Matcha comes from tea leaves that have been grown in the shade.
Its vibrant emerald hue has made matcha an Instagram fave. But the powder's real beauty is in its off-the-charts nutritional perks.
Matcha comes from tea leaves that have been grown in the shade—a condition that forces the plant to produce more of certain health-promoting compounds (as well as chlorophyll, which provides that signature color). As a result, matcha contains concentrated doses (some say 137 times as much as brewed green tea) of the antioxidant EGCG and amino acid L-theanin.
EGCG has been shown to ward off cancer, aid weight loss, and preserve heart and brain health, while L-theanin can increase brain waves associated with a state of calm and may help lower blood pressure, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., manager of nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.
What's more, in combination with caffeine (matcha typically has less than half as much as the average cup of coffee), L-theanin has been shown to increase focus and alertness without the jitters of java, providing what fans call "a gentle buzz."
With so many benefits, it's no wonder chefs have begun experimenting with the powder's earthy, vegetal flavor. The matcha noodles at San Francisco's Mission Chinese Food are a favorite; Parisian patisserie Pierre Herme rolls truffles in the green dust. And NYC's Contra uses it as a coating for monkfish.
But you don't have to go to a schmancy restaurant to lap up some matcha. You can find the powder in the $15 to $20 range at Whole Foods and other specialty markets (if the label doesn't say "100 percent matcha green tea powder," it may contain additives like sweeteners). So go on! It's worth every ounce of buzz. Use these bright ideas to create your own matcha moment.
In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon matcha powder with a pinch of kosher salt. Add 1/2 cup hot water, whisking until dissolved, about 1 minute. In another bowl, stir 1 sliced scallion and 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds into 1/2 cup cooked white rice and mound in the center. To serve, pour matcha around rice.
In a lidded jar, combine 1 teaspoon matcha powder and 1 teaspoon water and shake for 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon each fresh lemon juice and extra-virgin olive oil, 1 minced clove garlic, 1 teaspoon each minced shallot, tahini, and honey, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and shake until well combined.
Combine 1 cup vanilla or chocolate almond milk, 1/4 cup chia seeds, and 1 teaspoon matcha in a pint jar. Cover with a lid, shake for 30 to 60 seconds, and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, top with 1 tablespoon toasted coconut flakes and enjoy.
In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon matcha powder, 1/2 teaspoon each ground black pepper and garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt, ground ginger, and ground thyme, and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. (Get more delicious recipes from Scratch, a cookbook by our CEO, Maria Rodale!)
Sprinkle 1 teaspoon matcha into 1/4 cup cool water and whisk vigorously for about 2 minutes to remove clumps, then add another 1/4 cup water. When fully combined, pour into an ice cube tray and allow any foam to subside before freezing.