Little-known add-on opens up a world of possibilities.

One of the great things about grabbing a drink at Starbucks is all the ways you can customize it so it’s just to your liking. Want an extra shot of espresso? Almond milk? Sugar-free syrup? Just ask, and they’ll be happy to oblige.

But one of the Seattle-started coffeehouse’s rivals here in Japan provides a customization option you can’t get at Starbucks, as our Japanese-language reporter Mariko Ohanabatake recently discovered on a visit to Tully’s Coffee.

OK, so “discovering” this didn’t require whip-and-fedora-level archaeological adventuring, as the special customization option is hidden in plain sight on Tully’s paper menus. That said, the vast majority of customers don’t really bother poring over the document before placing their order, and the customization that’s captured Mariko’s heart doesn’t exactly jump out at you design-wise either. But mixed in amongst the listings of soy milk substitutes, extra whipped cream, and additional pumps of hazelnut syrup is…

…ice cream!

Yep, Tully’s allows you to add a scoop of T’s Ice (written T’s アイス on the menu), as they call their in-house ice cream brand, to your drink for 165 yen (US$1.25), which is exactly the kind of affordable luxury we’re always ready to splurge on here at SoraNews24. Now the only question was what kind of drink to add ice cream to, so Mariko asked the staff for their recommendation, and was told that one of the most popular ice cream-customized drinks among customers is to start with an ice coffee (400 yen), add an extra espresso shot (55 yen), and then a scoop of vanilla ice cream to make a coffee float.

Mariko decided to give it a shot, and the strong coffee and creamy vanilla made for a tasty mix of bitter and sweet notes. As she sipped, though, Mariko’s mind wandered to other possibilities, so after she finished her coffee float, she walked back up to the counter and ordered a second ice cream-enhanced beverage, this time one she thought up by herself.

Her artistic vision started with the Tealista Chai Earl Grey, a frozen dessert beverage. To this slushy canvas she added vanilla ice cream, and, as a finishing touch, a swirl of honey (which is a free add-on at Tully’s).

She named it the “Honey Earl Grey Chai Float.” It was lovely to look at…and tasted even better than it looked! The spice and citrus elements of the tea gave it a sophisticated aura, and though it leans heavily on the “dessert” half of the dessert drink designation, the mixture of honey and ice cream was decadently sweet without being overpowering.

It was then that another idea struck Mariko. Though not every branch offers every flavor, Tully’s, in total, offers five different kinds of ice cream: vanilla, Uji matcha green tea, triple chocolate, café classico, and mascarpone.

So it looks like Mariko’s ice cream customizations are just beginning.

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