Some of our readers have asked us to explain the antioxidant levels in matcha powder green tea as oppose to leaf green tea. As always, we’re happy to oblige.
(And by the way, keep the comments coming!)
A majority the health benefits you enjoy from drinking green are due to the high level of antioxidants present in the plant. Epicgallocatechin gallate (EGCg) is a potent cancer-busting antioxidant that is only found in green tea. However, there is definitely a difference between the level of EGCg found in matcha versus in leaf tea.
A 2003 study conducted at the University of Colorado found that matcha green tea had nearly 200 times the amount of EGCg than a common brand of leaf green tea.
Why such a radical disparity? It’s due entirely to the way matcha is prepared.
Traditional matcha is prepared by whisking powdered tea into hot water. The powder itself is a more highly concentrated (and we think more delicious) version of leaf green tea, so it makes sense that it contains more of the antioxidant properties of the plant.
There are challenges to this assumption that simply because matcha is prepared as a powder it naturally contains more antioxidants. Several sources have challenged the 2003 study by criticizing the relatively low grade the leaf tea as compared to the high quality of the matcha used for the experiment.
A 2007 USDA report establishes the antioxidant levels of nearly 400 foods. The report found that 1 single gram of green tea brewed in 100 millimeters of water contains an average of 127 milligrams of antioxidants. The article compares this to the number offered by a large Japanese producer of matcha green tea powder (1 gram of powder contains 119 milligrams of antioxidants) and concludes that there really is no significant difference.
As there is currently no study underway that is testing high grade matcha powder with super high quality leaf tea, it’s up to you to draw your own conclusions. The only thing we know for sure is that green tea in all its forms is good for you and should be sipped on a regular basis. We drink matcha because we love the taste and color, but if you prefer using tea bags or whole leaves – go for it!
If you’ve heard of such studies, please let us know in the comments.