Home » Blog » Whole Food and Recipes » Blue Matcha: Butterfly Pea Flower Power

Blue Matcha: Butterfly Pea Flower Power

Blue Matcha is becoming a thing. You have probably seen some pictures of totally fun blue drinks and lattes. Sure, colored food is fun, but isn’t it bad for you? Not necessarily!

In this article you will learn what blue matcha is, the nutritional benefits of this flower, and some ways to add the color blue to your food.

Let’s start learning about blue food.

What is Blue Matcha?

Blue matcha is not the same as green matcha. Green matcha is made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis. The unfermented green tea leaves are ground into a fine powder.

Blue matcha is made from a completely different plant. It comes from the Butterfly Pea Flower, Clitoria ternatea. This delicate flower grows in tropical and subtropical climates. It grows in a variety of colors, but the one that we are talking about today is a deep purplish blue. 

The blue color comes from anthocyanins named ternatins. These pigments give the flower some of its health and healing properties.

Blue Matcha is also called Butterfly Pea, Asian Pigeonwings, Kordofan Pea, or Blue Pea. The Sanskrit name used in Ayurvedic Medicine is Aprajita. 

You can buy Blue Matcha in tea bags filled with dried flowers, or as a ground powder similar to Green Matcha, only of course, blue. 

Butterfly Pea Flower is available in tea bags or a finely ground powder.

What Does Blue Matcha Taste Like?

Blue Matcha tea tastes like a very light dandelion tea. It has a subtle, earthy flavor which comes out with a longer steeping time. This mild tea pairs up well with other delicate flavors like lemongrass or chamomile.

It is no surprise that the Beverage Industry has latched on to this flower to make exciting new concoctions. Who doesn’t love a bright blue drink? Another amazing thing is that when you add an acid like lemon juice, the blue color turns to deep purple. 

The great thing about Butterfly Pea Flower is that you can get all these fun colors without having to eat artificial colors that could be harmful to your health. This is a natural coloring loaded with phytonutrients.

Nutrition in Butterfly Pea Flower

Half the fat content of Butterfly Pea seeds is oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil.  The rest of the fats are palmitic acid, stearic acid, and the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acid (1).   

A study with rats showed that Butterfly Pea Flower is able to suppress triglycerides and total cholesterol to a similar extent as the statin atorvastatin and Gemfibrozil. The amount of Butterfly Pea used in the study was 500 mg/kg, which is a much larger amount than a person would realistically eat (2).         

You are probably not going to eat enough of this flower every day to provide a substantial amount of vitamins and minerals, or get the benefits of those fatty acids. However, we know that phytonutrients can be very active even in the small amounts that you would get in a tea or powder.

Butterfly Pea Flower contains the flavonols kaempferol and quercetin, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In fact, lab studies show that the quercetin and ternatins found in Butterfly Pea Flower may protect against inflammation by suppressing the inflammatory molecules produced by macrophages (3).   

Butterfly Pea Flowers have a class of peptides called cyclotides. These are also called circular proteins, or knottins. There are more than 70 different cyclotides in this flower. These are highly stable cyclic molecules with three disulfide bonds that form a knot. 

We are just beginning to study these molecules for their nutritional and pharmacological benefits. Cyclotides have potential for developing functional foods and alternative protein sources (4).  

Blue Matcha Health Benefits

There have been numerous studies in animals and in the lab showing that extracts of the Butterfly Pea plant exhibit diuretic, nootropic, antiasthmatic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antidiabetic, antilipidemic, anti-arthritic, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. 

In vitro studies show Butterfly Pea is effective against some mold fungi like Candida, and can kill parasitic worms and larvae (1).

Butterfly Pea has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as a medha drug, which promotes brain health. Medhya Rasayana is a formula used to treat neurological disorders in Ayurveda. Practitioners believe it can strengthen a person’s intellect (5).

These neurological benefits are backed up by animal studies that show the Butterfly Pea plant has memory enhancing effects (2).

The Ayurvedic drug Sankhapushpi is made up of the roots and seeds of the Butterfly Pea plant along with four other herbs. It is used as a nerve tonic and laxative. However, it is difficult to sort out which of the four herbs is having the effect, or whether you need them all to act synergistically. 

It is exciting to learn that Butterfly Pea Flower has so much research behind its phytonutrient profile. There have been animal studies and lab studies on the benefits of Butterfly Pea Flower. Traditional medicines like Ayurveda also lend the weight of experience to this evidence. 

However, human studies seem to be non-existent. Studies using actual people would give us much better scientific evidence of how Butterfly Pea Flower can benefit your health.

Is Blue Matcha Toxic?

Butterfly Pea Flower has been used as a food coloring in Asian countries for many years, and no adverse effects have been reported. However, when you use it as an herbal remedy you might be taking in larger amounts.

Just like there are no human studies showing the benefits of this plant, there are also no studies in humans to determine whether it has toxicity or side effects.

The bottom line is to use it in moderation and pay attention to how it affects your body. If you are on prescription meds, definitely check with your doctor to see if you should be eating this herb (6).   

Butterfly Pea Flower in the Food Industry

The food industry has been experimenting with how to use the Butterfly Pea Plant in their products. Some possible applications being tested are to increase the oxidative stability of cooked pork patties and increase the antioxidant content of sponge cakes. This plant may also be able to reduce the glycemic index of flour (1).

In 2021, the FDA approved the commercial use of butterfly pea as a color additive. The pigments in this plant are exceptionally heat stable.  They can be used in a wide range of food and beverage products including sports drinks, ice cream, chewing gum, and yogurt (7).   

How to Drink Blue Matcha

A cup of blue tea sits on a white background with dried butterfly pea petals around it.

Blue or Purple tea

Just steep your tea bags in hot water to make beautiful, deep blue tea. I recommend steeping it for 10-15 minutes to allow the subtle earthy flavor to shine through. It mixes well with other mild herbs like chamomile or lemongrass. If you use the powder for tea, whisk it into your hot water and there is no need to steep.

Squeeze some lemon into your blue tea, and it will turn a beautiful purple shade.

Blue Matcha Latte

Just whisk butterfly pea powder into your water when you make the latte. Use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon per cup, depending on how deep of a blue you prefer. The powder dissolves easily in water. Add vanilla, honey or whatever flavorings you want. The butterfly pea powder will not show up as a strong taste in this drink.

Other Ways to Eat Blue Matcha

Blue Smoothie

Use the ground Butterfly Pea Powder to make a blue smoothie. Any favorite smoothie recipe will do, as long as there are no other ingredients with a strong enough color to compete with the blue. Add 1-2 teaspoons of powder for one tall smoothie.

Blue Rice

A bowl of blue rice made with Butterfly Pea Powder.

You can make blue rice in two different ways. Steep the rice cooking water in tea bags until the water is blue. Or, you can whisk the powder into the cooking water. The powder dissolves in water very easily. In the picture above, I used a teaspoon of butterfly pea powder to cook a cup of dry rice.

Butterfly Pea Flower pigment is heat stable and you don’t need to worry about the color changing during cooking.

Add some lemon juice and make purple rice!

Blue Macaroons

This image shows a plate of macaroons with a turquoise blue color from Butterfly Pea Powder

You can add Butterfly Pea Powder to your favorite macaroon recipe. Mix it with the coconut flakes, or with the wet ingredient mixture. The macaroons might brown on the outside, but inside they will be the beautiful color of a Caribbean sea.

The Last Drop

Blue Matcha is not the same thing as Green Matcha. Green Matcha comes from Camellia sinensis, the same plant that gives us black, green and white tea. Blue Matcha is made from Clitoria ternatea, also known as the Butterfly Pea Flower.

Butterfly Pea Flowers are full of phytonutrients, such as the flavonols quercetin and kaempferol. The blue color comes from a class of anthocyanins called ternatins. A class of peptides called cyclotides is just beginning to be studied for its nutritional and pharmacological benefits.

The Butterfly Pea Flower has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat neurological disorders. 

The phytonutrients in Butterfly Pea Flowers show diuretic, nootropic, antiasthmatic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antidiabetic, antilipidemic, anti-arthritic, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. 

However these are all studies done with animals and in the lab. There is no high quality evidence using humans as research subjects. That doesn’t mean the benefits aren’t there, just that they haven’t been properly studied. 

This herb appears to be safe when taken in moderate amounts. However, always pay attention to make sure it is safe for YOU.

The FDA approved Butterfly Pea Flower as a food coloring in 2021, and manufacturers are poised to use it in a number of different products.

You can easily find Blue Matcha in online markets both in the dried flower and powdered form. Use it to make colorful teas, lattes, smoothies, rice or macaroons – or let your own imagination run away with you! 

What foods do you plan to color blue?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top