Coffee and I have a long, storied love affair. While my habit peaked at eight cups daily (in college, predictably), I still feel sub-optimal with anything less than four or five in my system over the course of a day. And, honestly, no matter how many health benefits are supposedly associated with a cuppa Joe, I think my withdrawal headaches are as good a sign as any that it's time to make a change.
Enter matcha, a high-grade, finely-ground green tea powder that's slowly coming back onto our collective radar as a healthy alternative source of caffeine. Traditionally, matcha has played a crucial role in tea ceremonies in China and Japan and has been prepared continuously by Zen Buddhist monks for over 1,000 years. It also happens to be packed with vitamins and polyphenols — incredibly useful antioxidant molecules that help to prevent cancer, heart disease, and aging. According to nutritionist Shira Lenchewski, matcha has "7x more antioxidant action than regular green tea — it's great for improving immunity function and reducing inflammation."
Plus, preparing it couldn't be simpler. Just dissolve the powder in water or milk (hot or cold both work, but it dissolves most easily in hot water). The result is a fresh-tasting, herb-y, creamy concoction that's sort of like a thicker, richer, more indulgent form of green tea. My favorite way to get my matcha fix, though, is in smoothies — just add it to the blender like any other powdered supplement.
Could matcha really replace that daily coffee? I didn't expect to get much of a jolt from from the green tea, but I've actually been blown away at the calm alertness I feel after my morning matcha. And, at 70mg of caffeine per cup (versus coffee's 100mg) Lenchewski says, "Matcha gives you a real energy kick, but without the jitters." We'll drink to that.