If You Haven't Heard Of Blue Matcha Yet, Get Ready—It's About To Be Everywhere
Aside from blueberries, there are very few blue foods, unless you count that bubble-gum ice cream you liked as a child or hangover-inducing cocktails. But now blue matcha, an almost otherworldly (but totally natural) indigo-colored powder, is showing up on social media in the form of soothing turquoise-toned "mermaid" or "ocean" smoothie bowls and electric blue baked goods. And this beautiful, social-media-worthy food is seducing people with its siren song of proclaimed health benefits.
For me, it’s hard to look away—one, because the eye-catching aspect of this nutritional supplement is difficult to ignore, and two, as an RDN, the supposed health benefits make me want to take a closer look. Like, really close. You see, proponents of blue matcha (which is not to be confused with the proprietary spirulina extract called "Blue Majik," another thing entirely) promise it has many of the same health-promoting properties of its verdant counterpart, green matcha. That’s an interesting claim because these vibrant powders are made from two completely different plants. Green matcha is made from tea leaves (Camellia sinensis), whereas blue matcha is made from the butterfly pea flower (Clitoria principissae).
Green matcha has been studied extensively in humans for its health benefits. Tea leaves (all teas, black and green—including green matcha—come from the same plant) have polyphenols, which are associated with decreased risk of cancer. They also have catechins, which offer a variety of proven health benefits: fighting and preventing cellular damage, improving blood flow, decreasing cholesterol and blood pressure, lowering risk of heart disease, and supporting brain health. Green tea also contains caffeine as well as a compound called theanine that has a calming effect and promotes relaxation. Combined, the two produce a "calm alert" feeling for some people who drink it.
Blue matcha, on the other hand, has not yet been studied extensively and thus far has been studied only in animals. But before you start crying an ocean of tears, that doesn’t necessarily mean your mermaid smoothie bowl is completely devoid of health benefits. We know that blue matcha has a host of antioxidants called anthocyanins and proanthocyanins. Both of these are being researched for their possible role in reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer and for supporting cognitive function and memory, and they are already known to be involved1 in supporting healthy vision and collagen production. We simply don’t yet have definitive scientific evidence that proves all of blue matcha’s health benefits for humans.
However, it is almost universally agreed upon by dietitians that consuming blue matcha won’t harm you. So if you’d like to enjoy it, take the plunge! Blue matcha can be ordered online and is available at some health food stores.
I tried it myself recently, adding it to a smoothie that I shared with my visiting extended family. The verdict? Even though I used a fairly large amount in my smoothie, the taste was almost unnoticeable—it didn’t taste as earthy to me as some green matcha teas I’ve tried. But the color, oh the color! That was the topic of much conversation. My niece (who, like me, loves science) thought the bright blue was mesmerizing since we see so little of that vibrant hue in our food. Nature really is amazing.
Putting my foodie hat aside and my R.D. hat back on, if you’re already drinking green matcha for its health benefits, I don’t recommend replacing it with blue matcha. Just include it as a fun Instagram-worthy addition to your regular tea or smoothie regimen. Who knows? Maybe one day dietitians everywhere will be singing the praises of blue matcha, too!
Want to take your regular matcha up a notch? Try these simple tweaks to make it stress-relieving, gut-healing, and blood-sugar balancing.
Terri Brownlee, MPH, RDN is the director of nutrition and wellness at $1B food service pioneer Bon Appétit Management Company. She received a master's degree in public health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she simultaneously completed her R.D. requirements. Brownlee has more than 20 years of experience in the field of nutrition, with experiences spanning private practice and corporate consulting to food service and nutrition education. In her current role with Bon Appétit, she oversees a team of chefs and registered dietitians and manages strategic nutrition programming throughout colleges and businesses in 32 states.