Unusual local ingredients make this one of the best drinks we’ve ever had at Starbucks.

Starbucks has built its brand around being a coffeehouse chain, but coffee isn’t the only thing the company is known for, especially in Japan, where you can even order whole cakes and afternoon tea.

In fact, there are two stores in Tokyo that specialise in Starbucks tea, showcasing the company’s Teavana range of brews with some special limited-edition beverages unavailable anywhere else in Japan.

▼ The two stores are Roppongi Hills Metro Hat (pictured below) and Kirarina Keio Kichijoji.

These Starbucks stores, marked with a couple of tea leaves in their store signage, have a few coffee options on the menu, but the focus is set firmly on tea-based beverages.

▼ There’s also a wide range of flavoured teas that are exclusive to Teavana stockists.

Currently, the limited-edition drink on the menu here is a warming winter beverage called the Japanese Chai Tea Latte. This limited-edition offering is incredibly unique, as it’s made with hojicha (roasted green tea), and spices like yuzu peel, ginger, cinnamon, and sansho (Japanese pepper).

From the tea to the spices, these are very unusual ingredients for a chai latte, so we made our way to the Roppongi branch to try it out.

▼ The Japanese Chai Tea Latte has been on the menu since 26 December, in tall-sized hot and cold versions, priced at 649 yen (US$5.62) each.

The drinks looked like they belonged in a fancy Japanese restaurant, but as we ordered ours in a takeout cup, it looked slightly less appealing. Still, we were here to judge the beverage on taste rather than looks, and the deliciously spicy aroma drew us in immediately.

Taking a sip, we were immediately greeted by the flavour of Japanese pepper, which has a distinctive myrtle-like freshness and a citrusy tang. It was a surprisingly delicious addition to the sweet and fragrant roasted green tea latte, and it combined beautifully with the citrus aroma of yuzu peel that lingered in the finish.

The cinnamon and ginger added a familiar chai taste to the drink, but the sansho and yuzu elevated it to a whole other level, creating a unique beverage that tasted like nothing we’ve ever had before, not just at Starbucks, but anywhere.

▼ One of the best drinks we’ve ever had at Starbucks

We’re used to enjoying the flavour of sansho in savoury meals like eel dishes, but now that we’ve tried it in a chai latte, we’re hooked on the idea, and highly recommend giving it a try if you can.

With a new Teavana specialist Starbucks branch opening in Umeda, Osaka, on 25 February, soon people outside of Tokyo will be also able to get a taste of the unusual chai latte, but we definitely think this should become a mainstay at all Starbucks locations nationwide, especially the new branch that sits in a traditional setting outside Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.

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