Though matcha is one of this year’s hottest food trends, it has been known for centuries in Japan
This year the interest in matcha green tea has been exploding. Though it has been around in Japan for centuries, playing a key role in traditional tea ceremonies, and served in the Western hemisphere for years as a popular drink at coffee houses like Starbucks, it had not been as hot beverage as it is now. Matcha tea has become the darling of the media. Featured on live broadcast, online news sites and health blogs, as a new star amongst today’s super foods. In supermarkets and restaurants, new matcha-enriched foods have been popping up.
So what’s so hot about matcha? Besides offering a more steady and longer lasting caffeine kick than coffee, matcha is also loaded with antioxidants. Aiya Matcha, the leading organic matcha brand in the market, contains over five times as many antioxidants than other well-known superfoods like goji berries and cacao, and twice as much caffeine, as regular green tea and coffee. At the same time, matcha is rich in L-theanine, an amino acid, which according to research published in the Journal of Alternative Therapies, makes us more relaxed and also lessens the effect of caffeine on the nervous system. While L-theanine can be found in most teas, matcha has shown to have the highest content of all teas. L-theanine has also been linked to improved learning performance, heightened mental acuity- and concentration.
One of the secrets to matcha’s high nutrient profile is the way it is processed. In contrast to other green teas, matcha is a tea powder, made by grounding the whole green tea leaf. This means that when you consume matcha, you get the full benefits from the tea plant and thereby a much higher concentration of the health promoting antioxidants green tea is known for.
And because it comes in a powder, matcha can easily be integrated into other foods. Several firms have embraced matcha as an ingredient. As a result, matcha can now be found on the shelves of supermarkets in various foods, from beverages to baked items and breakfast cereals. And for the big matcha fan, it is also possible to enjoy full menus of matcha-enriched food at the world’s two first matcha bars.
Last year the US had its first matcha bar open in Brooklyn, NY. This year the popular beverage brand Vivid, launched a one-day open matcha bar in the UK, where people could enjoy matcha in different foods and drinks.
According to Aiya, matcha is the “cacao of Asia”, and can be found in many different products. Aiya has been in the tea business for over 125 years and a manufacturer of organic matcha since 1978. Today, the company has a market share of 70% in North America and 80 % in the EU. The trend of using matcha outside of Asia, both as a tea and as an ingredient for other products is clearly noticeable. “We get lots of enquiries from different companies regarding Matcha as a private label and as an ingredient for food products such as cereals, smoothies, beverages, sweets and so on,” says Sabine Stübner, the brand manager of Aiya Europe.
Besides being one of the top suppliers of organic matcha, Aiya also specializes in helping businesses to incorporate the super food into their products. Brands that have included Aiya’s organic matcha into their products include Vivid drinks, Voelkel & Allos.
Aiya sees a bright future ahead for matcha, expecting it to become even more popular. “The potential for the EU and USA is huge,” says Stübner. “We think that matcha does not tap the full potential yet. For example when you think of beauty products, there is a high opportunity regarding anti-aging products (because of the high amount of antioxidants in matcha). We think that the Matcha Latte will replace the Café Latte in the future,” she says.
Whether or not matcha will replace the café latte has yet to be seen, but from its current popularity and many ways of being consumed, matcha seems to have a bright future. In a live broadcast on ABC News in March this year, matcha was sprinkled on popcorn, showing that only the imagination of the innovative mind can set a limit to how matcha can be used.