Today we have a new guest poster, Mary Jo Foley — who some of you may recognize from her articles in eWeek and her new blog on ZDNET. But instead of striking fear in the heart of Microsoft, Mary Jo has her sights set on that OTHER mega-corporation in the Pacific Northwest. Sheilds up, Starbucks.
Ever since I moved back East from Seattle — and quit my three-latte-a-day habit in the process — I’ve pined greatly for my former steamed-milk beverage of choice.
Sure, there were chai tea lattes available at every coffee chain and hole-in-the-wall café in New York. And there were milk teas (with or without bubbles) galore being poured by tea shops in and around Chinatown. But these drinks were usually too sweet bland for me.
So last spring, when I saw a new drink special — a green tea latte — pop up on the Starbucks menu, I wondered if I had found the answer to my foam-fetish prayers.
I still remember my first: It was St. Patrick’s Day party-hat green. The melon syrup was cloying, but added a certain mystery. The mixture of Green-tea matcha powder and my selected soy milk was odd…yet intriguing.
In short, I was hooked.
And so, it seems, were plenty of others. Ever since Starbucks officially introduced the Starbucks Green Tea Latte on April 4, 2006, it’s been a topic of discussion on food blogs. It seems to be one of those products you either love or hate. And one which a number of other coffee/tea shops have rushed to one-up.
(My local, the Grounded Coffee and Tea shop in the West Village, now offers not only chai and green tea lattes, but also a custom-brewed yerba mate latte. Like Starbucks, Grounded uses matcha green tea powder, but its secret ingredient combo is honey and ginger, one barista confided.)
Starbucks won’t share numbers on how many green tea lattes it has sold in the past year.
“We received very positive reviews around the health benefits of our Green Tea Latte — it is one of our lowest calorie lattes,” said Lisa Passe, an official with Starbucks’ Global Brand Strategy and Communications unit in Seattle. (That’s a surprising fact in and of itself, given my grande Green tea with soy latte weighs in at a robust 210 calories, according to Starbuck’s calorie calculator.)
Because of its popularity, “we have made the Green Tea Latte part of our regular menu,” Passe told me, via e-mail.
Seattle’s Best Coffee, which Starbucks acquired in July 2003, also has added to its menu its own version of the green-tea latte. Again, Starbucks isn’t sharing numbers on sales there.
“Tea lattes and tea as a whole is a growing business for Starbucks and we feel it addresses a different need-state vs. espresso-based beverages, as it skews more towards the afternoon and it’s a non-coffee alternative,” Passe said.
(“Need state”? Silly me. I thought I just bought it because I liked the taste.)
Not every New York coffee shop is jumping on the tea-latte bandwagon. At the East 13th Street branch of Joe, my recent request for a green tea latte was met with a puzzled look from the barista on duty.
“We could just make you some green tea and you could pour some steamed milk in it, then doctor it up with honey and some spices,” the I-want-to-be-helpful one suggested, to my obvious horror.
It’s a slow battle, but we’ll convert the coffee aficionados, I predict, one matcha-based tea at a time.
Guest Post By Mary Jo Foley