Alternative Teas to Matcha

Best Substitutes for Matcha Tea ... for Concentration, Caffeine & Antioxidants (Part 1)

Posted by Elizabeth Taeed


For all those matcha lovers (or haters) out there: What attracted you to matcha? Why do you drink it? Are there other teas with similar benefits? 

This blog covers the best alternatives to matcha for those who are looking for:

  • Concentration and focus
  • A morning caffeine hit
  • Loads of antioxidants

...with direct price, antioxidant and caffeine comparisons to matcha so you can make up your own mind about which is the best tasting, best value antioxidant tea for you.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll dive into my favorite alternatives to matcha for relaxation & sleep, for weight loss, and for cooking (spoiler: it's Moringa tea powder!).

Notes before we begin:

  • ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and is a scale to gauge antioxidant units.The higher the ORAC value, the higher the antioxidant level. 
  • Figures such as for caffeine, prices, antioxidants are approximate as of course different methods in processing have an effect upon these levels, between tea estates and terroirs, and between manufacturer.

Best Matcha Alternative for Concentration & Focus: Green Tea

Matcha is sometimes bought to help improve concentration or focus - why? Because its combination of caffeine and the antioxidant EGCG, which has been proven to boost wakefulness and the ability to concentrate. However, green tea also does this thanks to having the same antioxidants but without the caffeine overload:

Comparing...

Green Tea vs

Matcha

Difference

Antioxidants (ORAC)

1283

1384

7.3% Less ✘ (similar)

Price

$0.39 / 8oz mug

$1.03 / 8oz mug**

62% Less

Caffeine*

~30mg / 8 fluid oz

~70mg / 8 fluid oz

57% Less

*A cup of black coffee has ~95mg of caffeine for comparison

**See our research in our The Dark Truth About Matcha post. Note this matcha price does not include shipping, whereas our green tea average price does.

Green tea is produced in both Japan and China. The practice of drinking green tea for medicinal purposes began in China and the first recorded use was 4,000 years ago!

Japanese tea is more standardized in flavor than Chinese green teas. There are multitudes of green tea grades, and with Japanese green tea you can be pretty certain what that cup of tea will taste like based on name and grade. Japanese green teas are steamed, and many grades are grown in the shade which yields higher chlorophyll content.

Chinese teas tend to be pan-fried instead, and because Chinese teas are lower in chlorophyll, they tend to brew a tea with golden tones instead of brighter green ones.

Green tea can range in taste from sweet and smooth, to salty and briny, to astringent and thick. It also takes added flavorings well too, meaning that the world of green tea is endless!

Why green tea is a great matcha alternative: 

Green tea is ideal if you're interested in matcha for the ability to focus, but are sensitive to caffeine. Both green tea and matcha contain the potent mix of caffeine + EGCG (a type of antioxidant): the caffeine stimulates, and the EGCG acts like a babysitter, moderating and calming which results in an increased ability to concentrate for a prolonged time.

Because you are drinking the actual tea leaf when you drink matcha, and the leaves are from the spring harvest, Matcha's caffeine level of ~70mg/fl.oz. is not that far off coffee. Green tea, on the other hand, has 30-35mg/fl.oz. of caffeine.  Just ask the last few thousand years of Buddhist monks!

So drink green tea instead when you need to focus for an extended time, with less mess, more flavor options, no need to add sweetener or milk, and all for a fraction of the cost. 

For more information on Green tea, its benefits and effect on the body, read our Spotlight on Green Tea

Fancy a try?

Shop Our Green Tea Collection

 

Green Tea Withering

Best Matcha Alternative for Wake-Me-Up Caffeine: Mate

Matcha is also commonly drunk for a caffeine boost - why? Because you are drinking the actual powder (made from young, caffeine-rich leaves), it has more caffeine than in green tea and doesn’t cause the caffeine shakes that coffee does. However, yerba mate has even more caffeine than matcha, and also doesn’t cause caffeine jitters:

Comparing...

Yerba Mate

Matcha

Difference

Antioxidants (ORAC)

1704

1384

23.1% More

Price

$0.32 / 8oz mug

$1.03 / 8oz mug**

68.9% Less

Caffeine*

~90mg / 8 fluid oz

~70mg / 8 fluid oz

28.6% More

*A cup of black coffee has ~95mg of caffeine for comparison. The Mayo Clinic recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, for healthy adults. It is best to consume these amounts in divided doses, to avoid negative side effects.

**See our research in our The Dark Truth About Matcha post. Note this matcha price does not include shipping, whereas our yerba mate average price does.

Yerba Mate is made from a cousin of the Holly tree (Ilex paraguariensis) and is native to the subtropical highlands of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. 

It is known as a coffee replacement due to its high caffeine content. Full of minerals like zinc, potassium and iron and vitamins B1, B2 and C, it makes a nutritious beverage. It also contains saponins: these decrease blood lipids, lower blood glucose response, help decrease cancer risk, and are commonly found in adaptogenic herbs (see below!).

It has a smooth, herbaceous taste, lightly sweet, and is delicious and light unroasted, and thick and nutty roasted.

Why mate is a great matcha alternative: 

Okay, okay, green tea hasn’t convinced you because you do want a get-me-up-for-the-day caffeine hit?

Well, yerba mate has 25% more caffeine and a strong powerful flavor. Perfect to get you up in the morning, and all for a LOT (~70%!) less money and 23% more antioxidants to boot! At a much lower price than matcha as well...

Mate also has the antioxidants theobromine and theophylline, which (like EGCG, above) help balance out the caffeine, resulting in a lively, wake-me-up tea without a spike or the shakes.

For more information on Yerba Mate, its benefits and effect on the body, read our Spotlight on Yerba Mate

Fancy a try?

Shop Our Yerba Mate Collection


Yerba Mate Mug

Best Matcha Alternatives for Antioxidants: Honeybush & Tulsi Holy Basil

The main reason most people drink Matcha is for its antioxidants, as it is marketing and sold as a 'superfood' in the same category as blueberries and goji berries. It is true that it has more antioxidants than green tea, due to it being made from young leaves that have been shaded (learn more here), but it is not the antioxidant powerhouse of the tea world. There are other herbal teas out there with a lot more antioxidants, with honeybush and Tulsi holy basil being two heavy-hitters. Take a look...

Comparing...

Honeybush

Holy Basil 

Matcha

Difference

Antioxidants (ORAC)

2705

2550

1384

95.4% More (Honeybush)

84.2% More (Tulsi)

Price

$0.32 / 8oz mug

$0.51 / 8oz mug

$1.03 / 8oz mug**

68.9% Less (Honeybush)

50.5% Less (Tulsi)

Caffeine*

~0mg / 8 fluid oz

~0mg / 8 fluid oz

~70mg / 8 fluid oz

100% Less - naturally decaf

*A cup of black coffee has ~95mg of caffeine for comparison

**See our research in our The Dark Truth About Matcha post. Note this matcha price does not include shipping, whereas our Honeybush and Tulsi average prices do.

Honeybush has a rich and bright reddish liquor, and is a botanical cousin of rooibos, similarly grown in South Africa.

Honeybush is naturally decaffeinated and is calorie free, so can be drunk all day long and into the evening when caffeinated teas and coffees are best left behind. 

Its flavour is a beautiful honey-like rich sweetness with bright sour notes. It also blends beautifully, making it quite versatile.

Why honeybush is a great matcha alternative for antioxidants: 

Honeybush has 95% more total antioxidants than matcha! Why pay triple the price for quality matcha, when you can get almost double the ORAC (antioxidant) level for a third the price? 

So if you’re drinking matcha for the antioxidants, try out sweet and deep honeybush tea, with none of the bitterness you can get with matcha tea (not criticizing it unfairly, it’s simply a consequence of drinking ground tea leaves). 

For more information on Honeybush, its benefits and effect on the body, read our Spotlight on Honeybush

Fancy a try?

Shop Our Honeybush Teas

 

Tulsi Holy Basil is, you guessed it, a type of basil and has a long history in its native place of the Indian subcontinent, being considered a sacred plant by Hindus.

It is a type of adaptogen (see next section!) and has been clinically shown to help aid relaxation and reduce anxiety.

When dried and brewed, it does not taste anything like culinary basil. The flavor is rich, warm, herbaceous and with a light spice and sweetness. The powerful flavor has hallmarks of the menthol effect of a strong mint tea with notes of peppermint, clove, or lemon.

Why Tulsi Holy Basil is a great matcha alternative for antioxidants:

So many reasons! Tulsi has 84% more total antioxidants than matcha! Just like honeybush it’s also less than half the cost.

For those who like the spinachy/vegetal-like flavor of matcha, tulsi is a deeply relaxing herbaceous tea. It’s naturally caffeine free so perfect for a soothing evening tea.

Finally, it’s an adaptogenic tea with its associated health effect (what’s that? Don’t worry, we have a Bonus Round below all about this)

For more information on Tulsi, its benefits and effect on the body, read our Spotlight on Tulsi

Fancy a try?

Shop Our Tulsi Holy Basil Collection

 

MA ORAC Comparison Charts - Matcha Alternatives

Bonus: Adaptogenic Alternatives with Tulsi &, Moringa

Adaptogens are a relatively new class of herbs that help us “adapt” to stress, regardless of the origin of the stressor. Now, don’t get us wrong, adaptogenic herbs have been around for ages, and the old herbals likely would have referred to their adaptogenic action as being “amphoteric”, meaning they have normalizing effects on the body. In summary, adaptogens regulate and modulate hormone production, organ function, cell health and immune function. 

We have a whole lot more about adaptogens, their benefits and effect on the body in our Spotlight on Adaptogens blog posts below, so learn on!

Fancy a try? At MatchaAlternatives.com our adaptogenic teas, like Moringa and Tulsi Holy Basil, are here.

Adaptogens Part 1: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Adaptogens Part 2: Health Benefits & Which One is Best for Me? 

 


Vientiene and Elizabeth Taeed Founders Matcha Alternatives

A Note From The Founders...

The above teas are some of our favorites, because (in addition to their various health benefits) they are accessible, affordable, known, studied, and tasty. There are a lot of esoteric teas and herbs out there that you’ll see recommended on different herbalist blogs, but...

  1. Buying them can be tricky (you may only find it buried deep in a rare herbal medicine store in a big city)
  2. Likewise, if a tea is hard to find and/or not much of it is produced (like with matcha), the price can go sky-high very quickly. NOT because it’s necessarily exceptional, but because supply is limited
  3. Trusting and assessing the quality and origin of the tea can be tricky when ordering something rare from an unknown source
  4. If it’s uncommon, that usually means it’s not been extensively studied, which translates to over-inflated health claims and limited references
  5. There’s usually a taste reason that the tea or herb is so rare/difficult to find in the first place! For example, there’s a type of hard-to-find Chinese herbal drink called Bitter Nail Tea that is truly the most bitter tasting thing we’ve ever encountered no matter it’s lauded health claims… if a tea is relatively well known, odds are it has already passed the taste test!

And so, this list exists (along with part 2 coming out later) to reflect the reason our MatchaAlternatives.com teashop exists: good, trusted, tasty Camilia sinensis and herbal teas that are great options if matcha (or perhaps its pricetag) isn’t to your taste. Or of course you simply want some variety throughout the day and night. We’ve got you covered!

P.S. Like I said in the intro, in Part 2 of this post, I’ll dive into my favorite alternatives to matcha for relaxation & sleep, for nutrition and cooking, and the best direct substitute (i.e. an antioxidant rich green powder): Moringa tea powder. So perfect for saving money and get MORE antioxidants in your lattes!

 

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Disclaimer

All of the information regarding the herbs, botanicals, minerals, vitamins, etc., is information drawn from traditional use data or academic research and should be regarded as such. If you, the reader, has a health or medical concern, please consult your healthcare professional. The information found here is not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure and has not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only.

References and Further Reading About These Alternatives to Matcha

Morgan, S. Adaptogens Part 1: What Are They and How Do They Work? The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. Adaptogens Part 2: Health Benefits & Which One is Best for Me? The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, St. Japanese and Chinese Green Teas: A Brief Introduction, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. Rooibos vs. Honeybush: What's the Difference?, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. Antioxidants in Green vs Black Teas: What's the Difference?, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. The Dark Truth About Matcha Tea, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. Caffeine in Coffee and Tea: All You Need to Know, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. Tulsi Holy Basil: An Ancient Tea for Modern Times, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Morgan, S. Yerba Mate Tea: What is it and why is everyone talking about it?, The Matcha Alternatives Blog.

Note: At the bottom of each of these posts is a full list of external references, for the truly academic among us!

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1 comment
  • Once I stopped drinking coffee and switched to green tea in the morning, I feel better and more clear headed as I start the day. I encourage everyone to give it a try!

    Alison Harada



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