I often get asked what’s the healthiest green tea, and the short answer I usually give is that it’s matcha.
But in this post I’ll explain in detail why this is so.
What makes a green tea healthy? The most important compound would be the catechin known as EGCG.
EGCG makes up about half of the total catechin content. Many of the clinical studies actually use EGCG instead of green tea itself.
EGCG in green tea
All teas come from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, so one would think that all green teas should be somewhat similar in terms of how healthy they are. But this isn’t so.
The main reason is freshness. A green tea that isn’t fresh will be oxidized, and that results in a lower catechin content.
This study found that EGCG levels progressively decrease with storage time. And it turns out that many of the cheap green tea bags are far from fresh, hence they might not be healthy at all.
I guess one can tell from the aroma of the leaves. If the aroma is very faint or non existent, the tea could be past its prime.
The difference is the actual EGCG dose once the tea is prepared.
A bowl of matcha can have three times the amount of EGCG than a cup of sencha.
Is it a coincidence that sencha leaves can be infused at least three times in total? If you ate the sencha leaves, the EGCG dose would be the same as in matcha.
Although there’s not an exact number, in many studies that I’ve seen it looks like 3 cups (cups of any size as long as they were prepared with a teaspoon of green tea, 3 to 4 grams) a day would be the minimum dose in order to obtain the health benefits of green tea.
In other words, you can brew a green tea for all the infusions it can give, or just drink one bowl of matcha.
So the real reason why matcha is so healthy is because it is a powder. You consume the whole tea leaves.
A culinary grade matcha is equally as healthy as a ceremonial grade matcha. Not only that, a green tea powder of reasonable quality can be equally as healthy too.
What matters in terms of quality of green tea? It’s not the catechins, it’s the amino acid content. That’s the difference between a ceremonial grade matcha and a green tea powder. It’s also the difference between bancha and gyokuro.
As you can see, how healthy a tea is has nothing to do with high quality, or how expensive it can be.
Catechins are bitter and astringent. A tea that is very high in EGCG might not taste so good.
By the way, what’s the difference between matcha and a regular green tea powder? Matcha is made of tencha, a tea that has a shading process so that its amino acid content increases.
Many tea vendors will market matcha as a very special tea because it is so healthy. But the only reason that it’s healthy is because it’s a tea powder of reasonable quality.
Any good green tea can be healthy for you if you drink it regularly.
I wish that more people would choose a tea based on taste and aroma, instead of how healthy it’s marketed as.