Mr. Sato thinks he may have found the next thing the coffeehouse chain should add to its menu.

The SoraNews24 team makes frequent visits to our local Starbucks branch, what with all the tempting food and drinks the coffeehouse chain offers in Japan. But just a few days after stopping in for a decadent Triple Nama-Chocolate Frappuccino, we discovered a much simpler beverage that Starbucks has on offer.

We say “on offer” and not “on the menu” because you won’t see it written in the list of coffees, teas, and other drinks. So what is it?

Hot water.

Our ace reporter Mr. Sato was the first of us to find out about this. Due to some health issues, he’s been advised to cut down on his sugar intake, and so he was looking for something to drink that’s warm and relaxing, but not sweet. So on a whim, he decided to ask the clerk at Stabucks if it’s possible to get a cup of hot water, and she told him “Sure! What size would you like?”

▼ Mr. Sato’s tall-size hot water is in the cup on the left.

She even asked if he wanted it at a piping hot 95 degrees Celsius (203 degrees Fahrenheit) or cut with a bit of cool water to make it easier to drink. Oh, and Starbucks’ hot water is completely free, though it’s good manners to order at least one food or drink item with it, like Mr. Sato did by picking up a coffee at the same time.

Back at SoraNews24 HQ, Mr. Sato popped off the lid, and, yep, his cup was filled with clear, and very hot, water.

So how is it? In Mr. Sato’s words:

“It’s really good! It has a pure, clean taste, with no messiness, and a smooth, light mouthfeel as it washes over your tongue down your throat.”

▼ We can add “water sommelier” to Mr. Sato’s ever-growing list of skills

Mr. Sato was so impressed that he got another cup of hot water on his next Starbucks run, but this time instead of drinking it as-is he decided to use it as one of the ingredients for making the classic Japanese comfort food ochazuke.

Like all good comfort foods, ochazuke is easy to make and has a direct, straightforward flavor. It’s pretty much just rice topped with some strips of nori seaweed, and small cylindrical rice crackers, with green tea poured over everything.

▼ Ochazuke packs with powdered green tea and toppings, like this one, can be bought in any Japanese supermarket or convenience store.

Because the recipe is so simple, low-quality ingredients can really mar the eating experience, and Mr. Sato wanted to see if Starbucks’ hot water was up to the task.

▼ Toppings in place

▼ Hot water ready

▼ And here we go!

There’s no ironclad ochazuke rule on the ratio of rice to liquid, but Mr. Sato’s personal preference is to have enough tea to cover about half of his rice.

Mr. Sato picked up a mouthful of rice with his chopsticks, took a bite, and…

…yep, it tasted fantastic! The clean taste and smooth mouthfeel he’d noticed when drinking the hot Starbucks water on its own translated perfectly to ochazuke, giving him a pure, satisfying flavor with every bite.

In retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. Starbucks, after all, is first and foremost a coffeehouse, so the water they use to make their coffee has to be free of any odd flavor or texture to make sure their coffee beans can play their part to the fullest on your taste buds, and so it’s only natural it would also be good for the tea/soup hybrid that ochazuke is. Honesty, his half-homemade Starbucks ochazuke was so good that he wishes ochazuke was an official item on the chain’s menu, because if there’s space for green tea Frappuccinos at Starbucks, certainly there’s space for green tea rice too, right?

Photos ©SoraNews24
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