And if, with these first-of-a-kind UK studies, science can verify there is much more to matcha’s impact, then no one will be more satisfied than OMGTea founder Katherine Swift whose brand sells directly online, through Amazon and retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Holland & Barrett and Ocado. Swift’s relationship with the legendary leaves, at their best organically grown in Japan and carefully ground into nutrient-preserving powders, began in 2010 when her mother, doing well in remission now, was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer.
After reading about the antioxidant-rich tea and its potential disease-fighting benefits the pair started having regular cups.
That led to Swift sourcing the tea from organic suppliers in Japan and setting up the business in 2014, after which Amazon’s business start-ups support programme, Launchpad, and NatWest’s entrepreneur accelerator were crucial in helping it establish.
Swift, an events management expert, initially invested £20,000 of her savings and the business is now Brighton-based with all functions from research to fulfilment carried out in the UK.
Garlanded with taste awards, in the past 12 months OMGTea’s sales have grown 182 percent and a £250,000 turnover is expected for 2020.
“We’re a health business first, science is at our core,” says Swift who also founded the Healthy Life Foundation charity in 2015 to further research into age-related disease and forge links with academia and the voluntary sector as well as commerce.
The company’s customers for its range of six products are a diverse, health and quality conscious crowd who whisk the vibrant emerald green powder with warm water so it becomes a deliciously smooth, sweet beverage that gives them a sustained, gentle boost over six hours.
OMG’s matcha also comes with a clear grading system “to help customers navigate their needs and usage,” explains Swift.
But as concern about health has intensified since Covid and global demand for matcha rising anyway – the market is expected to be worth £4 billion by 2025, consumers have to be ever-more vigilant that the matcha they are buying is full of the benefits promised.
“You can tell authentic, premium grade matcha by its bright colour and price, it won’t be cheap,” says Swift, advising “as a rule of thumb expect to pay from 45p to £1 a cup”.
As for the scientific validation, OMG’s collaboration on weight loss research with Professor Mark Willems at Chichester University has found that matcha increases fat burning when combined with regular exercise. A newly published second study further supports the findings.
Studies are also continuing with leading micro cell biologist Professor Michael Lisanti of the University of Salford on matcha’s effect in halting the growth of breast cancer stem cells.
He said: “I have always been interested in natural products for cancer prevention and/or treatment so to finally have this positive research which demonstrates the potential effects of Matcha green tea on breast cancer stem cells is a very important first step forward.”
Now toying with an international growth plan, backed by crowd-funding campaign next year, Swift is also developing new ready-to-drink and supplement products.
And England’s cricketers, some already fans of green tea, may also benefit from OMG’s success as Swift’s husband is Sussex County Cricket’s batting coach Jason Swift.
Matcha and cricket – now that really is a match made in heaven.