Mighty Matcha: The Trendy New Superfood

Matcha. You may have seen it at Starbucks, in the news, and on the Instagram feeds of professional athletes and supermodels. But what is matcha, and why the sudden surge in popularity?

The Historical Roots of the Plant

Matcha is a type of green tea (Camellia sinensis) that monks and other specialty farmers grow under specific conditions in Japan and China. The growing of green tea began in China under the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century as an export good. Originally, tea-drinkers would roast and then grind the tea leaves, mixing this concoction with hot water and salt. The process of making tea continued to evolve in Asia, culminating in the grinding of already-steamed green tea under the Song Dynasty in around the tenth century. This method continued to advance until drinkers would prepare tea by whipping pre-made tea powder and hot water together in a bowl. This whisked tea became popular in the latter part of the 12th century under the Song Dynasty.

The Buddhist monks who curated the tea would keep the drink shaded during the last few days of its growth cycle. These monks discovered the tea gave them incredible energy during meditation, and the tea was then known as a ceremonial tea for priests. Although the Chinese citizens gradually forgot the powdered drink, it remains a staple of Japanese life.

Green Tea vs. Matcha

Matcha is a form of green tea, albeit a specialized one. When you drink a bag of green tea, you’re drinking only part of the plant, and even still is just a bag dipped in water. With matcha, how it’s produced means that you consume the entire leaf, leading to the consumption of many more vitamins and antioxidants than in traditional green tea. Because the tea is under shade for the last few days of production, the chlorophyll count, and therefore caffeine content, is higher than in traditional green tea.

Macho Matcha: Contemporary Popularity

Macha had been first introduced to Japan thousands of years ago, and only recently did the Western world start to take note. According to Google Trends, the monthly popularity was only around 2% of the term’s overall demand from 2004-2012. From there, the search’s reputation grew steadily until April 2015, when there was a peak of 80%, only rivaled by June 2017, when the term reached its max popularity of 100%. The social media feeds of celebrities mirror these trends, with Lady Gaga, Ashley Olsen, and other stars photographed with matcha drinks in hand.

If you want to try the superfood, you can stop by your local Starbucks or specialty coffee shop, or purchase matcha powder from online retailers or some box stores. You can use matcha for drinks, baked goods, and other cooking dishes, in addition to merely drinking it. Many people substitute a matcha latte in the place of an espresso one because of the calm energy you can get through matcha.

Have you tried matcha? Do you have any favorite drinks or baked goods that contain matcha, or any favorite matcha brands? Let us know in the comments below!

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