Starbucks goes old school with the semi-secret ingredient in its newest matcha Frappuccino.

In Japan, New Year’s is considered to be a very Japanese time of year. While the country celebrates on January 1, just like many other parts of the world, a lot of the decorations and customs are strongly connected to Japanese traditional culture, such as eating osechi and visiting the local shrine or temple, often while dressed in kimono.

So it makes sense that Starbucks Japan’s new New Year’s Frappuccino is packed with Japanese ingredients, and while you might have guessed that green tea plays a big role, you probably weren’t expecting seaweed to be part of the drink too.

Going on sale the day after Christmas is the Matcha Genmai Mochi Frappuccino, and yes, all of those marque components are part of the dessert drink. It’s made with three kinds of matcha plus genmaicha (brown rice tea), giving it a complex bitterness to play off the sweetness of the milk, whipped cream, white chocolate powder, toasted mochi, and matcha mousse. But where things get really unique is the kakushiaji, as subtle, almost-hidden flavorings are described in Japan, which for the Matcha Genmai Mochi Frappuccino is powdered kuromame (sweet black beans) and kombu (kelp).

Seaweed and sweets, for the uninitiated, no doubt sounds like a bold combination, maybe even foolishly so. However, a small dish on kombu is often served alongside plates of sweets at old-school Japanese dessert cafes, where it serves as a salty palate cleanser that helps enhance the sweetness of the desserts, and it’s likely Starbucks is aiming to replicate that effect, or at least remind customers’ palates of the sensation.

As is usually the case, the new Frappuccino is being accompanied by a companion hot tea latte, the Matcha Genmai Mousse Tea Latte. Tea latte fans will also have another new option in the form of the Japanese Chai Tea Latte. A Japanese-style take on Indian masala chai, this is a hot hojicha latte seasoned with yuzu citrus and mandarin orange peel, ginger, and sansho (Japanese pepper).

Prices start at 678 yen (US$4.90) for a tall Matcha Genmai Mochi Frappuccino, 540 yen for a tall Matcha Genmai Mousse Tea Latte, and 501 yen for a tall Japanese Chai Tea Latte. All three will be on sale from December 26 to January 17, or while supplies last.

Source, images: Starbucks Japan via Entabe
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