If you are a matcha fan, chances are you have wondered at one point or another, what matcha does starbucks use?
In this article, we are going to answer that exact question. We’ll start with the short answer and then we’ll get into the longer answer.
Fair warning, you might not like what you’re about to read! Let’s dig into the question of what matcha does starbucks use. 🍃
What Matcha Does Starbucks Use? Very cheap green tea powder
There is a short answer to the question what matcha does starbucks use and that answer is they use a very cheap green tea powder (that may or may not be considered matcha) mixed with a lot of sugar.
This may be frustrating for matcha drinkers to learn, but it is even more frustrating for matcha producers to learn.
So much work goes into making matcha taste naturally sweet and smooth, without sugar.
Adding sugar to the drink not only negates all the matcha health benefits, but also a lot of the hard work and research put into making natural, great tasting matcha tea.
So let’s dive into the breakdown of what matcha does starbucks use and then we’ll get into the long answer.
Starbucks Matcha Latte Nutrition Label
You must give credit where credit is due, Starbucks does provide nutritional information for most of their drinks and you can find the basic nutritional content of their matcha latte online. It takes a bit more digging to find out what matcha does starbucks use and if you look at the amount of sugar you’ll see why.
The 16oz matcha latte contains 32 grams of sugar, which is similar to a can of soda. So that “healthy drink” may not be so healthy afterwards. You can mask a lot of low quality matcha with that amount of sugar. The matcha latte also contains 240 calories or 12% of your daily calorie intake (you’ve heard the saying: “don’t drink your calories”).
The worst part is, you can’t ask for no sugar because the sugar is included in the matcha itself.
Reasons that explain why does Starbucks use low quality matcha
Now that we’ve given the short answer and some context, let’s get into the long answer for what matcha does starbucks use.
When it comes to large corporations, the priority is providing a standardized product at a low price. Unfortunately for them, not only is good tasting matcha difficult to produce, it is anything but standardized.
The farmers we meet with in Japan all have subtle differences in their production styles. They picked up these techniques through multiple generations of tea growing. This leads to slight variations in how the small batch, premium matcha tastes and that’s part of what we love about matcha!
This means that traditional, small family farms are ignored in favor of larger scale operations. It is here where the quality is lost.
To make sure a matcha latte tastes the same in Berlin as it does in Mexico City, a larger company would need to buy up a massive amount of green tea powder, that all tastes more or less the same.
Starbuck's matcha producers skip certain steps of the matcha production
To produce high quality matcha that is naturally sweet without sugar or cream, there is a long production process that needs to be respected.
- First, the tea plants are covered in a special type of netting in order to prevent them from being exposed to the sunlight. This actually causes a chemical change in the tea leaves, making them less bitter and more sweet.
- After 3 weeks of shading, the farmers will then select the top 3 leaves of the tea plant. These leaves are thought to be the highest in nutrients and the smoothest in flavor. These leaves are gathered up to be steamed and dried and then they actually have their stems removed to improve the flavor even further.
- Finally, the leaves are then ground into a fine powder in a large stone mill. It takes this mill 1 hour just to produce 50 grams of precious matcha powder.
Time is money
So finally, what matcha does starbucks use if it has to be standardized and inexpensive?
To produce cheaper matcha, a lot of these steps are skipped. The tea is mass-produced so a lot of the attention to detail is lost, it’s made from later harvests so the nutrient profile is lower and the stems are not removed.
The result is a dull, bitter matcha that is often sweetened, dyed and added to other ingredients to disguise the flavor.
To answer the question what matcha does Starbucks use once and for all, we can say that Starbucks uses a blend of cheap green tea powder mixed with sugar. The green tea powder is likely produced on a large scale, and it certainly is not produced using the traditional methods we know create great tasting matcha tea.
If you want to truly experience the beauty and health giving properties of matcha, it’s best to put your matcha latte money to better use and go for premium, first harvest matcha. These teas are made by a handful of talented farmers all across Japan and they are smooth enough to enjoy plain.
If you don’t know where to start, you can try our matcha sampler, and assortment of the 21 best teas we’ve found during our travels around Japan. Some of these are designed for making lattes, and others are perfect for plain drinking. Try them all out for yourself and see which you like most!