Matcha Tea and Brain Function: Cognitive Enhancement and Protection

man using matcha for brain function

The quest for a healthier lifestyle has led many to explore the benefits of natural remedies and superfoods. One of the most popular choices in recent years is matcha, a finely ground powder made from specially grown and processed green tea leaves (Weiss & Anderton, 2003). Consumed for centuries in Japan, matcha has gained global recognition for its potential health benefits, including its impact on cognitive function. In this article, we will delve into the science behind matcha's positive effects on the brain and explore how it can be incorporated into a daily routine for those striving for mental acuity.

The Unique Production of Matcha

Before diving into the cognitive benefits of matcha, it is crucial to understand how this green tea variant is produced. Unlike regular green tea, matcha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant's shade-grown leaves (Weiss & Anderton, 2003). The shading process, which occurs for three to four weeks before harvest, increases the leaves' chlorophyll content, leading to a vibrant green colour and higher concentrations of certain nutrients (Weiss & Anderton, 2003). The leaves are then harvested, steamed, air-dried, and stone-ground into a fine powder, which is used to make matcha tea and other culinary delights (Weiss & Anderton, 2003).

matcha tea production

Cognitive Benefits of Matcha

Boosts focus and attention

One of matcha's key components is L-theanine, an amino acid known for its calming and relaxing effects (Dietz & Dekker, 2017). L-theanine increases the production of alpha brain waves, which are associated with a state of relaxed alertness (Nobre, Rao, & Owen, 2008). A double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted by Nobre et al. (2008) found that participants who took L-theanine supplements showed improved attention performance compared to those who received a placebo. This suggests that consuming matcha, which is rich in L-theanine, can help improve focus and attention.

Enhances memory and learning

Another significant cognitive benefit of matcha is its potential to enhance memory and learning. Matcha contains epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a potent antioxidant that has been shown to have neuroprotective effects (Singh, Shankar, & Srivastava, 2011). A study by Unno et al. (2014) examined the effects of matcha on memory and learning in mice. They found that mice fed with matcha exhibited improved memory and learning abilities, suggesting that matcha's high EGCG content may contribute to these cognitive benefits. While more research is needed to establish the exact mechanisms, the results point to matcha's potential role in improving memory and learning.

Reduces stress and anxiety

The calming effects of L-theanine in matcha extend beyond its impact on attention and focus. Research suggests that L-theanine may help reduce stress and anxiety by increasing the production of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain (Yoto, Motoki, Murao, & Yokogoshi, 2012). GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate nerve activity and promote relaxation (Yoto et al., 2012). In a study by Yoto et al. (2012), participants who consumed an L-theanine-enriched beverage reported lower subjective stress responses during a challenging cognitive task compared to those who consumed a placebo beverage. This research suggests that matcha's L-theanine content may help reduce stress and anxiety, promoting overall cognitive well-being.

matcha for stress and anxiety

Protects against cognitive decline

The antioxidants found inmatcha, particularly EGCG, may also play a role in protecting against cognitive decline. A review by Singh et al. (2011) suggests that the neuroprotective effects of EGCG may help mitigate the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. In a study by Unno et al. (2017), older adults who consumed matcha showed better cognitive performance and reduced risk of cognitive decline compared to those who did not consume matcha. These findings indicate that matcha may serve as a valuable addition to a healthy lifestyle for maintaining cognitive health.

Incorporating Matcha into Your Daily Routine

With the mounting evidence supporting matcha's cognitive benefits, it's clear that this green tea variant offers a natural and enjoyable way to boost brain function. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate matcha into your daily routine:

Traditional matcha tea: Prepare a cup of matcha tea by whisking one teaspoon of matcha powder with hot water until frothy. Enjoy the tea as part of your morning or afternoon routine to boost focus and alertness.

Matcha latte: For a creamier alternative, mix matcha powder with warm milk (or a milk alternative) and a touch of sweetener. This soothing beverage is perfect for a relaxing break or a pre-bedtime treat.

Matcha smoothie: Blend matcha powder with your favourite fruits, greens, and liquid base for a nutrient-packed smoothie that's both delicious and energising.

Matcha-infused recipes: Get creative by incorporating matcha powder into your cooking and baking, from oatmeal and pancakes to cookies and energy bars.

iced matcha latte


The growing body of research on matcha's cognitive benefits has piqued the interest of health-conscious individuals worldwide. With its unique combination of L-theanine, EGCG, and other health-promoting compounds, matcha has been shown to improve focus, attention, memory, learning, and stress management while potentially offering protection against cognitive decline. By incorporating matcha into your daily routine, you can enjoy its delicious taste and reap the cognitive benefits it has to offer.


  • Dietz, C., & Dekker, M. (2017). Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 23(19), 2876-2905.
  • Nobre, A. C., Rao, A., & Owen, G. N. (2008). L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 17(S1), 167-168.
  • Singh, M., Shankar, S., & Srivastava, R. K. (2011). Green tea catechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG): mechanisms, perspectives and clinical applications. Biochemical Pharmacology, 82(12), 1807-1821.
  • Unno, K., Furushima, D., Hamamoto, S., Iguchi, K., Yamada, H., Morita, A., ... & Nakamura, Y. (2018). Stress-Reducing Function of Matcha Green Tea in Animal Experiments and Clinical Trials. Nutrients, 10(10), 1468.
  • Unno, K., Noda, S., Kawasaki, Y., Yamada, H., Morita, A., Iguchi, K., & Nakamura, Y. (2017). Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content. Nutrients, 9(7), 777.
  • Unno, K., Takabayashi, F., Kishido, T., & Oku,N. (2004). Suppressive effect of green tea catechins on morphologic and functional regression of the brain in aged mice with accelerated senescence (SAMP10). Experimental Gerontology, 39(6), 1027-1034.
  • Weiss, D. J., & Anderton, C. R. (2003). Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, 1011(1-2), 173-180.
  • Yoto, A., Motoki, M., Murao, S., & Yokogoshi, H. (2012). Effects of L-theanine or caffeine intake on changes in blood pressure under physical and psychological stresses. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1), 28.

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