What About Matcha & Green Tea?
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What about Matcha and green tea on the AIP? And what’s the difference? This one catches out more than a few who are new to the autoimmune protocol, so let’s take a closer look.
First of all, if you haven’t read my post, “What About Tea on the AIP?”– you might want to check it out for some of the basics on tea – click here.
One of the most common misconceptions on the AIP is that it’s a caffeine-free protocol, and that this is the reason we remove coffee during the elimination phase (to learn more about why coffee is eliminated, read my post here – “Kicking the Coffee Habit“). Because of green tea’s high caffeine content, it gets thrown into the confusion and folks assume it’s not compliant.
All that said, let’s clarify things before we go any further – the AIP is NOT a caffeine-free protocol according to “What’s IN and What’s OUT on AIP? Answers to Tricky Foods” from Autoimmune Wellness (click here to read the whole article):
Caffeinated Tea (Green or Black)
AIP is a coffee-free, but not a caffeine-free protocol. Green and black teas can be consumed, but due to the caffeine it’s generally advised to drink them earlier in the day and in moderation. It is also important to read labels carefully, as many teas have soy lecithin or other additives (or toxins) that are avoided on AIP. If adrenal fatigue is part of your health picture, you’ll want to work to eliminate caffeine entirely.
VERDICT: Caffeinated teas are elimination-phase legal.
Matcha vs. Green Tea
Okay, so we’ve determined green tea is AIP eliminations stage compliant, awesome! (DISCLAIMER – not everything that’s AIP is right for everyone – if you’re not sure if it’s right for you and your medical condition, be sure to consult a professional – I’m not a doctor and am not making any recommendations either way with this information).
Now, what’s the difference between Matcha and green tea, or are they the same thing? In my research, I found that the amount of caffeine claimed to be in Matcha varies widely from one source to the next, and in reality it probably does because there are different grades and qualities. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to present you with hard facts, but I’ll tell you what I know according to this article from Healthline (read the full article here).
Matcha and regular green tea both come from the same plant – camellia sinensis – which is native to China.
Matcha, however is grown differently than regular green tea – the tea bushes are shielded from sunlight for about 20-30 days prior to harvest, which triggers an increase in chlorophyll levels, turning the leaves a darker shade of green and increasing the production of amino acids (L-theanine in particular which is linked to increased alertness, improved mood, memory and concentration, mental relaxation and stress reduction. Processing also differs from regular green tea – after harvesting the youngest tea leaves, the stems and veins are removed from the tea leaves and only the leaves are stone-ground into the fine, bright green powder known as Matcha (this is very labor intensive and explains the higher cost).
Because the whole leaf powder is ingested (not just steeped), Matcha is even higher than green tea in some substances – such as caffeine and antioxidants – that means a single cup (237ml) of Matcha may be the equivalent to about three cups (711ml) of regular green tea. One study found that Matcha contains up to 137 times more antioxidants than a low-grade variety of green tea and up to 3 times more antioxidants than other high-quality green tea.
Matcha, which can have a grassy and bitter taste, is often served with a sweetener or milk (in our case on the AIP, a dairy-free milk with honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar or maple sugar). Matcha powder is also popular in smoothies and baking.
More Kick Than Coffee!
If you’re trying to kick the coffee habit but you find you’re crashing without your caffeine fix, you might want to consider a cup of Matcha instead.
The average cup of coffee contains approximately 95 mg of caffeine (this can vary from 0 to 95 mg depending on the brew – read more about coffee on Healthline), while one cup (237 ml) of standard Matcha, made from 4 teaspoons of powder, generally packs about 280 mg of caffeine. This is significantly higher than a cup (237 ml) of regular green tea, which provides 35 mg of caffeine. (It’s noteworthy that, most people don’t drink a full cup (237 ml) of Matcha at once because of its high caffeine content. It’s more common to drink a small cup – just 2–4 ounces (59–118 ml). Additionally, caffeine content also varies based on how much Matcha powder you add.
Not only does Matcha contain more caffeine than coffee (in some cases), it comes without the crash. Thanks to the amino acid content – L-theanine modifies the effects of caffeine in your body, increasing alertness without causing the drowsiness that often follows coffee consumption. Thus, matcha tea may provide a milder and longer-lasting buzz than coffee.
As mentioned above in the quote from Autoimmune Wellness, you’ll need to watch ingredient lists, and you’ll want to search for the best clean brands of tea on the market.
It’s difficult for me to include a list for you as companies can change their products at any given time, but I’ve compiled a few recommended offerings and included them in my AIP Amazon Storefronts here. When I first ventured into Matcha I used Jade Leaf Organic Matcha powder and found the taste quite good – it is however a culinary grade, not ceremonial grade.
I personally recommend Pique Tea – Sun Goddess Matcha – it’s delicious and claims to be the world’s purest Matcha, crafted to the highest standards of the finest ceremonial grade (quadruple toxin screened for heavy metals, pesticides, toxic mold and radioactive isotopes, higher l-theanine content, made in collaboration with a teamaster, free of preservatives, sugar and artificial sweeteners). Designed for mindfulness and described as a mug full of zen (also recommended by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne – the founder of the Autoimmune Protocol).
Pique Tea is a very well respected brand that prides themselves on the highest quality teas – you can read my post about Pique Tea here and how it fits into your AIP healing journey, or shop directly with our affiliate link by clicking here.
As always, the onus is on you to do a little research so you avoid GMO and pesticide laden products – some use cornstarch in their bags and some contain soy and “natural” or artificial flavors – these are ingredients to stay clear of! Watch for certified organic products and check for sneaky non AIP ingredients (I’ve even seen rice flour in some blends) and spices.
Does it Make the Grade?
Before you buy Matcha, you need to know that there are different grades. The two main Matcha grades are ceremonial and culinary, but culinary is further divided into five grades: premium, cafe, ingredient, kitchen and classic. Each grade is determined based on color, texture and quality and each has different uses. Confused yet?
Ceremonial grade has one purpose – to drink. It’s the highest-quality tea grade produced from the youngest tea leaves. It’s vibrant green in color, has a powder-fine texture, should never feel grity, is naturally sweet in flavor (or so they say) and is pure in taste. It often smells (and in my opinion tastes) like freshly cut grass. Ceremonial grade produces a thicker green tea and is to be consumed plain, without the addition of sweeteners or other ingredients.
Culinary grade, or food grade isn’t a lower quality tea, it’s simply made differently and is used in baking, cooking, milk-based drink and smoothies. This grade of Matcha is not intended to be consumed plain as a tea, as it’s stronger and slightly bitter in taste – it’s intended to be combined with other ingredients.
The Five Sub-Grades of Matcha and Their Uses:
- Premium: Premium grade is considered an everyday use Matcha that pairs well with blended drinks.
- Cafe: Cafe grade has a very robust flavor, making it the perfect grade for baking and cooking.
- Ingredient: Ingredient grade is mixed with older tea leaves—that have stronger flavors—and also help give it more of a thicker consistency, which is why it’s ideal for using in recipes that contain dairy products.
- Kitchen: Kitchen grade is produced with the least amount of delicate leaves, isn’t as fine as other Matcha powder types, is a darker green and is very bitter, all of which make this grade great for large-scale brewing or trying with new recipes.
- Classic: Classic grade is perhaps the most commonly available of the grades, and it has a strong flavor, allowing it to be used with numerous food and beverage recipes.
Take Me To The Recipes!
Ready to mix up some Matcha? Be sure to check our Facebook Group for lots of options. Try searching “Latte” or simply “Matcha” – you’ll be amazed how many creative AIP recipes are using Matcha!