It’s a three-way battle for matcha mastery in this blind taste test.

For the most part, Japan likes its Japanese teas without any additional flavorings. The one widespread exception to this, though, is matcha latte.

In Japan, matcha latte is treated as a separate drink from regular matcha or green tea (i.e. when you want one, you order a matcha latte specifically, as opposed to ordering a cup of tea and then adding milk to it yourself). And while matcha lattes are a relatively new addition to the drink scene in Japan, the popularity of the drink has solidified enough that it’s now got a permanent place on the menu at many coffeehouses.

But out of the major chains, who’s got the best mix of matcha and milk? To find out, we hit up our local branches of rivals Starbucks, Tully’s Coffee, and Dotour for a three-way blind taste test.

Let’s take a look at our contenders for matcha mastery.

● Starbucks Matcha Tea Latte (tall size 500 yen [US$3.70])

In this corner, we have Starbucks take on the matcha latte, which comes with an enticing crown of milk foam. Starbucks has an established reputation for excellence in pleasing the palates of Japan, but as an American-headquarters company, will their matcha be up to the task?

● Tully’s Uji Matcha Latte (tall size 515 yen)

And in this corner, the in-terms-of-price heavyweight, we have Tully’s matcha latte. Like Starbucks, Tully’s is originally a U.S. company, but since 2006 its Japanese branches have been owned and operated by Ito En, one of Japan’s best-loved tea companies. Perhaps because of that, Tully’s matcha latte has the deepest color and visibly largest amount of matcha powder out of the three.

● Dotour Uji Matcha Latte (medium size 480 yen)

And finally, in the third corner of our metaphorical triangular arena, we have Dotour’s matcha latte, the lowest-priced and simplest of the trio, with no foam or unmelted flecks of matcha powder.

To prevent any brand-related bias, Mariko Ohanabatake, our team member who went out and picked up the three drinks, will be sitting the taste test out. Instead, she poured all the matcha lattes into plain paper cups, labeled A, B, and C. Then she called in the other nine writers we had at SoraNews24 HQ at the time to have them try all three and choose which one they like best.

So which matcha latte warmed the heart of our taste testers?

● Go Hatori

“A, by a country mile! B is too sweet, and C doesn’t have enough flavor.”

● Takashi Harada

“A has the best balance.”

● Seiji Nakazawa

“B tastes the best. It’s got the clearest, most straightforward flavor.”

● Masanuki Sunakoma

“I like B. It’s got a noticeable, nice bitter tea flavor.”

● Ahiruneko

“I’m honestly not much of a matcha latte drinker, but out of the three, I’d go with B.”

● Yuichiro Wasai

“I’ve got no qualms admitting I’ve got a sweet tooth, and B is the sweetest, so that’s my pick.”

● Chun Shinomiya

“B for me. It has the best matcha aroma.”

● P.K. Sanjun

“Compared to the others, C feels the most like it was made by a person, not pre-mixed, so that’s the one I’d go with.”

● Yoshio

“I’m really picky when it comes to tea. Even though it had the lightest flavor, the balance between tea and milk is best with C, so it’s the one for me.”

Add it all up, and that’s five votes for B, two for A, and two for C. So what’s the identity of our winner?

Starbucks’ Matcha Tea Latte!

Looking back at our notes, Cup B (Starbucks) had our taste testers commenting on both its sweet and bitter qualities, and even its aroma. By comparison, the flavor’s of Dotour (which was in Cup A) was described more as “balanced” and Tully’s (Cup C) as light or mild.

With that in mind, it makes sense that Starbuck’s matcha latte was the most popular of the bunch. Among the various types of Japanese green teas, matcha has the strongest flavor and most pronounced bitterness, so if you’re a matcha fan, odds are you want it to make its presence felt in your matcha latte. At the same time, if you’re specifically in the mood to drink a matcha latte, as opposed to just plain matcha, you obviously want milky, creamy flavors too.

That said, aside from Go, no one had anything negative to say about any of the three drinks. So while Starbucks came out as the best, in terms of overall votes, the other two aren’t bad at all.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where there’s a good chance he’s drinking a matcha latte right now.

[ Read in Japanese ]