A Matcha Latte a Day...

This student’s secret weapon
MAR 2020
Morgan
J.
Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology

It’s no secret that students everywhere love their coffee, so when I tell people that I almost never consume the magical beverage, I usually receive an incredulous response. Something along the lines of: “So, you just... wake up in the morning and live?” Most of the time, that’s exactly right. I all but swore off coffee after an unfortunate encounter left me sweating and seeing stars during a final exam my freshman year of college. However, we all have long/tiring/frustrating days that necessitate a little pick me up. Mine happens to be the best drink ever created – the matcha green tea latte.

What is matcha anyway? You can probably guess that it’s a form of green tea. While traditional green tea is consumed by steeping the leaves in hot water and removing them before drinking, matcha consists of green tea leaves ground into a fine powder and mixed directly with milk and/or water. Interestingly, the leaves are grown in the shade to preserve chlorophyll, which is usually partially depleted during photosynthesis. This method of preparation lends matcha its rich, earthy, and slightly sweet taste. Claims of health benefits associated with matcha abound, although most are not backed by scientific evidence. These include lower blood pressure, lower LDL cholesterol, a temporary boost in metabolism, and even protection from cancer (I doubt it!)

Though these purported advantages should be taken with a grain of salt, matcha is the perfect alternative to coffee for a variety of reasons. While the typical cup of coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine, an equivalent serving of matcha contains quite a bit less. The amount will vary according to the concentration of the drink, but you can expect at most 60-70 mg of caffeine in an 8-ounce serving. If you’re caffeine-sensitive like me, this is great news. On the other hand, if you’re the type who usually needs a caffeine fix, that means an extra cup or two can’t hurt! Matcha also contains L-theanine, an amino acid derivative that is reported to dampen stress and anxiety. One study showed that L-theanine significantly reduced participants’ stress responses to a multitasking cognitive stressor (sounds like grad school to me!) within an hour. In another study, the combination of L-theanine and caffeine improved participants’ speed and accuracy on an attention-switching task, leading the authors to conclude that this combination can improve performance on cognitively demanding exercises. Though it is hard to pinpoint just how much L-theanine (and caffeine) is in the matcha you consume, I can say from personal experience that matcha improves my ability to focus without necessarily making me feel more energized. Finally, there are lots of different ways to enjoy a matcha latte. It can be prepared hot or over ice, and to customize the flavor you can try different types of milk, vary the ratio of milk to water, or sprinkle in some sweetener.

So, are you sold yet? Don’t just take my word for it! If you’d like to try for yourself, here are some of the best places in Boston to get your matcha fix.

Starbucks

This is certainly a great place to start if you’re a first time matcha-goer. The Starbucks matcha blend comes sweetened, so it’s a good way to ease into the more earthy taste. For a healthier alternative, order it with almond milk to cut some of the sugar.

Vester

Located in Kendall Square, Vester is my all time favorite coffee shop, and for good reason. The open, bright space easily lends itself to productivity, and their matcha latte is rich and flavorful with just the right amount of sweet.

Darwin’s

This café and pastry shop in Central Square offers a wide selection of teas with handy descriptions of each flavor. While many are described as “fruity,” the matcha latte contains notes of “moss and fern.” While these are hardly components of the matcha powder itself, I’d have to concur. The matcha latte here comes unsweetened, and is definitely the earthiest I have ever tried.

Pavement Coffeehouse

A hipster coffee shop with lots of character, Pavement boasts a variety of lattes with unconventional flavors (cinnamon and fig, anyone?) However, their matcha latte is a classic. Light and sweet, it’s perfect for a long day of studying.