Is matcha latte healthy at Starbucks?

Matcha latte has become an increasingly popular drink option at coffee shops like Starbucks in recent years. But is ordering a matcha latte actually a healthy choice? As a green tea-based beverage, matcha latte contains some potential health benefits. However, the high sugar and calorie content of Starbucks’ version may negate some of those advantages.

What is matcha?

Matcha is a type of green tea made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. What makes matcha unique is that the tea leaves are finely ground into a powder, so you are drinking the whole leaf rather than just steeping it in water. This allows you to ingest the full nutrient contents of the tea leaves.

Matcha contains certain compounds found in green tea known to have health benefits:

  • Antioxidants like EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that may help prevent cell damage and lower risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease
  • L-theanine, an amino acid that may promote relaxation and focused alertness
  • Caffeine to boost energy levels

Some studies have suggested matcha can boost metabolism, increase fat burning, enhance cognitive function, and improve gastrointestinal health due to its high antioxidant content and nutrient profile.

Nutrition facts of matcha powder

The nutritional value of matcha can vary depending on factors like where it is grown, processing methods, and quality. Here are some general nutrition facts for one teaspoon (2 grams) of matcha powder:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 3
Total fat 0g
Sodium 0mg
Potassium 22mg
Total carbs 1g
Sugar 0g
Protein 0g
Caffeine 34mg

As you can see, plain matcha powder is very low in calories, fat, carbs, and sugar. It also provides a boost of caffeine along with antioxidants, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals.

What goes into a Starbucks matcha latte?

Starbucks offers both hot and iced versions of its matcha latte. The ingredients include:

  • 2-3 scoops of matcha powder
  • Steamed milk (choice of dairy or non-dairy)
  • Ice (for iced version)
  • Simple syrup (liquid cane sugar)

The matcha powder used at Starbucks is sourced from Japan. Starbucks notes its matcha lattes contain around 80mg of caffeine. Customers can choose between dairy milk options like 2%, whole milk, and non-dairy milks such as soy, coconut, and almond. Size options range from Tall (12 oz) to Venti (24 oz).

Nutrition information for Starbucks matcha latte

Starbucks provides the following nutrition information for a Venti hot matcha latte made with 2% milk and no customizations:

Nutrient Amount
Calories 180
Total fat 9g
Saturated fat 6g
Trans fat 0g
Cholesterol 30mg
Sodium 100mg
Total carbs 24g
Dietary fiber 0g
Sugars 20g
Protein 10g
Caffeine 80mg

A few things stand out from these nutrition facts:

  • High in calories and sugar: At 180 calories and 20g of sugar for a Venti, the matcha latte is quite high in calories and added sugar.
  • Lacks fiber: Unlike having a plain matcha tea, the Starbucks latte contains no fiber from the ground tea leaves.
  • Contains fat and saturated fat: The steamed milk adds a significant amount of fat and saturated fat.
  • High in protein: The milk also boosts the protein content.

Customizations like switching to non-dairy milk, adding sweeteners, and changing the portion size would alter the nutrition profile. An iced matcha latte tends to have slightly fewer calories and lower fat content.

Pros of drinking matcha latte from Starbucks

There are some potential advantages to choosing a Starbucks matcha latte:

  • Provides antioxidants – Matcha is rich in antioxidants like EGCG that can help neutralize damaging free radicals and reduce inflammation.
  • Boosts energy – The caffeine in matcha can provide a sustained energy boost without causing the crash some experience from coffee.
  • Supports concentration – L-theanine in matcha may work synergistically with caffeine to promote alert focus.
  • Easy to find – You can conveniently find a matcha latte at any Starbucks location.
  • Customizable – Starbucks offers options to customize your matcha latte with your choice of milk, sweetness level, and temperature.

Cons of drinking matcha latte from Starbucks

On the other hand, there are some downsides to ordering a Starbucks matcha latte:

  • High in sugar – The standard matcha latte contains 20g of added sugar, accounting for most of the calories.
  • Contains preservatives – The matcha powder may be cut with sugar and preservatives like citric acid to extend shelf life.
  • Lower quality matcha – Starbucks likely uses decent but not top-tier ceremonial grade Japanese matcha.
  • Non-fat version lacks benefits – Choosing non-fat milk causes you to miss out on the healthy fats found in full-fat dairy or plant milks.
  • Expensive – A matcha latte costs $3-5, more than a regular coffee or tea beverage.

Healthiest ways to order matcha latte at Starbucks

If you want to make your Starbucks matcha latte as healthy as possible, consider these tweak ideas:

  • Size down to a Tall or Grande to reduce calories, sugar, and fat.
  • Select unsweetened plant milk like soy or almond to cut sugar and get benefits like protein, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Ask for only 1-2 pumps of the sweetener instead of standard 4 for a Grande or 5 for a Venti.
  • Add just a dash of cinnamon or cacao powder for extra flavor instead of syrup.
  • For iced, request light ice or cold-foam to get more actual drink.
  • Substitute stevia, a no-calorie natural sweetener, for the usual syrup.
  • Try it with an alternate milk like oat or coconut for a different nutritional profile.

Healthier homemade matcha latte options

For a matcha latte with maximum health benefits, it’s best to make your own at home. Here are some ideas for healthier homemade versions:

  • Blend matcha powder with hot or cold milk/plant milk, cinnamon, and a dash of natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup.
  • Froth warmed milk with a milk frother and combine with matcha powder, ice, and vanilla extract for a luxurious iced latte.
  • Mix matcha powder with milk/milk alternative and pour over ice, then addfruit like banana slices or berries for natural sweetness.
  • Make a golden milk latte by blending heated milk with matcha powder, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper.
  • For a vegan option, combine cold brewed tea, plant milk, ice, matcha powder, and agave nectar in a high speed blender.

Preparing matcha latte yourself allows you to control the ingredients, use high quality matcha powder, customize flavors, and avoid excess sugar and preservatives. Just be sure to use unsweetened milk or plant milk and limit added sweeteners.

Should you drink matcha latte every day?

Drinking matcha latte every day can offer some benefits but also has drawbacks to consider:

Potential benefits of daily matcha latte

  • Boosts antioxidant intake for health protection
  • Provides sustained energy and mental focus from caffeine
  • Increases consumption of green tea compounds
  • Satisfies cravings for sweet, creamy drinks
  • Fits easily into daily routine

Potential downsides of daily matcha latte

  • May cause side effects if caffeine intake is excessive
  • Adds lots of extra calories, sugar, fat if ordering version with additions
  • Expensive as a daily habit
  • Not as nutritious as plain matcha tea
  • Easy to become reliant on for energy boost

Ultimately, enjoying matcha latte every day is fine for most healthy adults if you opt for unsweetened versions without excess sugar. But limit yourself to 8-12 oz, watch your total caffeine intake, and consider taking occasional breaks from it.

The bottom line

Matcha latte from Starbucks can provide antioxidant benefits from the green tea but contains high amounts of sugar. Ordering it with the healthiest milk and minimized sweeteners makes it a better choice. Making your own healthier matcha lattes at home is ideal. Drinking matcha latte daily is reasonable as part of balanced diet, but too much may cause side effects.

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