Matcha has existed for centuries already but just making its “moment” in the beverage industry just recently, which is quite odd, knowing the superb nutritional properties it holds. Today, matcha goes beyond its tea form; you can now drink it through a range of “go to” drinks.

The origin of matcha dates way back in China over 800 years. This drink is made from green tea leaves that are dried and grounded into a fine powder, originally Zen-Buddhist in China used matcha as a ceremonial drink where it was and still is prepared by whisking it along with hot water to create a rich foamy, green coloured drink. Matcha drinks used a green tea leaf that comes from bushes that are shaded weeks before it is harvested to enhance its nutritional content and taste. The process of shading increases chlorophyll level, which is the leaves’ green pigment that’s vital in photosynthesis. Shading the leaves also produces darker green coloured leaves, making them more delicate and thinner.

The health benefit of matcha is what makes it amazing. Not like “typical” green tea that’s prepared by soaking leaves in boiling or hot water, matcha uses green tea leaves that are grounded finely into powder whisked in hot water and is then consumed. This makes the matcha known as the "whole food" dietary source since the whole leaf is consumed. This has been a good marketing strategy for matcha suppliers that sometimes focus on the amazing nutritional values of matcha compared to “typical” green tea.

One serving of matcha has an equivalent nutritional content of 10 cups of immersed green tea. Matcha has four times the amount of amino acid L-theanine, 1.3 times the amount of catechins and 172 times amount of protein compared to a bag of green tea. Matcha is also said to contain over 15 times the amount of antioxidants compared to wild blueberries, with and ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity of 1,384 against 93 of wild blueberries.

Matcha’s Benefits Are Still Under Debate

At present, these numbers are still subject to controversy. Although there’s great interest regarding the high amounts of L-theanine found in matcha, an ingredient that gives an umami taste and offers relaxing and calming benefits, scientific backing relating to such health benefits is still needed. In 2011, the European Food Safety Authority issued an opinion that L-theanine in matcha doesn’t increase cognitive functioning, reduce menstrual distress, decrease psychological stress or help improve normal sleep.

But, issues on the health benefits of matcha don’t dampen the enthusiasm of consumers for this new product. Matcha is at this time a trending ready-to-drink tea product.

Matcha

Matcha Industry Goes Beyond The Tea Section

Others may ask the difference between matcha and “regular” green tea products since the tea ingredient’s origin isn’t directly evident. A company from Hong Kong named Roku Roku Group has found an inventive way to answer this issue with their “Or Tea?” bottled matcha drinks which are being sold in Spain, France, and the UK. Their bottled matcha drinks utilise a technology known as under-the-cap, which contains matcha powder under the cap to preserve the powders’ integrity. As the consumer opens the bottle cap, the green tea powder drops into the liquid underneath and shaking the bottled drink creates a bright green-coloured drink. This technology guarantees that the full health benefits of matcha are preserved up to the time the beverage is consumed.

The growth of the matcha industry goes beyond the tea section. Another more viable option for matcha is in alcoholic drinks. In Japan, you can buy the Suntory Aromatic Matcha Kaoru Osake, which is an aromatic matcha liqueur with an 8% abv drink packed inside a 50cl bottle and being advertised as an another way to appreciate matcha. Another product found in Japan is the Kaldi Futto Nomu matcha latte no osake or matcha latte cocktail which is 17cl, 5% abv product that is very popular among the non-alcoholic matcha latte drinks.

Another noted popularity of the matcha drink is as a functional drink. The Matcha Love Matcha Colada, which is a product of Ito En North America, is a drink comprising of matcha, green tea, and coconut water that are great sources of electrolytes. Matcha Love is a great natural energy booster, and a mood enhances that distorts the fine line between energy drinks, green tea, and coconut water.

Caffeine in Matcha and Coffee: Which is healthier?

Caffeine is one key component that matcha is famous for, with one particular catch. Matcha can offer about 3 to 6 hours of sustained, natural energy because of the naturally occurring caffeine that metabolises slowly compared to the caffeine in coffee due the way caffeine reacts with L-theanine found in matcha. So the caffeine in matcha is far superior compared to other caffeine-laden energy boosters such as coffee or energy drinks, which are likely to result in "caffeine crash."

So, is the “natural caffeine” much “better for you” compared to the caffeine added to drinks and foods? This case isn’t clear; however, according to research that consumers are still open to other options. A Food and Health Survey on American consumers conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation in 2015 suggested that about 47% are not sure that foods and drinks with naturally occurring caffeine have the same effect as with added caffeine.

Boosting Consumer Awareness 

What’s holding down matcha from being accepted by other consumers? Possibly, it’s due to the low levels of consumer awareness in other countries. An ingredient survey conducted by Canadean last 2015 reported that only 2% of worldwide consumers said they aren’t familiar with green tea; however, the number of consumers increased to 57% when it comes to matcha. But there are exceptions. Like in Japan, only about 5% aren’t familiar with matcha; however, those who aren’t familiar, consumers increase in countries like the US with 66%, Netherlands with 81% and the UK with 75%. To increase the popularity of matcha, producers must work on marketing strategies that will help boost the identity of matcha.