everything you need to know

Sure, It's Everywhere, But Is Matcha Tea Right For You?

Move on over coffee, there is a new morning brew in town.

The Guide:

  • Section 1: What Is Matcha?
  • Section 2: The Difference Between Matcha Green Tea And Regular Green Tea
  • Section 3: The Health Benefits
  • Section 4: Matcha Tea And The Whole30
  • Section 5: How To Make The Perfect Dairy Free Matcha

Author: Melissa Herbst

Welcome to the Matcha Guide! Drinking matcha has the power to change your life. Taking a break from your daily AM coffee and switching to a creamy, dreamy, grassy beverage lower in caffeine and higher in antioxidants can help to restore your body, hormones, and overall health. I’ve known a lot of excited health-minded friends who try making matcha at home first, and immediately declare that they despise the taste—but there are so many important considerations in how you prepare your matcha that help let the beautiful, complex flavor of matcha shine through! If you’re a matcha drinker already and haven’t had the courage to try making at home, or maybe just a matcha virgin who wants to give it a try for the very first time, I encourage you to keep reading as we step into this comprehensive matcha guide.

Let me begin this complete guide by walking you through “the what” of matcha: what it is, and where it came from, and how people have been drinking it for centuries all the way up to how it’s used now. You may be surprised at the uniqueness of matcha production in opposition to how other teas are made!

Section 1: What Is Matcha?

Traditionally grown in Japan, the Japanese have been drinking matcha tea for thousands of years. Matcha is essentially green tea, harvested and grown in a certain, specific way. It’s also prepared differently for consumption (but more on that later). But the history of matcha drinking in Japan is also deeply committed to what they consider a very spiritual process of preparing and drinking each cup of matcha.

In basic terms, a special kind of green tea leaf is grown, and then a few weeks before harvest, grown further in shaded areas. In those final weeks, the caffeine content of the matcha is produced and it continues to intensify its vivid green pigment. After its harvest, it’s ground into the fine, green matcha powder we know and love.

It’s also worth mentioning that matcha usually falls into one of two camps: ceremonial grade matcha and culinary grade matcha. Ceremonial grade matcha is the highest quality matcha, and best for drinking. People refer to this kind of matcha as “ceremonial” as matcha was originally prepared and drank in an elaborate, special and spiritual ceremony in Japan. I purchase ceremonial grade matcha for all the matcha beverages I drink. The other type of matcha is culinary grade matcha. This is a lower quality form of matcha best saved for use in cooking, baking, or anywhere it’s simply an ingredient in a recipe as opposed to being drank.

So we’ve talked a bit about what matcha is, where it comes from, how it’s made, and how we come to find it in stores today. I know that this is a lot of information to swallow all at once! But the next section will help us to understand exactly what matcha is and why it differs from other types of tea, and even other types of green tea.

Section 2: The Difference Between Matcha Green Tea And Regular Green Tea

Matcha differs from other varieties of green tea for a few key reasons, involving not only the process in which it is made, but also how it is harvested, produced, and prepared. When you compare the appearance of matcha to other green teas, its clear that the vibrant green, finely ground powder of matcha differs greatly from the dried leaves of a typical green tea. Matcha leaves are de-stemmed and de-veined before being ground into a powder, so matcha has a very soft texture to the touch. While matcha leaves are harvested by hand, it’s common for regular green tea leaves to be mechanically harvested in ways that the delicate matcha leaf cannot be. That’s one of the primary reasons for the steep price of matcha in comparison to other teas: the process of creating matcha is very handmade, slow, and complex in contrast to the simple growing, harvesting and drying of whole green tea leaves.

The process of harvesting matcha is much different than a typical green tea. While both green tea and matcha are derived from the same kind of leaf, green tea leaves are left in the sun to dry, while matcha leaves are kept in shaded areas during the final weeks of harvesting to increase their amino acids and further develop the vivid green color of the plant leaf. The differences in harvesting these leaves leads to a difference in their nutritional benefits, which we’ll discuss in the next section of this guide.

Appearances and process aside, the nutritional benefits of matcha far outweigh the benefits of traditional green tea. While as I mentioned we’ll dig deeper into the specific benefits of matcha in our next section, it’s important to note that when comparing matcha to other green teas, matcha is prepared by dissolving the fine powder into your hot liquid, therefore causing the drinker to ingest the whole of the tea leaf while drinking. For a typical cup of green tea, the dried leaves are steeped in hot liquid and then discarded afterwards. For this reason, more than 10 times the nutritional benefits are found in one cup of matcha in comparison to the typical cup of green tea.

The taste of matcha also varies greatly from a typical green tea, despite its origins in the same variety of tea leaf. While green tea has a balanced though occasionally bitter taste, matcha has a buttery flavor to complement the grassiness of the flavor profile. Also, because matcha is dissolved from a powder as opposed to steeped (and then discarded) as green tea leaves are, matcha’s flavor is far more intense than its green tea counterparts.

We’ve discussed what matcha is, how it’s made and how it’s different from other green teas: and I’m sure you’re about ready to get started in making your own cup of matcha! But before I share my (Whole30 compliant!) recipe with you all, let’s talk about the benefits of drinking matcha.

Section 3: The Health Benefits

Matcha has an amazing creamy and grassy taste when made just right. The taste of matcha can be so enjoyable and a wonderful start to your morning: but there are so many reasons to drink matcha aside from just its taste! Here are a few good reasons to drink more matcha.

  1. Matcha has minimal caffeine

I love the perfect little amount of caffeine that matcha has in comparison to the loads of caffeine in a cup of coffee. While I am a coffee lover, I’ve found that starting my day with matcha instead of my usual cup of joe tends to give me just a little perk of sustained energy: energy that keeps me going without the eventual crash of a highly caffeinated beverage.

  1. Matcha is loaded with antioxidants

Antioxidants help our bodies ward off diseases, keep us looking young and provide us with essential nutrients. They can only be found in plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables, and antioxidant rich foods should be consumed daily. Why matcha? It’s the highest containing source of antioxidants per cup than any other serving of an antioxidant containing food! That alone gives me reason to make a cup each day.

  1. Matcha makes us calm

I knew those yogis drank matcha for a reason. Matcha actually contains theanine (which develops in the shaded growth period before harvest). Theanine allows us to have “focused relaxation”, unlike other relaxation nutrients that cause drowsiness. Which only adds to the “perfect amount of caffeine” thought I mentioned earlier!

  1. Matcha burns fat

One particular antioxidant, catechin, is a powerful metabolism booster and fat burner for the body. And matcha happens to be extremely high in catechin! Some studies have even shown that drinking matcha daily on a regular basis can have an incredible effect on our bodies metabolism, and help us to lose body fat at a quicker pace than those who don’t drink matcha. And I find that a very compelling reason to drink matcha, in my opinion!

  1. Matcha detoxes your body

One of the reasons matcha has such a vivid green color is due to chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a natural detoxifier for the body, and it helps the blood in our bodies carry more oxygen, which helps the entire body function at higher levels. It’s truly amazing how many health benefits can be found in one little green tea powder!

I truly believe that drinking matcha can change your life. The sustained energy, the calming effect, the amazing taste, and the antioxidant-rich magic in matcha can truly add so much joy and health to your life. I’d love for you to try drinking matcha, and even make some yourself! For those of you on a Whole30 or for any who may enjoy a specific, detailed outline of how I make a no sugar added matcha latte free of dairy and soy, keeping reading for my perfect Whole30 matcha latte.

Section 4: Matcha Tea And The Whole30

My first matcha latte experience—at a lakeside café in Milwaukee—was absolute perfection. I sat in a window seat on a windy September day and took sip after creamy, grassy, sweet and frothy sip. I absolutely fell in love with matcha that day.

My second matcha latte experience was the exact opposite. After stirring the powder into boiling water and pouring in hot almond milk, I choked down one gulp of a bitter, watery, clumpy mess and absolutely gave up on the entire mug!

Homemade matcha is rarely love at first sip. This vibrant green tea powder can produce the creamiest, frothiest latte — or a terrible, no-good mess.

Especially on the Whole30, where dairy and added sweetener are eliminated for 30 days, it’s important to get the details right. Here are a few minor-but-major pointers on how to have the best results when making a Whole30 matcha latte at home; I’ll list my exact recipe at the end.

1. Buy the right powder.

Matcha powder varies in quality, and it’s not hard to taste the difference between high-quality matcha and low-quality matcha. I recommend a brand like Rishi Tea — they have several different varieties of matcha that you can choose at varying price levels without sacrificing quality.

Stuff We Love
Rishi Matcha Tea
Japanese Green Tea Powder

2. Store it right. 

Once your matcha is purchased, make sure it’s kept in an airtight canister in a relatively cool area. Matcha can dry or spoil easily if left unsealed for too long! Many high-quality matcha brands will sell the powder in an airtight container to simplify storage.

Stuff We Love
Cozy Homy Clear Glass Jar
With airtight bamboo lid seal

3. Prep your powder.

An often-neglected step in making a matcha latte is sifting the powder before it’s steeped. When you’re ready to make matcha, measure out one teaspoon of powder and strain it through a fine mesh sifter. This improves the texture and balanced taste of your matcha latte: no clumps and an even blend.

Stuff We Love
OXO Good Grips 3-Inch Mini Strainer
Great for tea straining and powdered sugar dusting
4. Consider the temperature.

If you use scalding hot water to make the “concentrate” of a matcha latte, you’ll end up with a bitter, burnt latte. I don’t wait for a specific water temperate most days; instead, I wait for my kettle to boil, and let it cool for 10 minutes before starting the steeping process.

5. …and the milk.

If you’re drinking your matcha latte on the Whole30, dairy milk is out. The good news is, the creamiest lattes you’ll ever drink use thick and frothy nut milk! I’ve made Whole30 matcha lattes with almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, you name it, but by far the best matcha lattes use cashew milk. Unsweetened cashew milk is mild yet nutty, and just a bit creamier than most nut milks. There are plenty of brands that sell compliant cashew milk, but it’s also simple to make your own at home!

Learn how to make your own almond milk here.

6. Add collagen.

Taking one scoop of collagen daily is part of my routine: I dissolve peptides in coffee, tea, smoothies, soups, and anything liquid I consume throughout the day. I love adding unflavored collagen peptides to my matcha, not only for its numerous health benefits, but also for the extra frothiness and texture it gives to perfect your latte. Vital Proteins, my collagen brand of choice, also sells a collagen matcha powder that I highly recommend.

7. Respect the frothing process. 

The perfect Whole30 latte contains more than steamed or heated milk; it requires a nicely frothed milk. The best way to froth nut milk is to use an at-home milk frother that heats and froths the milk for you; however, you can purchase a simple frothing wand to froth pre-heated milk for just a few bucks if you’re looking to save money.

Stuff We Love
PowerLix Milk Frother Handheld
Frothy coffee shop foam at home

Section 5: How To Make The Perfect Dairy Free Matcha

THE PERFECT WHOLE30 MATCHA LATTE RECIPE

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon high-quality matcha powder
  • 3 tablespoon water
  • 1 scoop unflavored collagen peptides (I prefer Vital Proteins!)
  • 1 cup unsweetened cashew milk

Directions

  1. Boil a kettle of water. Meanwhile, measure your matcha powder and sift it through a fine mesh strainer into a large mug. Add one scoop of collagen to the sifted matcha powder and set aside.
  2. Once water is boiling, remove from heat and set timer for 10 minutes to cool boiling water. While you’re waiting, heat and froth cashew milk. This is easiest with a milk frother that does the work for you; otherwise, heat cashew milk in saucepan, remove from heat, and then use a frothing wand to give milk a frothy texture.
  3. In your mug, add 3 tablespoon of the hot water to your matcha/collagen mix. Immediately begin whisking the liquid to the powder. Whisk very vigorously for a full 60 seconds. Mixture should remain thick; this is the “matcha concentrate” for your matcha.
  4. Tilt the mug as much as possible so the green liquid is angled close to the lip of the mug. Then, as slowly as possible and as close to the green liquid as possible without touching the mug, pour your frothed cashew milk into the mug. As you pour, start tilting your mug back to upright position. If done properly, the top of the liquid should remain vivid green and at the final moment of the pour, a bit of white froth will appear in the center of your cup. If you’re a real expert, give the milk pitcher a wiggle for a leaf-style latte art!

Homemade matcha can be tricky, especially using nut milks and keeping things unsweetened for the Whole30. But if you follow these steps, your matcha latte will turn out beautifully and you’ll find yourself incorporating it into your daily routine. Happy sipping!

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