Spirulina is SNACK’s bread and butter (figuratively speaking), but we’ve also got a big soft spot for matcha, Spirulina’s fellow superfood. In fact, both flavors of our SNACK Energize & Focus blends include matcha, one with blueberry and the other with apricot. It’s made the cut for our ingredient list and the list of nutritionists everywhere, but the question we get is: Why?

What really makes matcha so marvelous? Let’s first understand what it is.

What is matcha?

Used for millennia in Japan and the surrounding region, matcha is a powdered green tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant, the plant from which all green teas are made. The difference with matcha, though, is that the plants are grown in the shade as opposed to the sunlight like they are for traditional green teas. Growing the plants in the shade increases the amount of chlorophyll and other beneficial compounds, like polyphenols, catechins, and the amino acid L-theanine in the plant leaves, which means all those extra good compounds are baked into the matcha tea leaves, also called tencha, making matcha “extra good” too.

While most traditional green tea is made by steeping tea leaves (which in that case are called sencha) in hot water, matcha has an additional step. Matcha’s leaves are ground into a concentrated powder, and it’s that powder that is then whisked into boiling water—thereby creating a more concentrated tea.

The nutritional benefits of matcha

Nutritionists and health experts have promoted the value of traditional green tea for physical wellness for years and years and have conducted plenty of studies to prove its worth. And though matcha specifically has not been studied in near as much depth, many scientists are of the mind that because matcha is a more concentrated (and more caffeinated) form of green tea, it also likely provides more concentrated benefits.

One of those such benefits comes from the catechins in matcha. Catechins are a class of antioxidants, compounds that fight free radicals in our bodies that, if left to their own devices, can cause significant damage to our cells. That damage can lead to cancer down the road, so any antioxidants are typically thought to be beneficial for reducing the risk of cancer. The catechins in matcha, and one in particular called epigallocatechin gallate (or EGCG) that presents in high amounts, is believed to be even more effective in anti-cancer efforts.

Another of those such benefits comes from the prevalence of the L-theanine amino acid. Research has shown that L-theanine improves cognition and attention as well as mood and performance—especially when combined with caffeine, which is naturally present in all green teas, including matcha. The L-theanine helps calm the effects of caffeine, so you get the alertness without any jitters, which is a huge reason people have flocked to matcha in recent years. It’s a great advantage to get the increased focus and attention from concentrated caffeine without having to worry about the distraction—physically and mentally—caused by shaking hands and muscle palpitations.

Additional research on green tea generally has shown it to have anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects and further suggested its ability to lower the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and prevent Type 2 diabetes.

That’s the T(ea)

If the experience of generations upon generations of people wasn’t enough to prove matcha’s wonderous nature, then hopefully the science is. For us, combining the naturally caffeinated matcha with our Spirulina and other protein-packed ingredients creates the perfect snack for long-lasting energy and reinforced focus.