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Matcha Beats Caffeine for Boosting Brainpower Against Stress, New Study Finds



A new study found matcha green tea improves mental performance and workload capacity better than equivalent caffeine alone when under stress. Matcha's combination of caffeine, l-theanine and catechins seems to enhance executive function and attention more than caffeine.


A recently published placebo-controlled trial finds that daily matcha green tea intake provides cognitive benefits over equivalent caffeine alone, especially during stressful tasks.1 Researchers tested the effects of matcha, caffeine, and a placebo in middle-aged adults after single and prolonged doses. While caffeine improved some markers of attention, matcha additionally increased work output, suggesting it better preserves executive function when multitasking under duress. 


The study enrolled 51 healthy Japanese adults aged 50-69 into placebo, caffeine, or matcha groups for 12 weeks. Participants took 9 capsules daily containing starch (placebo), 66.6mg caffeine (caffeine group), or 66.2mg caffeine plus 48mg l-theanine and 170mg total catechins (matcha group). Cognitrax neuropsychological tests and Uchida-Kraepelin mental arithmetic tasks measured cognitive outcomes after a single dose and after continuous intake. Serum biomarkers related to dementia were also tracked as secondary measures.



After 12 weeks, the matcha group showed significantly higher Uchida-Kraepelin scores than placebo, indicating greater workload capacity during the stressful math test. While a single dose of caffeine transiently boosted first-block scores, matcha had more durable benefits. Among Cognitrax attention tests, caffeine produced faster reaction times after acute intake, but did not confer this advantage after prolonged administration. Matcha also quickened response times, but more so increased incorrect answers. For executive function, neither intervention significantly affected working memory.  


The results suggest stimulant effects help briefly heighten focused attention, but fast reactions may trade off accuracy under demanding conditions. The matcha group avoided this speed-accuracy trade-off, instead lifting both work output and attention. Theanine, catechins, and their interplay with caffeine seem important to matcha’s advantage. The findings argue regular matcha aids mental stamina and productivity against stressors better than caffeine alone.


Mechanistically, matcha may exert benefits by altering gene expression (nutrigenomics), optimizing neurotransmitter levels, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, enhancing mitochondrial energy production, and other pathways. Matcha likely confers advantages on sustained attention by also improving blood flow, neuroplasticity, and physiologic coherence. The layered combination of matcha ingredients merits further study for supporting executive function and resilience.


Explore the Relevant Additional Research


For more research on the profound health benefits associated with the consumption of green tea, or its components, use the Greenmedinfo.com database on the topic which contains 1200+ studies on its researched relevance to over 450 diseases, and 150+ pharmacological actions here.


For more research on natural approaches to boosting cognition or memory, or reducing stress, consult the following databases on Greenmedinfo.com


A Note on Matcha Quality and Potency


All matchas are not created alike. A good matcha will be bright green, and is often sold as "ceremonial grade." Buy certified organic varities whenever possible. The featured study in this article gave participants about one serving of ceremonial grade matcha's worth of active ingredients a day.


The amount of caffeine in matcha green tea depends on the quality, how it is prepared, and how much powder is used. But here are some general guidelines on the caffeine content in typical servings:


  • Ceremonial grade matcha (high quality powder for special Japanese tea ceremony): Approximately 70mg of caffeine per 2 grams (1 teaspoon) of matcha powder whisked with 2 oz hot water.

  • Culinary grade/drinking grade matcha (suitable for mixing into drinks and baked goods): Approximately 35mg caffeine per 1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) matcha whisked with 1 oz hot water.

  • Matcha lattes/iced matcha drinks: Most coffee shops use 1-2 grams of matcha powder, combined with milk/ice, which would provide 35-70mg caffeine.

So a typical serving of ceremonial grade matcha prepared traditionally would contain about 70mg of caffeine. Lower grades or amounts used in green tea lattes might have 35-50mg. For comparison, a typical 8 oz cup of brewed coffee has 95-200mg caffeine.  


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