What’s in That Starbucks Matcha Drink?

Matcha (macha) tea offers endless opportunities for experimentation in drink and food recipes. A cool and creamy matcha smoothie is the perfect addition to any get together, or just a great drink to sip away on while catching a few minutes of down time.

No matter what it is mixed with, matcha tea is one of the most nutritious drinks on the planet. Packed with antioxidants and other nutrients, ground matcha tea powder is easy to prepare and has a unique taste that people seem to fall in love with the first time they try it.

What’s in that Starbucks matcha drink?

Matcha concoctions in the big tea and coffee chains are of questionable origin, which is why most people like to purchase their own matcha and throw together a smoothie or two at home. Starbucks, for one, is dodgy about the source of its matcha, at one time offering a corporate statement saying its matcha was sourced through the company’s tea arm, Tazo. Conspiracy theorists on the blogosphere tend to suspect that Starbucks used food-grade matcha rather than the better stuff.

By all accounts, Starbucks adds generous amounts of sugar to its matcha drinks, which rubs many purists the wrong way. For those who like to add their own sugar, or none at all, home concoctions are the way to go. Many health food stores sell matcha these days, and it can always be ordered online from multiple sources.

So-called mom-and-pop coffee and tea shops will always list the matcha brand they use in their drinks, or they’ll be happy to tell you if you ask. But the major chains in Europe and the U.S. that sell matcha drinks are tight-lipped about the specific brands they use.

Here are the “best of the best” matcha smoothie recipes, with names, ingredients and mixing instructions:

Blueberry Orange Surprise

A handful of blueberries, one navel orange, one cup of soy milk, one tablespoon of matcha powder, one cup crushed ice. Blend everything together until smooth, and enjoy watching the parade of bright colors in the blender.

Bright Green or Bright Red Matcha Smoothie

In the above recipe, swap out the blueberries, orange and soy milk with one cup of strawberries, several watermelon slices, and one cup of cranberry juice for a bright red drink that tastes, and looks, great.

For a deep green smoothie, combine one large apple, a tablespoon of lime juice, a tablespoon of matcha powder and four or five large ice cubes in a blender and mix until it looks like green cream.

A smoothie for athletes

1 teaspoon cinnamon, one banana, 1 teaspoon coconut oil, 1 or 2 teaspoons of matcha powder. This tastes best if it is consumed immediately after blending.

The best juicy smoothie

2 teaspoons matcha, 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup almond or soy milk.
This tastes great over ice after blending, rather than adding the ice in at the beginning. Some people think this version tastes like matcha-flavored ice cream.

Fruity smoothie

1 cup of your favorite yogurt, 2 teaspoons matcha, 1 cup ice, 1 cup of blackberries.
This is another smoothie that tastes best if consumed right away, and can be enhanced with a dash of ginger or mint.

Brand round-up

Matcha tea brands are still finding their way into European and U.S. specialty stores. The better health food chains and smaller Japanese food stores sometimes sell name brand matcha tea powder. Here is a rundown of what you are likely to find in big-city stores and chains like Whole Foods. Each makes a solid choice for a matcha smoothie, though they differ quite a bit in taste and price, so shop accordingly.


Maeda-En makes a wide range of matcha powders but in stores like Whole Foods, they tend to offer their lower grades, which are good for cooking and even making smoothies, but you’ll have to sift them first. For those new to the world of matcha, and who can’t afford the higher grades of the powder, this product is a commendable entry point.


This company is just beginning to offer products in the U.S. and Europe, and they usually have two different kinds of matcha on the shelves. The first is a box of ready-make packets that contain various flavors. Strictly speaking, this isn’t pure matcha powder but it does taste wonderful. Their standard grade tea powder is quite delicious and in the mid-range of prices. It is perfect for making smoothies and isn’t too bad for hot tea either.

Tao of Tea

This is a large company that sells all sorts of teas, and most of them are not matcha. However, their product called “Liquid Jade” is a sweet, buttery, rich organic variety of matcha that makes awesome hot or cold matcha, perfect smoothies, yet is maybe a bit too good for cooking. Liquid Jade is a mid-priced matcha that is all-around excellent. Whole Foods and many health food chains carry this product.

Republic of Tea

This matcha product is okay for smoothies but a bit too thin and weak for hot tea. It would be ideal for cooking though, and is reasonably priced, and seems to be available everywhere. When one desires a matcha smoothie and has no other source, this product will usually be on the shelf of the nearest health food store.

Do Matcha

The best matcha powder on this list, Do Matcha is widely available, especially at Whole Foods, and offers a complete line of matcha grades for every purpose, with prices that increase as the grades go up. For smoothies, opt for the mid-grade Do Matcha, but for hot tea or special occasions, try their top of the line ceremonial organic. It is incredibly delicious. Do Matcha’s organic, by the way, is certified by JONFA (the Japan Organic and Natural Foods Association).

When buying matcha tea powder, consider what you plan to use it for, how much you want to spend, and then experiment with the different brands. Eventually, you’ll find the perfect matcha that matches your preferences.

A smoothie made with authentic matcha tea is in a class by itself, offering taste, nutrition and tradition in a single serving. Feel free to experiment with any of the recipes above, or create one of your own and let us know about it. Since the matcha craze hit Europe and the U.S. several years ago, it’s been an unstoppable freight train of nutritious good taste.

Filed under Lifestyle, Matcha

Yuki thinks simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. His most significant accomplishment is learning how to sit with a good cup of tea and listen. When not online, Yuki talks with all things wild and free. He is a blogger and a matcha lover.


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