeine content. In addition, since you’re consuming the ground tea leaf when sipping matcha, you’re ingesting more caffeine content than you would from the extraction of steeped green or black tea leaves. Like all drinks cultivated from caffeinated plants, however, a specific level of caffeine per cup of matcha tea will depend on the how the matcha was processed and prepared. Be sure and read the packaging carefully or ask your tea supplier directly for the caffeine information specific to the matcha you are buying.
It is used in castella, manjū, and monaka; as a topping for shaved ice (kakigōri); mixed with milk and sugar as a drink; and mixed with salt and used to flavour tempura in a mixture known as matcha-jio. It is also used as flavouring in many Western-style chocolates, candy, and desserts, such as cakes and pastries (including Swiss rolls and cheesecake), cookies, pudding, mousse, and green tea ice cream. Matcha frozen yogurt is sold in shops and can be made at home using Greek yogurt. The Japanese snack Pocky has a matcha-flavoured version. Matcha may also be mixed into other forms of tea. For example, it is added to genmaicha to form what is called matcha-iri genmaicha (literally, roasted brown rice and green tea with added matcha).
I believe that if preparing and sipping matcha becomes a way for you to slow down, and be in the moment, its benefits will extend far beyond the antioxidants it provides, because meditation, in any form, has a myriad of rewards. It's been shown to reduce cortisol (a stress hormone known to drive appetite and increase belly fat), lower inflammation (a known trigger of premature aging and disease), curb impulsive eating, lower blood pressure, and boost self-esteem and compassion.
Rooibos tea is anti-inflammatory in nature, which means that it reduces blood pressure and scavenges free radicals like other antioxidants. Quercetin, another powerful antioxidant found in rooibos tea, has been linked to preventing a wide variety of heart conditions. It promotes an increase in HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and inhibits the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) from binding to the walls of arteries and blood vessels.