Enjoying a rich cup of matcha tea – it’s a moment where you stop everything and enjoy the delicious flavor. But do you know exactly how matcha tea affects you? Do you know the side effects of drinking too much of this renowned Japanese green tea? Find out in this article – it’s short and to the point, don’t worry!
What is in Matcha Powder?
Matcha powder is made from green tea leaves that are shade-grown especially for turning into matcha. You can’t just blend up any old gunpowder or sencha tea to make matcha powder! The green tea powder is then whisked with water and consumed – rather than infused and strained out of the water. That’s the key difference between matcha and other green teas. With matcha, you’re drinking 100% of the nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants. A simple sencha might only infuse half the antioxidants it contains into your tea, for example.
There are a few different grades of matcha too:
Ceremonial grade is the best grade if you’re looking for the best flavor, it should be your first choice. It’s nutritionally rich and grown to taste best when consumed. Adding additional flavors, sweeteners or using it in baking will spoil or completely mask the natural flavor.
Culinary matcha is strong and bitter as it’s designed for baking! You might still enjoy the flavor in a matcha latte, but it’s not going to taste anywhere near as good as the ceremonial grade. This doesn’t mean that the quality of this matcha isn’t as good as ceremonial, it simply means that it’s grown to taste differently as it has a different purpose.
Both are nutritious and healthy, but ceremonial grade tends to be the matcha of choice for drinking.
Side Effects of Drinking Matcha Tea
The side effects of matcha only really come into play when you drink masses and masses of matcha. The caffeine, added sugar and milk are the worst offenders and can have some unpleasant side effects on your body and mind.
Another thing you need to watch out for is the quality of the matcha. Look for organic certified matcha that’s grown without herbicides/pesticides on the leaves or chemical fertilizers in the soil. As matcha involves drinking the entire leaf and not just washing it and infusing it, you’ll be consuming whatever chemicals are left from the growing process that haven’t been washed off!
Matcha green tea generally contains around 60mg of caffeine per cup, compared to a normal green tea (like Sencha) which only contains 30mg. On the caffeine scale, this is more than a cup of black tea (50mg) and half a 12oz cup of drip coffee (120mg).
To put that all into perspective, the recommended maximum limit of caffeine intake is 400mg per day. You’d need to whisk up a lot of matcha to meet that! Almost 7 cups of matcha in one day will bring you to the limit, or a combination of matcha, coffee, and other caffeinated beverages, like energy drinks.
Caffeine Side Effects
Consuming a vast amount of caffeine has numerous side effects:
- Insomnia, restlessness, and anxiety – caffeine stimulates makes you feel awake and energized, but that can result in too much energy if you consume too much. Not only could it keep you awake at night, but it can also prevent you from relaxing and cause some anxious feelings. Matcha, like all green tea, contains l-theanine. This amino acid is pretty awesome! It prevents stress hormones from binding to receptors in your brain, leaving you calm and focused. This means you’re less likely to experience these side effects compared to when you consume a large amount of caffeine from coffee or another source.
- Increased heart rate and chest pain – caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, which controls the heart. Caffeine can increase your blood pressure and speed up your heart rate to get the blood pumping through your veins for an energy boost. This side effect is more common when you’ve skipped caffeine for an extended period, then come back to it with a caffeine high beverage. Very high doses of caffeine can cause heartbeat irregularities.
- Addiction – caffeine is an addictive substance and can leave you feeling tired, grumpy and with a bad headache if you don’t have a cup one day. Luckily, caffeine ‘withdrawal’ side effects are very tame compared to other addictive substances! If you can withstand some headaches, cravings for a cuppa and irritable mood for a while, you’ll be fine.
Sugar and Milk
The other side effects of consuming too much matcha come from the other ingredients you add to it! The water is healthy and hydrating for you, plus the matcha itself has some great health benefits (more on that below), but the cream/milk and sweeteners you add? Those aren’t so great in high doses.
There are plenty of myths floating around that adding milk to any tea can diminish the health benefits of it. That might not be entirely true. There is conflicting evidence about this at the moment, with some studies showing that adding milk to green and black tea doesn’t impact levels of catechins in your blood after consuming it. Other studies show that adding milk can block the EGCG catechin that everyone wants a piece of (more on the health benefits of EGCG below).
Either way, milk is a great source of calcium that strengthens your bones… but it also adds more fat to your diet that you may want to avoid to help lose weight.
Matcha is naturally sugar-free and very healthy for you… but unfortunately, Starbucks couldn’t just leave it alone! A whole milk grande matcha green latte from Starbucks contains 32g of added sugar and 6g of saturated fat. Matcha made with water has 0g of sugar. Excessive sugar can cause insomnia and restlessness in the short term, with weight gain and faster aging (particularly in your skin) for the long term. This pretty much cancels out the benefits of many matcha antioxidants.
Is Matcha Tea Healthy?
Yes, matcha is a very healthy drink. The side effects come from the caffeine and additives that we put in our matcha teas. The health benefits of matcha are the same as infused green tea, only amplified.
- Matcha could contain 3x more antioxidants than other high quality, infused green teas. These antioxidants encourage cell repair, soothe inflammation and are great for healthy arteries (unless you add milk and sugar).
- Drinking this green tea regularly can protect you from heart disease or a heart attack. Green tea has been shown to manage cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels. A small amount of matcha regularly will be great for your heart, just be careful not to over-do it with the caffeine, as that can be detrimental to your heart health.
- Green tea can increase your metabolic rate – one factor that can help you shift some excess weight! Matcha isn’t a miracle drink, however, so make sure you get plenty of exercise and a balanced diet to help you reach your weight goals.
- Improved alertness, focus, and concentrations is a common benefit you’ll experience shortly after finishing your matcha tea. This is all thanks to the amino acid l-theanine, which promotes those feelings of relaxed alertness by blocking stress hormones in the brain. This can soothe anxiety or get you ready to tackle the day. Just remember that it will eventually wear off, just like caffeine, and leave you feeling a little sluggish. That’s completely normal.
Matcha – A Safe Green Tea
Matcha is a safe and healthy drink, so long as you consume it in moderation (just a few cups a day, at most) and choose an organic, ceremonial or good quality culinary grade powder. To avoid all of the side effects, sip your matcha slowly without milk or sugar!