SoraNews24 tries the latest offering to clear beverages: Asahi’s Clear Latte. Will it clear our senses with delight or leave us hollow?

Unfortunately, I have a problem which means I can’t drink a lot of caffeinated beverages, lest my stomach rebel and turn into Godzilla. This is particularly painful in Japan, where every grocery store stocks hundreds of bottles of differently flavored and highly caffeinated ambrosia. Every time Pepsi debuts a new line I can either sob in unfulfilled yearning or resign myself to a week of heartburn.

▼ How many delicious coffees do you need in one store?!

So this latest trend of “clear drinks” in the beverage business has been a boon for me. Rows upon rows of transparent bottles, with the only hint to their flavor being the colors of the label or the picture printed on the bottlecap. Peach, grape, orange and even yogurt flavors – and no caffeine in sight! At least, until I was betrayed by Suntory’s clear milk tea, which uses actual Assam tea leaves in the recipe.

No doubt hearing the pleas of the caffeine-sensitive, the beverage gurus at Asahi started up their think tanks and set about engineering the impossible – alchemizing the creamy, rich taste of a latte into a transparent, fat-free, zero caffeine version. Once I heard about the lack of caffeine I eagerly slid into my nearest convenience store and bought one.

▼ 600 mililiters (20.3 ounces) of coffee clarity

Even if I wasn’t already convinced, I think the commercial where actress Ryoko Yonekura drinks herself back into visibility would have clinched it.

First impressions: this is a really nicely designed bottle!

▼ Here’s the back view of the bottle, with a cute illustration

▼ Here’s a shot from the bottom-up: clear as water!

▼ The helpful folks at Asahi make things SUPER clear, even when it comes to the little arrow showing how to unscrew the lid.

Sometimes clear drinks suffer from a bamboozling effect, where the bottle looks so much like a bottle of water that you’re alarmed to taste apples or citrus or Calpis. The coffee-brown cap on this one is a good start, but the illustrations of coffee beans plus the dark brown to transparency gradient on the label really drives home the concept.

▼ The label promises a “refreshing mature sweetness”

Opening the bottle releases a gentle, slightly acidic aroma. I decided to pour some out into a glass, just so you can see how closely it resembles water.

▼ Clear as… well, coffee!

Now it’s time for the true test: how does it taste?

I took a little sip first, just in case.

Then another.

Then I took a large gulp of it.

Faithful bottle design or no, this was honestly kind of eerie. The key ingredient, Ethiopian coffee, tastes sweet, rich and just a little sharp. In other words, it’s extremely close to what you might expect from a bottled latte, but my eyes just couldn’t accept that it was coming out of this bottle.

The drink is refrigerated in the convenience store and it’s super refreshing to knock back a couple of gulps, upon which the coffee flavor hits at full power. Even when the coffee flavor is at its strongest, the water lends a mildness to the drink so that it won’t overwhelm you. Unlike slurping down a Starbucks coffee, the taste is subtler, with an understated, semi-sweet bitterness for the aftertaste. It’s a perfect drink to keep you company at the office or while working at home, because each sip perks you up with the frisson of excitement you’d expect from a coffee drink.

Let’s take a look at this message written on the bottom of the bottle, accompanied by a pretty illustration of a classic latte.

Take out all the unnecessary extras, and you’re left with something clear [transparent].
This colorless latte has the aroma of an espresso and a mature, startling sweetness that lingers after each sip.
Our home-brewed “Clear Latte” recipe distils the latte experience down to its delicious essentials. It’s a brand new latte that you can gulp down just as easily as the natural water it’s made from.

The “natural water” they mention here is their own bottled water brand, the flagship product of their Oishii Mizu (“Delicious Water”) line. The Clear Latte makes a great addition to the family, in my opinion! Though personally I prefer to savor each sip rather than glug it all down at once.

▼ Note: Drinking Clear Latte will not grant you the dancing skills of Naomi Watanabe.

Asahi CLEAR Latte from Oishii Mizu is available at most convenience stores, and retails at a suggested price of 124 yen (US$1.10) before tax. Please note that it DOES contain milk products due to the whey mineral extracts – and while caffeine-free, at 60 kcal per bottle, it’s calorie ‘light’ rather than calorie ‘free’.


Photos ©SoraNews24