Only 10 of these special branches exist nationwide, and they each have a vibe that’s like stepping into a traditional chashitsu tea room.

Our reporter K. Masami is mad about Starbucks. She’s tried every new Frappuccino the chain has made over the past few years, and picked up bear plugs, colour-changing cups, and special-edition ice cream bowls along the way. 

However, despite her longstanding love affair with Starbucks, there’s one side to the chain she’d never experienced until this week — its Starbucks Tea & Cafe stores. That’s understandable, given that only 10 of them exist in Japan and they’re mostly relegated to the big cities while she resides in the countryside. Plus, she loves drinking coffee, so the sound of a tea cafe just didn’t have the same appeal to her as a regular Starbucks.

▼ Masami, with her Cold Brew Lime Coffee, back in 2019.

However, that all changed this week after her first visit to a Starbucks Tea & Cafe, and she’s given us three reasons why she thinks every Starbucks fan ought to visit one of these branches — even if they love the chain’s coffee as much as she does.

▼ The first reason is because it looks and feels different to a regular Starbucks.

As these stores specialise in tea products, the vibe is noticeably more relaxed, with less bright green in the branding and more of a focus on light, relaxing pastels. The minimalist design gives it a refined feel and a zen-like air, similar to the feeling you’d get at a tea ceremony inside a tea room.

▼ The peachy beige inside the store is similar in colour to the mud walls of a traditional chashitsu (tea room).

The second reason why you should visit the cafe is because it’s filled with a wide variety of beverages you won’t find at a regular Starbucks

Even diehard fans like Masami can feel themselves craving a bit more variety on the regular menu, but here she was excited to see a number of drinks she’d never heard of or even tried before. Plus, coffee lovers won’t be disappointed as there’s a good variety of coffee-based drinks on the menu as well.

Masami wanted to order all the drinks she’d never tried before, but she decided to exercise restraint and settle on one — the Yuzu & Citrus Lavender Sage Tea Frappuccino, for 760 yen (US$5.48).

Searching for more information about the beverage on the official website, Masami was able to read the glowing description below:

“A Frappuccino with citrus lavender sage tea, a blend of apple, pineapple, orange, lavender, and sage, combined with citrus pulp and ruby ​​grapefruit jelly.
A new type of Frappuccino that allows you to enjoy both the quality of a sophisticated blended tea and its fruitiness at the same time.”

Masami couldn’t imagine what a blend like this would taste like, yet when she received it, she immediately fell in love with it at first sight. 

The brightly coloured Frappuccino looked to be divided into three layers, but Masami wasn’t able to make out what ingredients each layer contained. While it looked gorgeous, it tasted even better, with the tartness of grapefruit and citrus being the perfect antidote for the hot weather.

Finally, the third reason to go is because they’re so rare. Only found in Tokyo, Osaka, Saitama, Fukuoka and Toyama prefectures, they not only garner interest from local travellers but overseas tourists as well. Not many people can say they’ve visited a Starbucks Tea & Cafe, and now that Masami has joined the ranks of such visitors, she feels as if she’s levelled up a notch in the Starbucks fandom.

So next time you’re travelling around Japan, why not level up your own Starbucks journey with a visit to a Starbucks Tea & Cafe? It’ll be an experience to remember, especially if you’re able to time your visit around cherry blossom season, when there are exclusive sakura drinks on the menu!

Related: Starbucks Tea & Cafe
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