Matcha, like other green teas, contains a class of antioxidants called catechins. Matcha is high in a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which is believed to have cancer-fighting effects on the body. Studies have linked green tea to a variety of health benefits, like helping to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and even encouraging weight loss. However, it’s important to note that much of this research isn’t from clinical trials that show green tea causes a benefit. Instead, it’s largely from population-based studies, where researchers look at groups of people who drink green tea and compare their health outcomes to groups that don’t drink it. Studies have shown associations between tea and better health, but causation is not yet proven. Matcha is even less studied than brewed green tea.
Matcha tea rich in EGCG helps fight various bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. According to a research study, EGCG binds to the lipid membrane and exerts inhibitory action against the growth of various human pathogens. These include influenza A virus, hepatitis B, and C virus, herpes virus, adenovirus Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, and Candida albicans yeast.
Prior to use, the matcha often is forced through a sieve in order to break up clumps. There are special sieves available for this purpose, which usually are stainless steel and combine a fine wire mesh sieve and a temporary storage container. A special wooden spatula is used to force the tea through the sieve, or a small, smooth stone may be placed on top of the sieve and the device shaken gently.
Instead of being rolled, shaped and dried like traditional green tea leaves, the leaves destined to become Matcha are laid flat to dry. Grinding the leaves into Matcha is a slow process. If the mill stones overheat, the delicate green tea leaves might become damaged, which alters the flavor and taste. For reference, it takes about one hour to grind 30g of Matcha.
From the 3rd century through the 6th century, green tea was mostly considered a “luxury item” before new techniques for drying and distributing green tea led to more mass production and availability among the public. According to the Teavivre, a tea company, during the time of the Song Dynasty in China (AD 960–1279), “tea drinking had become an integral part of the daily life of all Chinese, in a similar way to how afternoon tea became ingrained in the English culture. The use and production of so-called ‘tribute teas’ — those produced to be presented to the emperor and other high officials — became an important part of royal culture and a source of government taxation.” (16)
The use of matcha in modern drinks has also spread to North American cafés, such as Starbucks, which introduced "Green Tea Lattes" and other matcha-flavoured drinks after matcha became successful in their Japanese store locations. As in Japan, it has become integrated into lattes, iced drinks, milkshakes, and smoothies. A number of cafes have introduced lattes and iced drinks using matcha powder. It has also been incorporated into alcoholic beverages such as liqueurs and matcha green tea beers.
Houjicha: Also spelled as “Hojicha”, this is not a pure or absolute green tea. Rather, it is a mixture of green tea and powdered roasted cereals such as wheat, barley, or rice. The quality and price of this variety depend upon the percentage or ratio of green tea to cereal content. The better ones, which have more green tea in them, are more expensive and have a greener look when brewed; on the other hand, those with higher grain contents yield a golden brown color and are cheaper.
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).