Is matcha green tea at Starbucks healthy?

Matcha green tea has become an increasingly popular drink option at coffee shops like Starbucks in recent years. Matcha is a finely ground powder made from specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It provides a number of health benefits, from antioxidants to improved concentration. But is the matcha green tea latte you can order at Starbucks just as healthy? Or is it loaded with sugar and other additives that can counteract the intended health benefits? This article will examine the nutritional content and healthfulness of Starbucks’ matcha drinks to help you make an informed decision.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a high-quality, finely ground green tea powder. It comes from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, like other green, black, and oolong teas. But matcha is unique in that the tea plants are covered for several weeks before harvest, blocking out sunlight and increasing chlorophyll production. This process results in leaves that are rich in the antioxidant chlorophyll, amino acids, and other beneficial compounds.

Once harvested, the leaves are steamed, stripped of their stems and veins, and ground into a fine powder. While you steep regular green or black tea leaves in hot water, matcha powder is whisked or stirred directly into water or milk. This allows you to consume the entire leaf, providing more nutrients than steeped teas.

Some of the key benefits associated with matcha green tea include:

  • High antioxidant content – Matcha contains catechins, polyphenols, and chlorophyll, which act as antioxidants to protect cells from damage.
  • Enhanced concentration – The amino acid L-theanine in matcha produces a calm, alert state.
  • Energy boost – Matcha has about 3 times the caffeine content of regular brewed green tea.
  • Supports metabolism – Research shows matcha can boost metabolism and aid fat burning.

Nutrition Facts of Starbucks Matcha Drinks

Starbucks offers matcha powder blended into either water (Matcha Green Tea Latte) or milk (Matcha Green Tea Crème). Customers can select nonfat, reduced fat (2%), or whole milk options. The nutritional value differs depending on size (Tall 12 oz, Grande 16 oz, Venti 20 oz) and milk choice.

Here are the nutrition facts for a Venti Matcha Green Tea Latte made with 2% milk at Starbucks:

Matcha Green Tea Latte with 2% milk (Venti 20 oz)

Calories 190
Total Fat 9 g
Saturated Fat 6 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 30 mg
Sodium 150 mg
Total Carbohydrate 28 g
Dietary Fiber 0 g
Total Sugars 25 g
Protein 10 g

A few things stand out about Starbucks’ matcha latte nutrition facts:

  • High in calories – A 20 oz drink ranges from 190-250 calories depending on milk choice.
  • Low in fiber – The matcha powder itself is removed from most of the plant fiber.
  • High in sugar – With 25-35g total sugars, most of the calories come from sugar.
  • Moderate caffeine – Around 80mg caffeine per 20 oz serving.

The nutritional value can improve slightly if you request it unsweetened, but there will still be 10-15 grams of sugar from the milk.

Starbucks Customizations for a Healthier Matcha Latte

While Starbucks’ standard matcha green tea latte recipe is high in sugar, you can customize your order to make it healthier:

  • Request it unsweetened – Saves 25g of sugar and 100 calories.
  • Use nonfat or soy milk – Drops the calories, fat, and cholesterol.
  • Ask for less scoops of matcha – Lowers caffeine and sugar content.
  • Add sugar-free syrup – Contributes sweetness without extra sugar.
  • Include fresh spinach – Adds fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Top with cinnamon – Can help regulate blood sugar.

Even with customizations, the matcha latte won’t be quite as healthy as brewing traditional matcha powder at home. But these tweaks can help reduce the sugar and calories significantly.

Health Benefits of Matcha vs. Starbucks Matcha Drinks

Drinking freshly prepared matcha made from ceremonial grade powder offers the most health perks. Here is how the potential benefits differ between traditional matcha vs. Starbucks’ matcha lattes:

Traditional Matcha

  • Higher antioxidant content – Prepared traditionally, the powder delivers far more catechins.
  • More fiber – When you consume the whole leaf, you get the plant fiber.
  • Higher purity – Ceremonial grade matcha has less contaminants.
  • Less added sugar – You control what you add as far as sweeteners.
  • Higher L-theanine – Supports focus and calm energy.

Starbucks Matcha

  • Lower antioxidant content – Catechins degrade more over time.
  • Almost no fiber – Removed from the leaves during processing.
  • Lower purity – Starbucks doesn’t disclose quality grade.
  • Added sugar – Automatically sweetened with 25+ grams per serving.
  • Lower L-theanine – Some loss during pre-packaging.

Drinking Starbucks matcha will still provide you with some level of antioxidants, caffeine, and phytonutrients. But traditional, freshly prepared matcha offers the most evidence-backed health benefits.

Is Starbucks’ Matcha Sweetened with Sugar or Artificial Sweeteners?

Starbucks sweetens its pre-made matcha powder blend primarily with sugar. The standard matcha lattes contain 25-35 grams of sugar, depending on size. The ingredients list just states “sugar” rather than a specific type.

Starbucks uses liquid cane sugar as the sweetener in its other drinks, rather than high fructose corn syrup. So the matcha powder is most likely sweetened with standard cane sugar as well.

The matcha lattes do not contain artificial sweeteners or sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, stevia, or sucralose. Some customers who order the drinks unsweetened will add sugar-free syrups, such as vanilla or caramel. But the pre-made matcha blend itself does not contain non-nutritive sweeteners.

Should You Drink Starbucks Matcha for the Caffeine?

Matcha contains somewhat more caffeine than regular brewed green tea, providing a bit of an energy boost. Starbucks cites around 80mg of caffeine per 20 oz matcha latte.

Compared to other Starbucks drinks:

  • 2-3x more caffeine than green tea
  • 1/3 the caffeine of a 20 oz coffee
  • 1/2 the caffeine of a 20 oz black tea
  • 1/4 the caffeine of a venti brewed coffee

The level of caffeine content in matcha can help increase alertness, performance, and fat burning if you don’t have an existing heart condition or sensitivity to stimulants.

However, the high sugar content counteracts some of the benefits for weight loss, blood sugar regulation, and insulin sensitivity. The calories can also simply replace rather than augment your body’s energy intake.

You would get the same moderate caffeine boost with less sugar from a Grande Pike Place roast coffee or venti black iced tea. Or opt for a hot green tea latte and add a shot of espresso.

Does Starbucks Use High Quality Ceremonial Grade Matcha?

Starbucks does not disclose which grade of matcha it sources for its latte powders. But it’s unlikely to be ceremonial grade based on the flavor, color, and pricing.

Ceremonial matcha is vibrant green in color, has a fresh, grassy flavor, and can cost $50 or more for 30 grams. The matcha latte powder at Starbucks is duller green, with a somewhat bitter, vegetal taste. And a 20 oz latte costs around $5, making high quality matcha cost-prohibitive.

Starbucks likely uses an inexpensive culinary grade of matcha, which is meant for cooking rather than drinking straight. While safe and providing some health benefits, culinary grade won’t offer the same nutrient levels or freshness as ceremonial grade matcha.

Should You Drink Starbucks Matcha Lattes While Pregnant?

Many health professionals advise pregnant women to limit caffeine intake to under 200mg per day. Matcha green tea lattes from Starbucks contain around 80mg caffeine for a 20 oz drink. This is a moderate level that should be safe for most pregnant women, especially when limiting other sources of caffeine.

However, the high sugar content is a larger concern. Consuming 25-35 grams of added sugar daily can increase risks of excess weight gain. Excessive sugar intake is also linked to higher risk of gestational diabetes in pregnancy.

If you want to incorporate matcha while pregnant, consider ordering it with nonfat milk and unsweetened. Keep the size small or ask for half the squirts of matcha powder to reduce caffeine. Also aim to get caffeine from healthier sources like matcha the rest of the day.

Does Starbucks’ Matcha Contain Lead?

Lead is not listed as an ingredient or nutritional component in Starbucks matcha lattes. However, the matcha plant inherently absorbs lead from soil and water. One independent analysis of matcha from China found lead levels between 2.5-4.7 parts per million (ppm).

The lead concentration in matcha is generally not a health concern for adults. But pregnant women are advised to limit lead exposure as much as possible. Making matcha from hot water instead of milk also increases lead exposure.

Starbucks does not publicly provide lead testing results for its matcha powder supply. Pregnant women may want to exercise caution and consume matcha lattes in moderation. Going with a small size, using nonfat milk, and asking for light powder are ways to further reduce potential lead exposure.

Is Starbucks Matcha Vegan?

Starbucks matcha powder ingredients contain no animal products, making it vegan friendly. However, the standard recipes are prepared with cow’s milk.

To make Starbucks matcha lattes vegan, request it prepared with a dairy-free milk such as:

  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Coconut milk
  • Oat milk

You may also want to ask for it unsweetened since the type of sugar is not specified. Baristas can use sugar alternatives like agave nectar to sweeten it instead.


Starbucks offers matcha green tea lattes prepared from sweetened matcha powder blended with milk. While providing some antioxidant benefits, these drinks are high in sugar and not equivalent to traditional matcha in nutritional value. Customizing your order, such as with nonfat milk and no sweetener, can improve the health profile. But for the most benefits, it’s ideal to prepare single-origin, ceremonial grade matcha at home with hot water and minimal mix-ins.

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