Both matcha powder and green tea have great health benefits. But what is the difference between them? Here I’ll show you the differences in this matchup of matcha powder vs green tea. I like to reference recent scientific data so you will get the real scoop on the cognitive and health benefits of both.
Some may prefer the taste of one over the other as they each have their own distinct taste. Matcha is a bit thicker while green tea is more the consistency of most other teas. Matcha isn’t really that thick but it isn’t clear like other teas.
Since this site is focused on brain health, I’ll give some special focus on the cognitive benefits of each.
Overview of Matcha Powder and Green Tea
Just to be clear, both matcha powder and green tea come from the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference is how they are grown and the production process for each of them. Other teas like oolong, black, and white teas also come from Camellia Sinensis. It’s all in the growing period and processing.
Matcha goes back 1,000 years as a traditional tea in Japan. Used by Zen monks, Samurai warriors, and Japanese connoisseurs, it’s still a tradition today for its health benefits and calming effects.
Matcha comes in a fine powder form, usually bright green. It grows the same way as green tea except the plants are kept in the shade in the last weeks before harvest. This protects it from sunlight but also concentrates the wonderful nutrients and phytochemicals in the leaves.
Great care is taken with the (usually) hand-picked leaves. The leaves are dried quickly, minimizing oxidation. Some growers then remove the stems and veins but most grind the entire leaf. Either way, they are ground into a fine, bright green powder.
A traditional Japanese drink, matcha is usually spooned with a special bamboo scoop into a ceremonial bowl. A special bamboo whisk removes any clumps and gives it a bit of a froth on top. There are other options for whisks today, such as battery-powered whisks for making matcha latte’s, and that’s fine. But there is something special about using traditional tools.
Green tea has been used in Chinese and Japanese medicine for thousands of years because of its amazing health benefits.
Green tea is grown completely in the sun. At harvest, the leaves are quickly heated, helping to prevent oxidation and from turning brown. Producers may also steam, pan fire or sun dry the leaves.
Then the leaves are rolled and dried before going into tea bags or left as loose leaf tea.
Typically, green tea is steeped in hot water like other traditional teas. Rather than the bright green of matcha, regular green tea is yellowish-green to light brown.
Health Benefits – Matcha Powder vs Green Tea
Both green tea and matcha have many vitamins and antioxidants, amino acids like L-theanine and EGCG, vitamin C, carotene, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, vitamin K, lutein, caffeine, magnesium, and chlorophyll.
The difference between green tea and matcha in the nutrition category is matcha has twice the number of polyphenols and higher fat-soluble nutrients in each serving than green tea. According to Dr. Weil, matcha has as much nutritional value in one cup as compared to 10 cups of green tea.
Part of this is because green tea bags or dried leaves are very diluted as compared to consuming the entire leaf in matcha. It’s also not known how much of the nutrients hot water can bring out of the dried leaves of green tea.
Keisuke Sakurai et al. (2020) did a study with community-dwelling elderly residents, giving half of the group matcha powder every day and the other half a placebo beverage. They found a significant cognitive enhancement in the group who drank matcha every day, especially among women.
Of note, the researchers found that a higher intake of vitamin K and lutein provide some protective properties for the brain. And vitamin K is also linked with better memory and recall, according to the researchers.
But even more interesting is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), one of the best antioxidants known. This polyphenol is well known to help improve and prevent cognitive defects. Matcha has very high levels of EGCG and green tea has some.
You probably know about L-theanine, the amino acid in green tea, also found in higher quantities in matcha. L-theanine has a calming effect. Even with the caffeine in tea, it keeps you calm and can help reduce anxiety, and even helps you sleep better. But it also helps ease symptoms of cognitive impairment.
I find chlorophyll interesting as it’s a natural detoxification agent for the body. The brighter green it is indicates higher levels of chlorophyll.
As for caffeine, Katherine Marengo (R.D.) mentions in an article that green tea contains about 11-25 mg of caffeine, while matcha contains about 19-44 mg of caffeine. I know that with matcha, it’s not a sudden rush of caffeine that can make you j