Our green tea is passed through a steaming treatment before rolling. Steaming applies light heat to the leaves to help halt the oxidation process before the leaves are rolled into shape. Steaming also helps expose the fresh, grassy flavor of the leaf. Green tea leaves are not allowed to oxidize after rolling, which is why they remain light color and flavor.
Both nutritionists we spoke to agree that drinking tea when you wake up and before bed can help your system rev up and calm down, depending on which variety you choose. If you’re a tea fanatic, work in a few cups throughout the day: Unless you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can probably handle five to seven cups a day without any negative side effects, says Lagano.
Because matcha preparation uses ground tea leaves that cannot be removed after steeping, the caffeine content in a cup of matcha is much higher than that of a cup of tea prepared using tea bags or leaves. However, the exact caffeine content may vary depending on the ratio of water to matcha powder used. Matcha contains less than half the amount of caffeine per cup than in a similar-sized cup of coffee.
Still, there have been some interesting findings. A 2014 study looked at 25 randomized controlled trials on the link between tea and blood pressure and reported that when people drank tea—especially green tea—for 12 weeks, their blood pressure dropped significantly. A 2011 study reported that drinking green tea appeared to be linked with lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol, but more research is needed. Because matcha is a type of green tea, they may share similar benefits, but there’s not enough research to make that claim.
Koicha, or thick tea, requires significantly more matcha (usually about doubling the powder and halving the water): approximately 3.75 grams (amounting to 3 heaping chashaku scoops, or about one teaspoon) of matcha and approximately 40 ml (1.3 oz) of hot water per serving, or as many as six teaspoons to 3/4 cup of water. Because the resulting mixture is significantly thicker (with a similar consistency to liquid honey), blending it requires a slower, stirring motion that does not produce foam. Koicha is normally made with more expensive matcha from older tea trees (exceeding thirty years) and, thus, produces a milder and sweeter tea than usucha; it is served almost exclusively as part of Japanese tea ceremonies.
Evidence pointing to a boost exists in abundance. But first, let’s clarify what matcha is to begin with — in case you were trapped under something heavy these past few years. It’s basically green tea, derived from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, finely ground. Oxford’s Living Dictionary cites its origins in Japan as a combo of two terms, “from matsu ‘to rub’ + cha ‘tea’, from Chinese (Mandarin dialect) chá (see tea).” Matcha masters House of Matcha say the beverage is steeped in history. “Samurai warriors drank matcha green tea before going into battle because of its energizing properties, and Zen Buddhist monks drank it as a way to flow through meditation while remaining alert,” reads the website.
On this episode of Consumed, host and Eater Drinks editor Kat Odell looks into the matcha production process — how it differs from that of more traditional steeped green tea, and how two of New York's noted matcha purveyors (Ippodo Tea Company and Matchabar) are working with the product today. Watch the video above for a lesson in powdered green tea; if your interest is piqued, check this map for the best places to drink matcha across the country, and these recipes for making iced matcha drinks at home, perfect for the summer.