Matcha: Green Tea Just Got Greener!

At some point in the last few years, we have decided that we like all things green. Wheatgrass, seaweed and kale are all on the green menu, and now matcha powder. But what health benefits does it carry, and what makes it different to green tea?

Matcha is made by harvesting and steaming the leaves of the camellia sinensis tea plant, before grinding it into a fine powder using a stone mill. It has been used for many hundreds of years in the Japanese tea ceremony ‘chanoyu’, as it is believed to increase longevity. Inspired by the traditional ceremony, matcha is now widely available in it’s tea form, but is steadily infiltrating its way into all aspects of life from facial scrubs to smoothies.

Matcha Tea vs. Green Tea

Both types of tea originate from the same plant, so what is the difference? 

Green tea is brewed by infusing the leaves in hot water before discarding leaves, which means only the water-soluble components are used. On the other hand, matcha tea is made by grinding the whole leaf, leaving nothing behind. This is what gives matcha its more intense colour, flavour, and higher nutritional content.

Health Benefits of Matcha

Antioxidant Boost

The University of Colorado has found that matcha powder contains on average 3 times more of each type of antioxidant found in dried green tea leaves and is particularly high in epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)1. Antioxidants neutralize free radicals in your body, which are produced naturally as a result of oxygen presence. High concentrations of free radicals can damage your DNA and are thought to be a contributor to cancer development. Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity tests show that compared to other ‘superfoods’ matcha is 6 times more effective than goji berries and 15 times more effective than pomegranate seeds at neutralising free radicals2.

Heightened Metabolism

Your metabolism can be affected by a number of factors, including your genetics. UCP2 and UPC3 are two genes that are included in your FitnessGenes results, and your variation of these genes can influence how you should structure your nutrition to reach your goal. Beyond DNA, matcha extract has been found to increase metabolic rate by 4% through stimulating thermogenesis (calorie break down) and fat oxidation, giving it the potential to aid with weight control3. In the same study it was suspected that the effects of matcha powder would increase with higher level of activity. Why not experiment with a cup of matcha tea pre-workout and see if it works for you? 

Focused Energy

Matcha contains approximately 24mg/g of caffeine1 along with L-Theanine, and is thought by many to be a winning combination. L-Theanine reduces physiological stress responses such as heart rate and blood pressure4. The combined effect of caffeine and L-Theanine has also been seen to improve both memory and attention, compared to caffeine consumption alone5.

Your FitnessGenes results also include CYP1A2, the gene that codes for the protein involved in caffeine metabolism. By knowing how long it takes you to remove caffeine from your bloodstream, you can plan consumption for optimal effect, and better judge whether you should have that late night coffee!


  1. Weiss, DJ; Anderton, CR. Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. University of Colorado, 2006.
  2. ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) Figures. Brunswick Laboratories.
  3. Abdul G Dulloo; Claudette Duret, et al. Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 70, No. 6, 1040-1045, December 1999.
  4. Kenta Kimura et al., L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses, Biological Psychology (2006), doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2006.06.006
  5. Gail N. Owen, Holly Parnell, Eveline A. De Bruin & Jane A. Rycroft (2008) The combined effects of L-theanine and caffeine on cognitive performance and mood, Nutritional Neuroscience, 11:4, 193-198, DOI: 10.1179/147683008X301513
  6. Antioxidants and Cancer Prevention. National Cancer Institute.
  7. How Matcha is Processed. Ippodo Tea, 2016.
  8. Genes we analyze. FitnessGenes, 2016.
  9. Health benefits of matcha tea. Matchasource, 2016.

Written by Helena Pickford

Thursday, August 11, 2016