Bright green and velvety, matcha—or finely ground whole green-tea leaves—appeals with its vibrant hue and grassy-bitter-floral flavor. Even more compelling: “[The caffeinated drink is] super rich in antioxidants, specifically catechins, which are believed to have cancer-fighting effects,” says Beth Bluestone, a registered dietitian at the Cleveland Clinic. “The antioxidants in matcha are also thought to help prevent heart disease, reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure and decrease inflammation.” Fortunately, according to one study, matcha boasts 137 times more antioxidants than other types of green tea.

Thanks to these draws, the traditional Japanese beverage has recently become trendy (just check out the nearly 5 million Instagram posts featuring matcha). Read on to learn how to purchase, store and cook with this wellness all-star. Then try our simple four-ingredient recipe for a matcha latte.

How to buy and store matcha

In general, matcha comes in two grades: ceremonial (premium) or culinary, the first of which is a lot pricier. Unless you’re a true connoisseur and intend to drink the matcha straight up with hot water, culinary should suffice. The tea also comes in two forms: bags and loose. The former is ideal, if your goal is convenience and you want to brew your matcha by steeping a sachet in a mug of hot water. Otherwise, go with the loose format, which is ideal for cooking and preparing lattes. To glean the most healthful product, try to avoid teas with added sugar or artificial sweeteners, Bluestone recommends. Store matcha in the fridge, away from light or heat, both of which can cause it to degrade. You’ll know your matcha is no longer fresh when it loses its vibrant color.

How to cook with matcha

In traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, matcha is prepared with a special bamboo whisk. You definitely don’t need this tool (although it is beautiful). That said, know that the powdered tea does clump up, so strain it into a mug or bowl before proceeding with your recipe. Also, for maximum flavor, brew the matcha with hot, rather than boiling, water (175 to 180 F is ideal, according to matcha producers, such as Aiya).

In general, when cooking with matcha, begin by straining and whisking the powdered tea with a bit of hot liquid, then adding this liquid to the remaining ingredients. Or sprinkle matcha powder atop fresh fruit (such as mango or pineapple), popcorn or an acai bowl. Also, incorporate a sweet ingredient (like fruit) into non-savory preparations, such as smoothies, lattes, quick bread batters, energy balls and yogurts. Otherwise, your resulting dish or drink will likely taste overly bitter. Not only will you be adding color and flavor, but you’ll also be loading up on nutrients.

Matcha Latte

This warm, frothy drink is delicious, healthful and incredibly easy to prepare.   

Serves 1 (makes 1¼ cups)

1 cup milk, such as plain, unsweetened almond milk
2 teaspoons matcha (powdered green tea)
¼ cup very hot water
sweetener to taste, such as 2 teaspoons monk-fruit sweetener

  1. Pour milk into a mug and microwave 1 minute. Froth with a hand-held frother.
  2. Meanwhile, place a small hand-held strainer over another mug and push matcha through it with a fork or matcha whisk. Whisk in ¼ cup very hot water and sweetener and stir well.
  3. Into mug with matcha, pour warm milk. Froth for a few more seconds and drink immediately.

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