Matcha Buyer Beware

Matcha Buyer Beware

If you’ve shopped around for matcha lately, you know there’s a good deal of hype out there over matcha’s many health benefits. We say “hype” because much of it is being cranked out by some ambitious newcomers a little too eager to cash in on matcha’s ancient reputation and new found popularity.

We’ll get back to that real quick, but first a little backgrounder …

June 2006 was matcha tea’s watershed moment in North America. That’s when a Whole Foods retailer in Vancouver, Canada quietly sold over $5,000 worth of a single brand of matcha in a matter of days.

When word got out, Whole Foods retailers up and down the west coast started hollering for matcha tea and its popularity has been growing ever since.

Dozens of legitimate new matcha brands began to appear in stores and online. And, not surprisingly, a gaggle of opportunistic hucksters climbed out of the shadows to join them. There’s a reason we say “matcha buyer beware.”

Science vs Opinion

While it’s true matcha tea offers some tremendous health benefits very few scientific studies have been devoted entirely to matcha. In fact, most of the evidence trotted out by retailers is anecdotal — the opinion of matcha tea drinkers.

That’s why matcha marketers have adopted the science devoted to regular green tea, which actually makes sense. Green tea and matcha tea contain the same healthy antioxidants and amino acids. The difference, of course, is that matcha tea contains a lot more of them.

Science shows matcha tea contains approximately 3x more of the powerful EGCG catechin than any other type of green tea1. EGCG is the best known green tea nutrient because of its well-established health promoting qualities:

  • A new study examining EGCG found it may counteract the effects of a diet high in fats and sugar
  • EGCG compounds may also help prevent heart disease, improve skin quality, speed exercise recovery and help prevent high blood sugar

Overall, it’s an established fact that one (1) cup of high-quality matcha tea packs the same health promoting punch as 7 – 10 cups of regular green tea. For health conscious consumers, that one cup of matcha is a lot more convenient, practical and affordable.

Matcha Buyer Beware

This is where things get a little dicey.

A ton of retailers claim matcha tea contains 137x more antioxidants than regular green tea. Except for one bizarre case, that’s simply not true. The study they’re quoting actually said matcha tea contains 137x more antioxidants than one very specific brand of green tea and just 3x more than all the others.

The other claim to be wary of involves weight loss. According to a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the catechins in matcha can boost your metabolism during moderate exercise thus enhancing weight loss. But matcha alone won’t magically melt away those unwanted pounds, you still have to get up off the couch … rats!

Misleading Labels

Watch out for product labels. Some are just totally bogus. The trick is knowing which ones you can trust. That’s why we recommend you read the label real carefully. Like all packaged food companies, tea sellers are required to list their ingredients on the outside.

Good quality matcha from Japan contains nothing but matcha tea powder. If you see any other ingredients listed, the product you’re holding is a low grade impostor. Fake matcha teas commonly contain cheap fillers like rice solids, sugar and other substances. Ingredients other than matcha are a 100% sure sign you’re not getting the real deal.

Matcha Buyers Guide

Matcha history is rooted in an ancient Japanese tradition of purity and respect. To suddenly find itself in a “buyer beware” situation just defeats matcha’s good energy. Here are seven (7) things to remember to ensure you’re getting the best energy for your matcha money:

  • Matcha is only matcha in its powdered form.
  • Matcha is not matcha if it’s loose leaf or in a teabag.
  • Matcha is not “powdered sencha” or “powdered green tea.”
  • If the label uses words like “premium” or “hand-picked” then lists some kind of sugar ingredient, run for the hills.
  • Good quality matcha retails for about $30 USD for a 30-gram tin; about $1 per gram.
  • If the matcha is sweetened it’ll be low grade and should be priced around 10 cents per gram.
  • Good quality matcha powder is vibrant green and finely ground with a fresh grassy aroma.

Questions or comments? Feel free to drop us a line anytime:

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
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