MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Green tea is said to have numerous health benefits. Recently, a special green tea, matcha tea, is gaining popularity and is claimed to be more powerful than simple green tea. Matcha tea consumption is said to lead to higher intake of green tea phytochemicals compared to regular green tea.

But what is matcha tea? This article explains:

The word matcha literally means “powdered tea”. Drinking a cup or two of the tea made from this powder could help you tackle your day feeling clear, motivated and energized, rather than foggy, stressed out, and succumbing to chaos.

Matcha tea leaves are thrown a lot of shade (literally). They’re grown in the dark. The shade growing process increases matcha’s nutrients, especially chlorophyll, a green plant pigment that allows plants to absorb energy from sunlight. Chlorophyll is rich in antioxidants, and gives matcha it’s electrifying green colour. Shade growing also increases the amount of L-theanine, which is the amino acid known for promoting mental clarity, focus, and a sense of calm. It’s called nature’s “Xanax” for a reason.

The high amino acid content is also what gives matcha it’s signature umami taste. Umami is the “fifth” taste that describes the savory flavor of foods like miso, parmesan cheese, chicken broth, spinach, and soy sauce. You know you’ve got a premium matcha when you taste balanced umami flavors, hints of creaminess, and the slightest taste of fresh cut grass. You shouldn’t need to add any sweetener to enjoy sipping it. When choosing a high quality matcha powder, it’s important to remember: a strong umami flavour = higher in amino acids = the more L-theanine you’ll receive.

Once matcha leaves are harvested, they get steamed, dried, and ground up into a fine powder that you can mix with hot or cold water. The key difference here is that you’re actually consuming the nutrients from the entire leaf— which is most concentrated in antioxidants, amino acids, and umami flavour. This is unlike traditional brewed tea, where you’re only drinking the dissolvable portions of the leaf that have been steeped in water.

The article also names 5 effects of matcha tea:

1. Promotes Relaxation, Mood, and Mental Focus

2. Supports Healthy Cognitive Function

3. Supports Detoxification

4. Fights Physical Signs of Aging

5. Promotes a Healthy Heart

None of the sources provided do actually confirm that matcha tea conveys any of these benefits in humans. My favourite reference provided by the author is the one that is supposed to show that matcha tea is a detox remedy for humans. The article provided is entitled Low-dose dietary chlorophyll inhibits multi-organ carcinogenesis in the rainbow trout. Who said that SCAM-peddlers have no sense of humour?

Joking aside, is there any evidence at all to show that matcha tea has any health effects in humans? I found two clinical trials that tested this hypothesis.

Trial No1:

Intake of the catechin epigallocatechin gallate and caffeine has been shown to enhance exercise-induced fat oxidation. Matcha green tea powder contains catechins and caffeine and is consumed as a drink. We examined the effect of Matcha green tea drinks on metabolic, physiological, and perceived intensity responses during brisk walking. A total of 13 females (age: 27 ± 8 years, body mass: 65 ± 7 kg, height: 166 ± 6 cm) volunteered to participate in the study. Resting metabolic equivalent (1-MET) was measured using Douglas bags (1-MET: 3.4 ± 0.3 ml·kg-1·min-1). Participants completed an incremental walking protocol to establish the relationship between walking speed and oxygen uptake and individualize the walking speed at 5- or 6-MET. A randomized, crossover design was used with participants tested between Days 9 and 11 of the menstrual cycle (follicular phase). Participants consumed three drinks (each drink made with 1 g of Matcha premium grade; OMGTea Ltd., Brighton, UK) the day before and one drink 2 hr before the 30-min walk at 5- (n = 10) or 6-MET (walking speed: 5.8 ± 0.4 km/hr) with responses measured at 8-10, 18-20, and 28-30 min. Matcha had no effect on physiological and perceived intensity responses. Matcha resulted in lower respiratory exchange ratio (control: 0.84 ± 0.04; Matcha: 0.82 ± 0.04; p < .01) and enhanced fat oxidation during a 30-min brisk walk (control: 0.31 ± 0.10; Matcha: 0.35 ± 0.11 g/min; p < .01). Matcha green tea drinking can enhance exercise-induced fat oxidation in females. However, when regular brisk walking with 30-min bouts is being undertaken as part of a weight loss program, the metabolic effects of Matcha should not be overstated.

Trial No 2:

Matcha tea is gaining popularity throughout the world in recent years and is frequently referred to as a mood-and-brain food. Previous research has demonstrated that three constituents present in matcha tea, l-theanine, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), and caffeine, affect mood and cognitive performance. However, to date there are no studies assessing the effect of matcha tea itself. The present study investigates these effects by means of a human intervention study administering matcha tea and a matcha containing product. Using a randomized, placebo-controlled, single-blind study, 23 consumers participated in four test sessions. In each session, participants consumed one of the four test products: matcha tea, matcha tea bar (each containing 4g matcha tea powder), placebo tea, or placebo bar. The assessment was performed at baseline and 60min post-treatment. The participants performed a set of cognitive tests assessing attention, information processing, working memory, and episodic memory. The mood state was measured by means of a Profile of Mood States (POMS). After consuming the matcha products compared to placebo versions, there were mainly significant improvements in tasks measuring basic attention abilities and psychomotor speed in response to stimuli over a defined period of time. In contrast to expectations, the effect was barely present in the other cognitive tasks. The POMS results revealed no significant changes in mood. The influence of the food matrix was demonstrated by the fact that on most cognitive performance measures the drink format outperformed the bar format, particularly in tasks measuring speed of spatial working memory and delayed picture recognition. This study suggests that matcha tea consumed in a realistic dose can induce slight effects on speed of attention and episodic secondary memory to a low degree. Further studies are required to elucidate the influences of the food matrix.

Not impressed?

Me neither!

However, I was impressed when I looked up the costs of matcha tea: £17.95 for 30 g of powder does not exactly seem to be a bargain. So, matcha tea does after all help some people, namely all those engaged in flogging it to the gullible SCAM fraternity.

 

21 Responses to Matcha tea: the new SCAM to scam the gullible consumer?

  • I love the maccha hype. Thanks to it, lots of konacha are produced. Konacha is cheap, much easier to prepare and – as far as I am concerned – much tastier and fragrant too. I believe I pay around 5 or 6 CAD for 200 grammes. It is also a tea often served in Japanese restaurants: great smell, great colour, great taste, and cheap to boot. What more could one wish for? The more suckers buy maccha, the better it is for me ^_^

  • It has caffeine in it. I wonder how its effects compare to a similar dose of caffeine in coffee or a snack bar. They sound similar.

  • Matcha (抹茶 in Japanese, or まっちゃ if you want to spell it phonetically, with the T in the English transliteration indicating a slight pause) literally means rubbed or powdered tea. It is traditionally drunk in the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but is very popular more generally in Japan, and also used in cooking. You can get matcha ice-cream (match-no eisukurimu) and I once had matcha tiramisu, with tea instead of coffee at the bottom and tea instead of chocolate at the top. It was delicious.

    It is well-established that the Japanese are among the healthiest people in the world, and they also drink a lot of green tea, but you can’t automatically conclude that these are cause and effect given the many differences between Japan and the West in terms of lifestyle (ignoring any possible genetic differences). They are quite superstitious in some ways (e.g. believing that personality and health is influenced by blood type) and I wouldn’t be surprised if that extends to diet. The Chinese certainly eat and drink the strange things they do entirely for their health and fortune-giving effects, often based on the name (e.g. the idea that eating goldfish (金魚, jin-yu) will bring you wealth (金 being gold)).

    I drink green tea because it is delicious, though I have it sent from China as the stuff you can get in the UK tastes of cardboard. They also have red tea and blue tea (oolong, literally “black dragon”) which is fermented.

  • How exactly did they construct a placebo that tastes like matcha? I can’t read the full article. I would think that would be quite the difficult task.

    Of course, I can’t get through Elsiver’s pay wall, so if anyone can find out, I’d love to know.

  • Some people will pay £1000/30g of cocaine (and still run for PM).

    A blog by ‘Professor’ Ernst on matcha tea? Seriously? Is Edzard running out of time, and running out of ideas?

    • no – but it might be a good idea to do a blog post on the multitude of stupid comments you have managed to post.
      do you sometimes think before you write or speak?

      • Please go ahead and make my day, write a post about my ‘stupid comments’ because your story speaks for itself. After your lifetime trying to figure out homeopathy, you still have not. You are top clown.
        Your Wikipedia history (an extract):
        In 2005, a report by economist Christopher Smallwood, personally commissioned by Prince Charles, claimed that CAM was cost-effective and should be available in the National Health Service (NHS). Ernst was initially enlisted as a collaborator on the report, but asked for his name to be removed after a sight of the draft report convinced him that Smallwood had “written the conclusions before looking at the evidence”.[16] The report did not address whether CAM treatments were actually effective and Ernst described it as “complete misleading rubbish”.[16]

        Ernst was, in turn, criticised by The Lancet editor Richard Horton for disclosing contents of the report while it was still in draft form. In a 29 August 2005 letter to The Times Horton wrote: “Professor Ernst seems to have broken every professional code of scientific behaviour by disclosing correspondence referring to a document that is in the process of being reviewed and revised prior to publication. This breach of confidence is to be deplored.”[17]

        Prince Charles’ private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, also filed a complaint regarding breached confidentiality with Exeter University. Although he was “cleared of wrongdoing”,[18] Ernst has said[16] that circumstances surrounding the ensuing university investigation led to his retirement.

  • Who can follow the nonsense in this article? It started off written by a hack who then cut and pasted a part of a doctoral thesis he found online that in theory, could support his hypothesis if the conclusion matched his, but didn’t. The biggest offense is that Edzard didn’t have the balls to notate the source he stole from.
    And that’s called plagiarism, Edzard.

  • Anything good take it. Matcha is generally considered safe when consumed in small amounts as a beverage, it’s important not to go overboard. Due to the caffeine content, green tea may trigger certain side effects (such as headache, insomnia, irritability, diarrhea, and heartburn) when consumed in excess. This powdered form of green tea can dissolve into milk or water or add flavor to things like yogurt or smoothies. Japanese people likes it very much.

    • Gregory Burzynski on Tuesday 11 June 2019 at 12:37
      Anything good take it. Matcha is generally considered safe when consumed in small amounts as a beverage, it’s important not to go overboard. Due to the caffeine content, green tea may trigger certain side effects (such as headache, insomnia, irritability, diarrhea, and heartburn) when consumed in excess. This powdered form of green tea can dissolve into milk or water or add flavor to things like yogurt or smoothies. Japanese people likes it very much.

      I am quite certain Burzynski junior does not sit in person and write positive comments on Japanese tea on the blog of a professor of alternative medicine 😀
      If you take a chunk of this text and search for it in Google you will find exactly or nearly exactly the same in various places on the internet.
      This is an interesting example of spam produced by a bureau where a bunch of people sit in some low-wage country e.g. India and search for keywords and buzzword. When they find a likely object they inject boilerplate texts into the blog or online forum in which they find a discussion containing keywords, where a link to the company paying them might hit suitable marks.
      The link under the commenters name leads to an establishment run by the son of Stanislaw Burzynski, a well known provider of expensive but unproven cancer treatments who has for many decades taken money from desperate parents of children with hopeless brain cancer. The apple has certainly not fallen far from the proverbial oak.

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