Spring’s spirit of renewal and vibrancy is in the air. Taking a stroll on a sunny weekend morning, I was enamored with the beauty of blooming flowers – especially a tree with gorgeous trumpet flowers (dubbed as the Lion City’s sakura, or ‘cherry blossoms’) that showered the walk path with what felt like hundreds of flowers. While continuing on my stroll, I was thinking to myself that having a mini picnic and a wonderful mug of matcha latte would be perfect in this scenery.
There is a reason for my matcha thoughts: I had just been acquainted with the newest member of my beverage stash. Behold, the new Starbucks instant drink… matcha latte, which hails from Japan. Manufactured by Nestle, this drink is part of the Starbucks premium mixes range.
Matcha has been winning the hearts and taste buds of Starbucks enthusiasts for roughly two decades, beginning with the Starbucks menus in Asia before making its way to the US a few years later. My go-to order is the matcha frappe, so I was intrigued with the idea of bringing the flavors I am used to enjoying at their cafés to my home. Making this matcha latte is a simple process: all you need is hot water and you’ve got a cup of matcha latte.
Similar to the previous Starbucks premium instant drinks I shared last year, tiny bubbles began forming on the thin, matte green foam-like layer upon mixing the instant mixture in hot water.
A fundamental part to drinks that are classified as a ‘latte’ is the milk that is added to the primary flavor. The fascinating fact about this macha latte is that the ‘milk’ component is featured as two dairy ingredients: cow’s milk (which is regular milk) and a creamer mix that features Hokkaido skimmed milk. Although I’ve heard the words ‘Hokkaido milk’ before, I’ve never really dived into the ingredient’s popularity. What is ‘Hokkaido milk’? My sleuthing boots guided me to Hokkaido for a short excursion.
As the name suggests, ‘Hokkaido milk’ is milk from Hokkaido. Hokkaido is known for producing around half of Japan’s dairy products, and Hokkaido milk is a renowned ingredient among Japanese foodies. Hokkaido Milk is said to be of high quality thanks to the region’s pristine environment, as the cows’ humble abodes are located in the lush Northern Japanese countryside. This explains why the must-try desserts for anyone who is visiting Hokkaido tend to include ice creams, sweet cheese tarts and cheesecakes. Even sliced bread embraces Hokkaido milk too – ‘Hokkaido milk bread’ has taken the baking world by storm with its fluffy goodness! From sleuthing, I discovered that Hokkaido milk is loved for its smooth, silky and creamy mouthfeel, hence being a popular choice for iced lattes and milk teas in Japan.
While the milk-creamer combo has a significant role in the latte, matcha solidifies its position as the star. Milk’s rich profile works perfectly in this latte, because it elevates matcha by both refining and celebrating the powdered green tea’s earthy tone. Reflecting on my discovery on Hokkaido milk, I believe the silkiness of this creamy green concoction is credited to the creamer.
Along with dairy bits, sugar is added to the mix. This touch of sweetness reduces the intensity of matcha’s naturally-bitter flavor. To my taste buds, the sweet part is more-so a crew member that works its magic behind the scenes in the flavorful production, because it doesn’t stand out as much as the matcha powder and dairy elements. Also, I feel like this latte isn’t identical to a matcha frappe with a dollop of whipped cream on top, but both matcha drinks are fairly similar flavor-wise.
When it comes to matcha lattes, the collab between matcha powder, milk/creamer and at times sugar/sweetener are a foodie’s definition of “teamwork makes the dream work”. To my palate, this latte lives up to that philosophy.