Nowadays, Matcha is being used in a variety of creative ways, from lattes to cakes. Matcha continues to be a great source of caffeine for those looking for a healthy energy boost without the crash. But how can you tell that you’re putting high quality Matcha into your body that will provide a steady boost of energy?
The caffeine content in each gram of Matcha varies based on the quality of Matcha. The amount of caffeine in a Matcha beverage is calculated by multiplying the mg of caffeine per gram of Matcha by the amount of grams used in the drink or food item. As a general rule, ceremonial grade Matcha that is higher quality has higher caffeine content than lower grade culinary Matcha. There are several guidelines (this is not a foolproof guide!) to determine the quality of Matcha and levels of caffeine including:
The more nutty and complex the flavor is, the higher quality it is, using better parts of the leaves, away from the stems. Matcha that tastes overly bitter (and more like wheatgrass than wheatgrass itself) may be using lower quality parts of the green tea plant, which can even include ground up pieces of the stems, and contains lower levels of caffeine.
The more vibrant the green, the higher quality. There is such a wide scale of colors of Matcha that are available from dirty looking brown-yellow to bright and bold green shades, and everything in between. Side by side visual comparison is one of the easiest methods of determining how strong a kick of energy a particular grade of Matcha will provide.
When whisked with hot water, a lot of the qualities of the Matcha are revealed. A ceremonial grade Matcha powder will turn into a thick, paste-like consistency, with a layer of froth at the top of the cup. A low grade Matcha may not get completely absorbed. Instead, some Matcha powder may settle to the bottom, while some may just float in the water, leaving small amounts of powder on your tongue while drinking.
Do you feel energized and clear headed? Or do you feel no different than before? A few grams of high quality Matcha should provide a nice clean and steady energy boost while a low grade Matcha may actually leave you with a headache. Or a Matcha leaf that has not experienced proper growing and shading may be low in L-Theanine, providing a caffeine kick without the potent amino acid’s brain calming effects
The above is a very generalized rule of thumb and is usually sufficient for determining potency of caffeine. That being said, the above attributes do not take into account quality measures such as heavy metal content (based on what country and part of the country it is grown) or pesticides. It is possible to have a vibrant green ceremonially grade Matcha that has most of the high caffeine qualities above, yet it is dangerously high in heavy metals and therefor not safe, nor should be considered high quality.
Depending on the quality, Matcha can range from ~15mg to ~38mg of caffeine per gram (based on spec sheets from several Matcha suppliers and MetaMatcha 3rd party laboratory testing). The only way to know exactly how much caffeine is in 1 gram of Matcha powder is through expensive lab testing. Therefore, many brands simply provide an approximate caffeine content measure based on other online resources, often citing 35mg of caffeine per 1 gram serving (or upwards to 40mg) as the standard measurement. This can be misleading as there is such a wide variance in caffeine content of Matcha amongst different grades and a consumer may have an underwhelming Matcha experience if they are consuming less caffeine than they think. Even within the two generally accepted classifications of Matcha (Ceremonial and Culinary grades) there are wide deviations of caffeine content. The length of the shade grow techniques, processing, storage, and packaging methods all have an effect on the caffeine content of a particular Matcha powder. If exposed to light, heat, or air (meaning not sealed properly) Matcha can lose some of its caffeine.
Most brands recommend 1-2 grams of Matcha per serving, which means that a serving can have anywhere between ~15mg and ~76mg of caffeine depending on quality and amount of Matcha used. Even at the high end of 76mg, this is less caffeine than traditional energy sources such as coffee or a Red Bull. That is why most content online promotes Matcha as a less caffeinated coffee alternative. As a result, with about half of the caffeine as a cup of coffee and the calming effects of the L-Theanine, 1-2 grams of Matcha does not provide that same energy boost as its caffeine alternatives (which is a big reason why Matcha is often viewed as just an antioxidant-rich super green tea).
But since caffeine is relative to the amount of Matcha used, what happens if you use 3 grams of Matcha in a serving? With 3 grams of Matcha not only do you now have more caffeine than an espresso shot or Red Bull, but you also have a higher ratio of L-Theanine, thereby contributing to an even better energy (and yes, this also means even more antioxidants as well). To truly take advantage of the amazing nutrients and energy that Matcha has to offer, it makes sense to use at least 2 grams per serving, preferably 3, or if you are like us, 4 grams of our highly concentrated Matcha extract (a casual 200mg+ of caffeine with over 100mg L-Theanine) to truly feel energized and clearheaded!
What about L-Theanine and antioxidants?
L – Theanine is an amino acid that is found in a lot of teas and Matcha. Contrary to the logical expectation that highly caffeinated Matcha with vibrant green and complex flavor profile also contains high levels of L-Theanine, this is not necessarily true. While antioxidant potency is very closely correlated to caffeine levels, L-Theanine has much larger variation. The most potent L-Theanine content per gram of Matcha we have come across surprisingly was a mid level culinary grade Matcha. There is limited accurate research that explains why L-Theanine is less consistent than caffeine and antioxidants, but as we continue to test internally and learn more, we will share our findings.
In general, however, this combination of L–Theanine and Matcha has proven to show increased levels of accuracy in attention – switching tasks. This helps explain why Matcha allows one to feel a boost in energy but also a level of focus and alertness, not found in other caffeine sources.