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Is matcha healthier than coffee? A dietitian explains the difference

Matcha is the vibrant green tea that comes with a hefty price tag. Is it worth the hype or just an overpriced beverage?

With its photo-worthy green hue and buzzy caffeine content, matcha is the trendy tea that's popping up on your favorite coffee shop menu. Many claim that the vibrant green tea is not only pretty to look at, but it’s also really good for you. Matcha enthusiasts call it a superfood that can reduce stress, boost metabolism and prevent cancer, but are these claims actually true?

Learn more about the green tea that is becoming a latte staple, including whether or not it’s really good for you and if it’s OK to drink it everyday. 

What is matcha?

Matcha is a Japanese green tea that has a unique growing process. The matcha leaf grows primarily in the shade, which increases chlorophyll production and creates a bright green color. Matcha naturally contains caffeine, and it has an earthy grassy flavor. Unlike other varieties of tea, matcha leaves are steamed and ground into a powder.

Making a cup of matcha tea is more work than simply steeping a tea bag. First, you pour boiling water over the green matcha powder. Next, whisk vigorously until the powder is absorbed into the liquid. In most coffee shops, matcha is served with steamed milk as a matcha latte. 

Health benefits of matcha

Matcha is rich in antioxidants, primarily vitamins C and E as well as polyphenols. It has a considerable amount of catechins, a type of plant compound with health benefits. There are four types of catechins in matcha, but a plant compound called EGCG is the most abundant and notable one. There is research linking EGCG to cancer protection, heart health and possibly even blood sugar control.

Specifically, research in the Japanese population suggests there is a link between drinking more than 120 milliliters (4 ounces) of green tea and a decreased risk of gallbladder and bile duct cancer. Other research in animals demonstrates that green tea consumption may increase cancer cell death and may inhibit tumor formation, but more human research is needed.

The antioxidants in green tea have also been shown to be beneficial for the heart. Studies have found that  those who drink green tea have lower blood pressure and decreased incidences of mortality from cardiovascular disease. In addition, research in animals suggests that EGCG may slow starch absorption, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels. However, animal research doesn’t always translate to humans, and more human trials are necessary. 

Does matcha have caffeine?

Matcha has more caffeine than other green teas. Caffeine content will vary based on how the tea is brewed, but a standard size cup of matcha has about 40 to 80 milligrams of caffeine. To put that into perspective, an 8-ounce cup of black tea has around 45 milligrams of caffeine, and an 8-ounce cup of coffee has around 100 milligrams of caffeine. 

Is it OK to drink matcha every day?

Drinking matcha everyday is perfectly healthy. However, since matcha has an earthy taste it’s often combined with other liquids and sweeteners. Flavored matcha lattes are popular drinks that contain milk and some sort of added sugar. Some cafes even put supplements, like MCT oil, collagen or protein powder, in the drink. 

On its own, matcha is rich in inflammation-fighting antioxidants, but it can become a calorie or sugar bomb when combined with other ingredients. If you’re drinking matcha everyday, stick to a basic matcha tea. If you prefer a matcha latte, opt for one without any added sugar. 

Is matcha healthier than coffee?

Both matcha and coffee have similar health benefits. Since coffee has popular longer than matcha, the research on it is much more robust. Like matcha, coffee is rich in antioxidants that are linked to positive health outcomes. A research review states that those who drink coffee regularly have lower rates of mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer. In addition, drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Is matcha good for weight loss?

You’ve likely heard that green tea boosts metabolism, and there is some science to back this up. A small study in females demonstrated that supplementing with matcha during moderate intensity exercise caused more fat breakdown than those who did not ingest matcha. Another small study showed similar results in women who went for a brisk walk. While these results sound promising, both of these studies include less than 20 participants, so much more research is needed in this area. 

Plus, a review observed how green tea affects resting metabolic rate says and determined that most studies are inconclusive. In other words, feel free to drink matcha because you like the taste or need a pick-me-up, but don’t expect it to significantly shrink your body fat.

Matcha recipes

Besides sipping on your daily matcha tea, you can use the green powder in  recipes. Here are a few of our favorite ways to use matcha. 

Iced Matcha Arnold Palmer
Matcha Jasmine Swiss Rolls