Matcha Powder Health Benefits
Vs Green Tea Leaves

What are the health benefits of matcha powder compared to drinking green tea? Which is healthier to drink?



Popular wisdom holds that by consuming green tea whole, you get more of the antioxidants than you do in regular green tea.

To prove their points, matcha sellers often cite a 2003 study conducted by University of Colorado, which found that it contained 137 times as many antioxidants as a popular green tea beverage.

The same study also found that it contains antioxidants at least three times the rate of the largest literature value for other green teas.

So, is drinking matcha healthier than drinking green tea? Or is the truth more complex than what the matcha sellers make or out to be?

Flawed Scientific Study

Does matcha really contain 137 times more antioxidants compared to green tea?

It really depends on which green tea you are talking about. Tea bags contain much less antioxidant, because the leaves have been chopped into small pieces.

This kills the antioxidants. The large surface area promotes oxidization as antioxidants form compounds with the oxygen molecules in the air.

Now, you may be surprised to learn that the University of Colorado study cited above used a green tea bag sold by Starbuck as their sole experimental sample!

This is like comparing apples and oranges. They are comparing the lowest quality green tea with a premium quality matcha powder.

What this study shows is that one should avoid drinking low quality tea bags, and switch to a higher quality alternative. Whether this higher quality comes in the form of loose-leaf or matcha powder is really a matter of personal choice.

Is Whole-Leaf Healthier?

If you enjoy adding green tea powder to your instant iced tea or smoothie, that is fine. However, do not think that whole-leaf is healthier than drinking tea, and by drinking tea infusion you are missing our on the other health benefits in the insoluble parts of green tea leaves.

The Chinese people have been consuming green tea for thousands of years and they have cautioned against eating tea leaves. Here are the reasons why:

  • The most important nutritional components in tea leaves are catechins, caffeine and theanine. These nutrients are flavorful as well as soluble, which explains why rich tasting teas often contain a high concentration of these compounds.

  • In the Far East, green tea leaves are infused at least three times, until the resulting tea tastes bland. So even though you are not eating the entire leaves, you are not missing out much.

  • The insoluble part of tea leaves consists mostly of proteins, fibers and carbohydrates. They have limited nutritional value. (Some Chinese tea experts even say they can be harmful.)

  • A tea infusion is healthier than eating a whole leaf, because tea plants accumulate contaminants from soil and water. These contaminants are usually much less soluble in water.

  • Thus drinking tea infusion and avoiding the fibrous parts protect you from environmental impurities! This is important especially when you are taking a lot of tea daily.

Of course, if you are convinced you are using a high quality products, then eating the tea leaves is fine.

This topic is heavily discussed in the site, please click on the link below to share you view!

Eating Tea Leaves - Is It Safe or Healthy?

How Much Antioxidant?

Both green tea leaves and matcha tea powder are made using green tea leaves. The difference between the two is that green tea undergo minimal processing, whereas matcha powder has been heavily processed to convert it to powder form.

From my extensive readings of tea research, both matcha powder and green teas contain approximately 100 milligrams of antioxidants per gram.

However, unlike matcha, you have to steep green tea leaves several times until they run out of flavor.

Considering antioxidants can be lost easily, my natural assumption is that the least processed option is more nutritious and offer better value for money than the powder form.

According to Aiya Matcha, perhaps Japan's largest producer of bulk matcha powder, 1 gram of powder contains 119 milligrams of the six types of catechins.

A 2007 report published by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) compares nearly 400 foods for their antioxidants content. This catechins study found that 1 gram of green tea infused in 100 milliliters of water contains an average of 127 milligrams of catechins.

Catechin Rich Foods and Beverages According to USDA

Now, Aiya Matcha is a matcha seller, they have no reason to understate the antioxidant content of matcha. On the other hand, the USDA is a comprehensive study based on a large number of green tea samples.

There is no evidence that matcha powder contains more antioxidants than green tea.

Value for Money?

Traditional matcha tea powder is expensive and reserved for ceremonial uses. Tea plants are grown in shaded conditions, a farming practice reserved only for the best of Japanese tea. This process slows the growth of tea plants and increases its theanine content.

Perhaps the single most reliable indicator of quality, theanine counter-balances the action of caffeine and has a calming effect on the body. Matcha tastes sweet and is slightly astringent. Just like high grade green tea, it is harvested from the young buds in spring.

This, together with the labor intensive process of stone-grinding the dried leaves into powder, means that it is expensive and offers less value for money compared to green tea.

Potential Health Risks?

Many green tea powders sold in the West are lower grade matcha made from mature tea leaves that are fibrous and may even include stems. To disguise the lack of flavors or bitter taste, sugars are often added to make the powder tastes good.

To make matters worse, Japan imports a lot of cheap green tea from China to make these powders. Drinking a lot of these green tea can be unhealthy as mature tea leaves tend to accumulate impurities from the environment, which may include car fumes (lead), fluoride (from soil) and pesticides.

Now, I am not saying all green tea powders are unhealthy. But rather, because these are powders and you have no idea where they come from, how the tea leaves look and if they are flavored - how they taste, you have no idea of their true quality.

Conclusion

For a tea lover, I love matcha for its emerald green, rich flavors and ceremonial grace. If you are considering matcha as a health food, and as a replacement for a cup of high quality tea, I think you should go in with a more realistic expectation.

The bottom line is that both high grade green tea and matcha are made from young tea buds, and matcha suffers the disadvantage of the additional labor needed to stone-grind it into powder form. You also have no idea where the original tea leaves come from.

Other disadvantages include storage, as powder is more susceptible to environmental degradation than loose-leaf tea. Caffeine can be an issue for some people, as even coffee drinkers have found it to be quite powerful.

Matcha is a delightful, even luxurious health food. But it is not 137 times healthier than similarly priced green tea!

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References

David J. Weiss and Christopher R. Anderton (2003). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography Journal of Chromatography A Volume 1011, Issues 1-2, 5 September 2003, Pages 173-180.

Aiya Matcha Tea. http://www.aiya-america.com/index.html

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