=If you have been to a coffee shop recently you may have seen a product called matcha.

Although matcha tea is newer to the U.S., people in Asia used it ceremonially for centuries. Traditionally, matcha is used as a tea but became popular in the U.S. as a sweetened hot latte drink. Recently, bakers have added matcha to muffins, oatmeal, blondies, and other sweet baked goods.

So, what is matcha?

It’s a type of green tea that is picked, dried, and then the whole tea leaf is ground into a bright green powder. Traditionally, you mix matcha tea powder with hot water using a special bamboo whisk. Matcha has an earthy, vegetal taste that pairs well with sweet foods and drinks like lattes, smoothies, oats, and muffins.

Matcha has three distinct grades — ceremonial, premium, and culinary.

Ceremonial grade matcha is the most expensive and is used in traditional tea ceremonies. Premium grade matcha is less expensive than ceremonial grade and is a good choice if you drink matcha regularly. Culinary grade matcha is the least expensive and is better for baking than drinking.

Like many green teas, matcha is said to have many health benefits. Matcha tea has chemicals called antioxidants that protect our cells against damage.

Matcha also has caffeine. It has up to 60mg worth, which is a little less than a cup of coffee. Drinking matcha tea is also another way to increase water intake during the day. Because of the antioxidants in matcha and other green teas, some research suggests that drinking it regularly may help prevent heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. However, it is unclear how much tea each day makes a difference in our health. Therefore, we need more research to figure out matcha’s impact on health, especially among different groups of people.

For more reliable information about nutrition, contact the Madison County Cooperative Extension Office.

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