Buyer Beware

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There’s a good deal of chatter these days about Matcha tea (Japanese powdered green tea) which on one hand provides tremendous potential health benefits, helps you feel good and has a unique, tasty flavor while, on the other hand, like many ‘trending’ products, is subject to the hype of excited marketers some of whom simply want a piece of the action.

June 2006 was when Matcha tea had its watershed moment in North America; it happened in Vancouver, Canada. One Whole Foods location sold over $5,000 worth of one particular Matcha brand in a single month. This remarkable achievement caught the attention of other Whole Foods Regional Buyers down the west coast (sorry New York, it was San Francisco who set the trend this time), and Matcha tea consumption has continued to grow ever since.

In the last few years however, with increased on-line consumer buying patterns and greater Matcha awareness, dozens of Matcha tea companies seemed to have popped up overnight and with them, more hype and chatter:

“137 times more antioxidants!” “Lose Weight Now!”

While Matcha tea does offer potentially tremendous health benefits, there is only a handful of actual Matcha studies, the majority of the evidence is anecdotal. The general consensus among matcha marketers has been to extrapolate the results from green tea studies (of which there are many thousands) and attribute them to matcha. A reasonable practice, but let’s stick to the facts.

One Matcha tea study showed that Matcha has approximately 3x higher EGCG than the largest literature value of other green teas1 (the EGCG catechin – epigallocatechingallate – is the most popular of the green tea nutrients due to its purported effectiveness across a broad spectrum of health issues).

Instead of 3x higher EGCG, a number of promoters are touting that Matcha has 137x more antioxidants than regular green tea, or 137x more EGCG. These broad generalizations are not what the study states.

Product labels too are ideal venues for marketing messages. Like those that tell us how the Matcha is carefully hand-picked, and made from only the best leaves when, in fact, the Matcha they are offering for sale is browny-green (instead of bright green) and full of brown rice solids!

Matcha’s magic lay rooted in the ancient traditions of the Japanese Tea Ceremony – which honors purity, harmony, tranquillity and respect. For Matcha to suddenly find itself in a modern day ‘buyer beware’ situation seems to go against the respectful energy that matcha infuses. Below are a few tips to ensure you receive the best value for your Matcha dollar.

Matcha Buying Tips

  • Matcha is only Matcha when it’s in powdered form.
  • Matcha is not Matcha when it’s in teabag or loose leaf form. The teabag may have matcha powder mixed in it, but then only approximately 3% of it is Matcha, the rest is tea leaf.
  • Matcha is not powdered Sencha, or simply “powdered green tea.” Neither of these teas goes through the unique Matcha cultivation and processing methods.
  • Read The Label – If the label uses words like “premium” and “hand-picked,” and then the ingredients include a sugar or sugar derivative of any sort, run the other way!
  • Better quality Matcha, which is used mostly for ceremony-style Matcha (ie whisked in hot water), usually retails around $30 USD. ($1/gram).
  • If the Matcha product is sweetened, it will be made using a low grade Matcha, is mostly sugar, and should be priced – and labeled – accordingly. (0.10 cents/gram).
  • Better quality Matcha should be vibrant green, finely ground, and have a fresh aroma.
  • Email the Matcha company if you have questions, better yet, phone them!

1 Weiss DJ, Anderton CR. Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. J Chromatogr A 2003 Sep 5;1011(1-2):173-80

For more information contact:

Calli O’Brien
CEO, My Matcha Life™ Products Inc.
1-855-4-MATCHA ( 1-855-462-8242 )
callio@mymatchalife.com

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