When you’re doing everything wrong, even the smallest step in the right direction can yield big improvements. For example, a person that stays up all night playing Xbox and eating pizza will likely feel dramatically better when he suddenly spends a week getting eight hours of sleep and consuming vegetables. It kind of makes you wonder: if adopting the most basic of healthy habits can yield tremendous results, how much more improvement would you see by taking an even greater step? How much better would our pepperoni-loving gamer feel if he started buying organic meat, working out on a customized training program, or taking supplements to fill the gaps in his diet?
In its continuous search for optimization, Onnit has investigated green tea. Once a health fad barely recognized outside of Asia, green tea is now virtually a staple in fitness-friendly cupboards around the world—its extracts are even sold as supplements, and purported to help burn fat, increase endurance, and promote various health benefits. But, as we’ve learned, your standard supermarket green tea is only the tip of the iceberg, offering but a glimpse of the advantages that can be found with matcha.
A special form of green tea native to China and Japan, matcha differs from other green tea products in a few key ways. The plants that are used to make matcha powder are grown in shade for three weeks before harvest, and only their stems and veins are removed in processing, leaving the whole leaf for use. The leaves are stone ground, resulting in a fine powder, as opposed to the crushed leaves that are typically steeped to make a tea beverage. Check out the special characteristics of matcha below, and you’ll see why it’s now “our cup of tea.”
Matcha Tea Benefits
Matcha has been used in Asian tradition for thousands of years, and was so revered for its nutrition and effects on the mind and body that ceremonies accompanied its presentation. To this day, some matcha is still blessed by monks before it is used ceremonially. In Japan, matcha is considered sacred.
Need a more scientific reason to give it a try? The lack of sunlight during the growing process stimulates the buildup of chlorophyll in the tea plant’s leaves. This results in matcha’s darker green color and a stronger, earthier flavor. Japanese-sourced matcha is generally superior to the Chinese version, due to higher soil quality (which offers a lower risk of contaminants) and production practices—the leaves are stone ground, which keeps the heat they’re exposed to low, preserving their natural aroma. To ensure the utmost quality, it may be best to buy organic matcha.
Unlike tea made from conventional green tea leaves, matcha tea utilizes the whole leaf. As a result, you get the full spectrum of phytonutrients from the plant when you drink it.
A Better Buzz
Due to the time they spend in the shade, leaves that become matcha are naturally higher in caffeine and L-theanine, an amino acid, than standard green tea. This combination is believed to be responsible for matcha’s reputation as a food that helps to keep you alert while having a relaxing effect on the mind—think wide awake but without the jitters. L-theanine is thought to slow the absorption rate of the caffeine, which a 2015 study in the journal Psychopharmacology found made for a milder and more prolonged buzz (reportedly up to seven hours in some cases).
Matcha vs. Green Tea
*Per 8-oz serving (approx. one cup)
Matcha Chai Recipes
1. Chai Storm
Recipe type: Protein Shake
Cook Time: <5 minutes
● 1 scoop Matcha Chai Latte
● 1 scoop grass-fed whey protein
● 1 scoop plant-based protein
● ½ banana, frozen
● 2 cups organic spinach
● 1 tsp. fresh ginger or ½ tbsp. ginger powder
● ½ tsp. raw, unfiltered honey
● 1 tbsp. coconut emulsified MCT
● 16 oz unsweetened coconut milk
● 1 ½ scoops of ice
1. Add everything to a high-powered blender.
2. Pulse until smooth.
Special diet: gluten-free, contains tree nuts, contains dairy
Tip: Matcha Green Tea is a great caffeine alternative to coffee. Not only are you getting the fat-burning benefits of the green tea, but tea also alkalizes the gastrointestinal tract, whereas, coffee is generally more acidic (harsh) on digestion.
2. Matcha Overnight Oats
Recipe type: breakfast
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 3-6 hours or overnight
● ½ scoop Matcha Chai Latte
● ¼ cup steel-cut or ½ cup whole rolled oats
● 1 tbsp. chia seeds
● 2 tbsp. Greek or Skyr yogurt, plain & full fat
● ¾ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
● ½ scoop Whey isolate
● 2 tsp. bee pollen
● ¼ cup fresh blueberries
● 1 tbsp. unsweetened coconut flakes
● 1 tbsp. slivered almonds
1. In a bowl or mason jar, add all the ingredients (not the toppings).
2. Stir to combine.
3. Seal with a lid, and store in fridge for 3-6 hours or overnight.
*Add desired toppings, and enjoy cold.
Special diet: contains nuts, contains dairy, gluten free (if gluten-free oats are used)
Tip: No need for morning coffee or tea when you make this breakfast. You have your complex carbohydrates, high-quality protein AND non-acidic caffeine delivered in every bite.
3. Matcha Chai Pistachio Balls
Recipe type: snack, treat
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: 24 balls
● ½ cup raw, shelled pistachios
● ¾ cup cashews, dry roasted
● ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
● 20 pitted dates, soaked in water for 20 minutes
● 1 scoop Matcha Chai Latte
● 1 tsp coconut oil (for rolling)
● ½ tsp. Himalayan salt
● ⅛ cup pistachios
● ⅛ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
● ½ scoop Matcha Chai Latte, powder
1. Add all ingredients (except the toppings) to a food processor. Do not include the excess water from soaking the dates. Drain first, then add the dates.
2. Pulse until well combined, about one minute. Transfer “dough” from food processor to a small ball. Pulse the pistachios for topping in the food processor.
3. On three small plates, add each one of the three toppings.
4. Coat your hands with coconut oil, for easier rolling. Roll each ball about 1” thick, then roll into topping. Set on a clean plate. Continue making about 8 balls for each topping.
5. Set in freezer for 20 minutes, then enjoy! Stays well in fridge or freezer in an airtight container.
Special diet: vegan, dairy free, gluten free, contains nuts
Tip: Enjoy as a portable snack into between meals with a positive pick me up from the caffeine in the green tea!