There’s a right way to eat & drink the health benefits of matcha.

Matcha—the premium green tea powder from Japan used for drinks or as an ingredient in food—has made its way beyond smoothies, Starbucks lattes, and our social media feeds. In 2017, you’ll find it in everything from healthy chia pudding and froyo to (less healthy) cakes and ice creams.

Personally, I love this superfood, but I wondered whether our modern takes on it were doing this 1,400-year-old tradition justice. To answer my questions, I turned to Rona Tison, Senior VP of Corporate Relations for Ito En (the makers of Japan’s very first ready-to-drink, unsweetened green tea and creator of the matcha LOVE® brand launched in 2013). Here, Tison shares her 411 on the green powder that’s taking over the wellness world—including which preparations to avoid!

Q. Is matcha powder healthier than steeped green tea?

Rona TisonMatcha differs from other green tea because it is finely milled green tea leaves. Thus, when you consume matcha in the traditional fashion, a smoothie or even a dish, you are ingesting all the health benefits found in the [whole] leaf. To achieve this, matcha LOVE uses ancient farming techniques for its green tea harvests. . . allowing them to draw the nutrients from the roots in the tea leaf before it’s hand-picked and ground into powder.

Q. What are some of matcha’s health benefits?

RT: Matcha offers a slew of health benefits, including:

  • L-Theanine, an amino acid shown to help provide a state of “calm alertness,” while supporting focus, mental clarity and wakeful relaxation.
  • Catechins, a special kind of free-radical fighting flavonoid and antioxidant that’s frequently associated with cardiovascular health (and weight maintenance).
  • EGCg, an active polyphenol known for its immunity-supporting and anti-inflammation properties.
  • More antioxidants than blueberries, pomegranates, spinach or açaí (which can promote cancer prevention).
  • Amino acids, dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamins A and C (easier for the body to absorb from foods than from supplements). 

Q. Is eating matcha in food as beneficial to our health as drinking it?

RT: Since matcha is a powder that contains the whole nutrients of the tea leaves, any way it is consumed is beneficial to one’s health. However, adhering to the traditional method of whisking [special bamboo whisks, shown above, are standard], the powder at the accurate water temperature (185 degrees F), and drinking it is the recommended way of reaping the entire benefits. In particular, modern matcha lattes and confections can contain surprisingly high levels of sugar that outweigh the intended vitality and nourishment. Editor’s Note: We don’t want to name names, so learn how to read the new nutrition label, which now includes the amount and type of added sugars in foods and drinks. Or make matcha lattes and smoothies at home so you can control exactly what goes in it.

Ready for some matcha in your life? Here are two great ways to enjoy this superfood without all the sugar and additives.

Want to prep matcha the OG way? Leading wellness journalist, author, and chef Candice Kumai does her Japanese roots proud by showing us how—in less than thirty seconds.

For an added sugar-free spin on a matcha smoothie, matcha LOVE shares this delicious, clean, no-fuss recipe perfect for nutritious summer sipping:

Matcha Detox Smoothie

(makes 1 pint)

Ingredients:

  • 3 pieces ¼-inch thick ginger slices, peeled
  • 1 cup spinach, packed
  • 2 tsp matcha LOVE powder
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup coconut water
  • 1 small banana, chopped

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until very smooth. Serve over ice. Enjoy!