Can Starbucks make a sugar free matcha latte?

Can Starbucks Make a Sugar Free Matcha Latte?

Starbucks is known for their wide variety of lattes, including popular choices like cappuccinos, macchiatos, and of course, lattes. One of their most unique latte offerings is the matcha latte, made with finely ground Japanese green tea leaves. While matcha lattes contain the health benefits of green tea, they also typically contain added sugar from the liquid cane sugar syrup used in the drink. For customers looking to reduce their sugar intake, a sugar free matcha latte would be an ideal option. But can Starbucks make this customized sugar free drink?

The Basics of Starbucks’ Matcha Latte

Starbucks’ standard matcha latte contains the following ingredients:

  • Matcha green tea powder
  • Steamed milk
  • Ice (for iced matcha latte)
  • Liquid cane sugar syrup

The matcha powder provides the distinct green tea flavor, while the steamed milk provides creaminess. The sugar syrup adds a touch of sweetness to balance out the slight bitterness of matcha. Customers can order hot or iced matcha lattes, with the iced versions containing ice.

A grande (16 oz) hot matcha latte from Starbucks contains about 15 grams of sugar from the liquid cane sugar syrup used. The amount of sugar can vary based on the size of the drink ordered. Sugar is an expected part of the traditional matcha latte recipe, as it helps mellow out the bold green tea flavor.

Why Order Sugar Free?

While the matcha latte has a layer of sweetness from the sugar syrup, some customers may prefer to order it sugar free for several reasons, including:

  • Reducing overall sugar intake
  • Pre-diabetes or diabetes diagnosis requiring lower sugar intake
  • Low carb or ketogenic diet requirements
  • Personal taste preference for less sweet matcha flavor

People limiting sugar for health reasons may follow a specific daily gram amount based on recommendations from their doctor or diet plan. Ordering a sugar free matcha latte allows them to enjoy the other flavors of the drink without adding unwanted sugar grams. Those simply watching their sugar intake for general wellness may also prefer to minimize the added sugars in their diet when possible.

Customizing Drinks at Starbucks

Starbucks baristas are used to accommodating reasonable custom drink requests at no extra charge. Some examples of popular customizations include:

  • Asking for an extra shot of espresso
  • Substituting milk alternatives like soy milk, almond milk, or oat milk
  • Ordering a hot coffee drink iced or an iced drink hot
  • Adding or excluding certain syrups/flavors

When it comes to sugar free drink requests, the most accommodating option is to ask for a drink made without the syrup, rather than the “sugar free” versions of syrups on the menu. This allows you to eliminate added sugars completely for the lowest sugar version possible.

Ordering a Sugar Free Matcha Latte

Here are the recommended steps to order a sugar free matcha latte from Starbucks:

  1. First, order either a hot or iced matcha latte in your preferred size
  2. Specify that you would like it made without the liquid cane sugar syrup
  3. You can also request your choice of milk, including dairy, soy, almond or oat milk
  4. For iced sugar free matcha lattes, ask for light ice or no ice if you prefer a less diluted drink
  5. Double check your order details when the barista repeats your order back to you

This allows you to customize a matcha latte to your sugar free preferences. While the drink will not contain any added sugars without the syrup, the matcha powder itself does contain small amounts of natural sugars.

Taste Profile of Sugar Free Matcha Lattes

Eliminating the sugar syrup will change the flavor profile and mouthfeel of the standard matcha latte. Here’s what to expect with a sugar free version:

  • More potent matcha flavor – With no sugar syrup to take the edge off, the grassy and slightly bitter notes of matcha will be more pronounced.
  • Less sweetness – The drink will not have the added sweetness from the standard syrup, allowing the natural flavors to come through.
  • Watery/thin texture – Sugar syrup helps give matcha lattes a thicker, milkshake-like texture. The sugar free version may taste more thin and watery.

Some matcha latte fans strongly prefer the sweeter and creamier taste profile with syrup. But sugar free matcha latte fans appreciate the purer, more nourishing flavor highlighting the green tea. Adding a splash of milk alternatives like oat or soy can help add back some creaminess too.

Benefits of Ordering Sugar Free at Starbucks

Some key benefits of opting for a customized sugar free matcha latte include:

  • Lower/no added sugar – For those monitoring daily sugar grams, you can completely avoid or reduce added sugars.
  • More matcha benefits – Without syrup overpowering it, the health properties of matcha come through more.
  • Hyperpalatable taste – For some, the stronger matcha taste without sweetness is more palatable long-term.
  • Fewer calories – Eliminating high-calorie sugar syrup reduces the calorie count of your latte.

Ordering sugar free allows you to make your matcha latte work for your dietary preferences and health goals. The customization options show Starbucks’ commitment to accommodate reasonable requests.

Tips for Ordering Sugar Free at Starbucks

To help ensure your order for a sugar free matcha latte (or any drink) goes smoothly, keep these tips in mind:

  • Politely specify “no syrup” instead of “sugar free.” The custom “no syrup” method works for all drinks.
  • Repeat your request for no syrup when they ask for confirmation at the end.
  • You can write no syrup on the cup sleeve as an extra reminder.
  • If your drink contains syrup, politely ask for a remake without syrup.
  • Try ordering when they aren’t extremely busy, if possible.

The baristas genuinely want to get your order right, so being understanding if they need clarification goes a long way.

Does Making Sugar Free Matcha Lattes Present Issues for Starbucks?

As a large chain, Starbucks prioritizes efficient systems and workflows to meet huge customer demand every day. Are there any issues caused on their end by accommodating sugar free matcha latte orders? Here are a few considerations:

Meeting Special Requests Takes More Time

Customizing drinks requires extra time compared to making standard menu beverages. For staffing and efficiency, most Starbucks locations allot a certain average amount of time per order. Customizations push that time upward, which can increase wait times for all customers when understaffed or crowded.

However, Starbucks is dedicated to meeting reasonable custom requests despite slowing down the workflow. They account for customized orders as part of the realities of operating their business model.

Increased Order Errors

Writing cups and communicating customized drink details between baristas provides more opportunities for orders to get entered incorrectly. Requests for sugar free matcha lattes and other customized drinks likely lead to a slightly higher order error rate.

Staff do their best to repeat back orders to customers to confirm details. But mistakes inevitably occur when dealing with hundreds of customized orders per day on top of common menu beverages. When orders are wrong, customers should politely ask for remakes.

Higher Learning Curve for New Baristas

Starbucks baristas go through intensive training to learn drink recipes and cup marking. Sugar free customization orders add a layer of complexity onto the initial training for new hires.

Supervisors and long-time baristas help train new staff on gracefully accommodating customer requests. Hands-on practice helps commit the steps to memory through repetition over time on bar.

Potential Customer Confusion About Drinks

Some Starbucks customers order drinks assuming sugar free syrups are used, while baristas make them with standard syrups unless specified. Or customers order standard drinks expecting them to be sugar free by default. This disconnect can lead to frustration and incorrect orders.

Clear menu labeling and communication from baristas helps set expectations properly around custom sugar free orders. As customized drinks grow popular through social media and word of mouth, customers become better educated on ordering specifics.

Lower Profit Margins

Leaving off high-margin ingredients like toppings and syrups decreases profitability on customized drinks. Labor hours are also allocated based on sales, so custom orders that take longer cut into profits.

However, Starbucks maintains their commitment to accommodate reasonable customizations as part of the customer service experience they want to provide.

Does Starbucks Have the Capability to Make Sugar Free Matcha Lattes?

While customized orders present inevitable challenges, Starbucks is well equipped overall to handle requests like sugar free matcha lattes. Here are some factors that show why they can accommodate this drink order:

Flexible Point of Sale System

Technology upgrades allow Starbucks baristas to manually enter in customization details that diverge from standard menu items. Their point of sale system includes modifiers and customization options.

For sugar free matcha lattes, they can select the standard latte, then add a note for “no syrup” when entering the order. This communicates the accurate cup markings to the bar staff.

Variety of Sweeteners and Milk Options

Starbucks carries multiple dairy and non-dairy milk options beyond whole and skim milk. Their range of non-dairy milks like soy, coconut, almond, and oat allow customers to customize their perfect drink.

They also have alternatives to standard sugar syrup, including sugar free syrups and natural sweeteners like honey and stevia. While these allow even more customization, the “no syrup” method works best for the lowest sugar and calories.

Dedicated Customization Bar Area

In most locations, Starbucks designates one bar area just for customization drinks separate from the main bar making core menu items. This allows the customized sugar free matcha lattes to have a dedicated space.

The custom bar area helps keep customized drinks from slowing down the queue of hot and cold bar drinks. Separating the workflow improves efficiency.

Ongoing Barista Training

Starbucks provides training resources and support to teach baristas how to handle special order requests. Customizations are now common enough that new hires get trained on modifying standard recipes early on.

Experienced supervisors also mentor newer baristas on the bar to help them gain confidence accommodating reasonable customizations while maintaining speed.

Matcha Powder on Hand

All Starbucks locations that sell matcha lattes keep matcha powder stocked at all times, as it’s a permanent menu staple. They source their premium matcha from Japan.

Having the key base ingredient always available makes whipping up a sugar free matcha latte easy. The matcha powder provides the fundamental flavor.

Should Starbucks Add Sugar Free Matcha Lattes to Their Permanent Menu?

With the demand for low sugar drink options higher than ever, should Starbucks look at officially putting sugar free matcha lattes on their menu? Here are some pros and cons of making it a permanent menu item:


  • Meet demand for lower sugar drinks
  • Reduce customization time since it’s a preset option
  • Provide an option for health-conscious consumers
  • Cater to keto and paleo diet followers
  • Increase sales from dieters/diabetics who otherwise avoid lattes


  • Increased complexity with more menu items
  • Difficult to mass produce sugar free syrup in stores
  • Order errors and confusion if customers expect different level of sweetness
  • May disappoint customers expecting added sweetness from standard recipe
  • Requires new menu boards, signs, and employee training

Weighing the considerations, Starbucks may be best situated keeping the sugar free matcha latte as a common customized order rather than permanently on the menu. This provides the flexibility to accommodate customers seeking lower sugar while minimizing operational complexity for baristas.

How Does a Sugar Free Matcha Latte Compare to Other Low Sugar Starbucks Drinks?

Choosing to order sugar free matcha lattes puts them in the company of many other lower sugar Starbucks beverages. How does a customized sugar free matcha latte compare nutritionally to some other low sugar Starbucks options? Here’s a look:

Sugar Free Matcha Latte

  • ~5 calories (from minimal matcha powder sugar)
  • ~1g natural sugar
  • 130mg caffeine (grande)
  • No added sugar or artificial sweetener

Cold Brew with Sweet Cream

  • 100 calories (grande)
  • 12g natural sugar (from cream)
  • 155mg caffeine
  • No added sugar

Iced Coffee with Sugar Free Vanilla Syrup

  • 15 calories
  • 2g sugar
  • 190mg caffeine
  • Includes artificial sweetener sucralose

Hot Tea

  • 0 calories
  • 0g sugar
  • 35mg caffeine
  • No added sugar or sweetener

Ordering “no syrup” matcha lattes provides a zero added sugar, plant-based caffeinated beverage. But Starbucks’ unsweetened hot tea and cold brew options also offer lower sugar choices sans sweeteners.

The Bottom Line – Should You Order a Sugar Free Matcha Latte?

Here’s a recap of key points to help you decide if requesting a sugar free matcha latte at Starbucks fits your dietary needs and taste preferences:

  • It’s easy to customize standard lattes to be sugar free by asking for no syrup
  • You’ll taste more potent matcha flavor without the balancing sweetness
  • Benefits include reducing sugar, calories, and hyperpalatable tastes
  • The texture will be thinner without the syrup’s viscosity
  • Starbucks can accommodate the request despite slowing down speed of service
  • Compares well to other unsweetened options on Starbucks’ menu for low sugar

Overall, ordering a matcha latte with no sugar syrup is an easy way to enjoy the benefits of green tea while controlling added sugars and customize to your preferences. The minimize to no added sugar makes this an ideal choice for health-conscious coffee drinkers looking for plant-based energy.

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