So Matcha is totally the Adele of superfoods – you hear about it and read about it everywhere and everyone you know is madly in love with it to the point that you’d be totally sick of it if only it wasn’t incontestably amazing. Oh, and, like the popular songstress, it’s also great when you need to chill OR when you need a burst of energy to dance around the room.

Matcha bars have been popping up all over NYC and beyond and matcha lattés have been slowly replacing coffee as a modern morning addiction. What’s so great about this mysterious green powder and how can you incorporate it into your daily life?

A samurai-approved history
Matcha may be the new “it” ingredient today, but it’s hardly new. The Japanese have been consuming it for centuries. Buddhist monks traditionally consumed matcha before meditating. “Ma” means powder in Japanese and “cha” means tea so “Matcha” is literally powdered tea. Matcha is still a huge part of Japanese culture today, so much so that it has its own ceremony aka “chanoyu.” The ceremony is meant to be a sacred ceremony, a pause from daily life in the company of one’s friends and family as a reminder to stay in the present moment.

The power’s in the powder
Matcha has a slew of health benefits, but it’s leapt into the spotlight thanks to its l-theanine content, an amino acid that aids in concentration, memory, and cognition. Matcha does contain caffeine, but the l-theanine slows its release into the bloodstream, which provides longer and more sustainable energy than other popular caffeine sources like coffee, soda, or commercial energy drinks.

L-theanine also helps the body to produce gamma amino butyric acid aka GABA, a very important substance that stimulates dopamine and serotonin levels in the body. Translation: IT MAKES YOU HAPPY! Matcha calms the mind and relaxes the body, enhances mood and helps concentration. Relaxed AND alert? Does this sound too green to be true? It’s not!

Think Matcha sounds a bit shady? It is! Literally – it’s grown in the shade. To compensate for its surrounding darkness, the plant busts out its secret weapon: copious amounts of chlorophyll, amino acids and antioxidants. Chlorophyll happens to be one of the best natural detox substances around. It helps rid the body of toxins, heavy metals, poisons, and hormone disruptors to get the body back into balance.

Matcha’s magic also lies in its catechins, powerful antioxidants that prevent damage to cells and act as anti-aging powerhouses. It has more antioxidants – which count skin glow and disease prevention among their many talents – than other superfoods like dark chocolate or berries. As an added bonus, catechins also boost the metabolism! And did we mention matcha is sugar-free, gluten-free and practically calorie-free? Oh yes, matcha is a beauty food extraordinaire.

How to pick your matcha mate
Not all matcha is created equal. Don’t be turned off by the ostensibly high price point of this powerful super-ingredient. Good quality matcha isn’t cheap, but remember that a little bit goes a long way. Just ¼ – ½ tsp per latté or smoothie is enough to give you focused energy throughout the day. Store it in the refrigerator and it will last for months.

Make sure your matcha is bright, electric green, which is a sign that it is packed with chlorophyll. If you’re blending into smoothies or cooking with it, culinary grade matcha is not only fine, but also blends easier and is more flavorful. If you’re consuming with water or unsweetened, opt for the ceremonial grade. Make sure it has no additives and tastes “smooth, rich, earthy, with strong umami. Not bitter at all,” say the King and Queen of the Matcha world, Jessica and David Mandelbaum, founders of Panatea.

Put your hand up on your whisk, when I sip, you sip, we sip

If you want to go the traditional route, you can whisk matcha powder into warm (not boiling!) water. OR, try my favorite way to enjoy it :

Morning matcha latte for busy people:
Add 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter to a blender with 1-2 cups of coconut water, ½ tsp of matcha powder (you can use culinary grade here – I like Panatea), a pinch of cinnamon, vanilla and ginger powders and blend until smooth, creamy and GREEN. It will naturally be frothy at the top – no swank frothing machine necessary. Warm gently over the stove for a few minutes. Add coconut butter or oil for extra thickness and creaminess. Sip slowly as you remind yourself to remain in the present moment, whether this takes 20 minutes…or 20 seconds.

Here are some other ideas for getting your green on daily:
Add matcha to your morning smoothie.
Add matcha to overnight oats or chia puddings.
Add to yogurt (preferably of the coconut or almond variety, but anything goes) and top with berries and nuts.
Add matcha to warm oatmeal.
Add matcha to applesauce.
Add matcha to homemade cookies.
Add matcha to savory recipes – just a sprinkle into soba noodles with tahini for example or with miso roasted eggplant.
Mash an avocado, add cinnamon, ginger and vanilla and a bit of matcha. Drizzle a bit of honey or maple syrup and serve as a spread on toast OR use as a face mask for glowing skin.

What’s your favorite way to use matcha? Tell us in the comments below!

Rebecca Leffler is an American journalist, author, and wellness consultant. After a long career in entertainment in Paris, France, she’s traded red carpets for green smoothies and croissants for kale. She loves: the morning, yoga, avocados, fresh air, French air, puns, lemons, coconuts, flower, fancy hotel lobbies and chemical-free tampons. She hates: pineapples, negativity, frowning and being cold. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter for more. Photo credit: Astrid di Crollalanza.

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