May 7, 2019

Is It a Match-a Made in Heaven? Ranking All the Matcha Tea Lattes in Town

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If you are aware of food trends that are sweeping the world these past few years, you have heard of matcha. Yes, it’s the drink that makes unknowing people question whether it is St. Patrick’s Day already. Despite its recent popularity, this drink is actually nothing new and is simply a type of green tea that has been specially harvested, steamed, dried and made into a powder without any waste.

Why do people drink matcha? As Cornellians, we love using caffeine to fuel us, and matcha lattes are a slow and steady force creeping their way into the population to compete with tea and coffee. It’s filled with antioxidants and is a delicious way to get a steady level of energy for hours. What’s not to like?

There is one issue, though — with so many options for a matcha latte here on campus, where should you go to spend your money and what places should you avoid? If you are obsessed with matcha lattes already and want to learn which place is the best around, or if you want to try it but don’t know where to start, this is your guide.

To determine this ultimate question, I have drunk an embarrassingly large number of matcha lattes from the places in and around Cornell over the past few days; even my friends were concerned about the amount of caffeine I was ingesting.

In every place, I tried my best to order the same drink — the smallest size of iced matcha latte — and here are the results:

5. Kung Fu Tea (Collegetown)

While I usually love to come here to enjoy their bubble tea, this time I was prepared to finally try their matcha latte which is called a “matcha milk.” However, despite what their menu and website listed, I was told that they didn’t carry the drink anymore and was instead offered to try their sesame matcha. It didn’t fit my description of a matcha latte, so I was unable to review them, which is the reason why they are at the bottom of the list.


4. Collegetown Bagels (Collegetown)

$4.27 with tax
Cash and card accepted, no card minimum

Matcha Latte: (1/10)
Well, where do I even begin? Compared to all the other matcha lattes, this one had the darkest color, which meant they either added more powder or less milk which was not a good choice because it caused the drink to be overwhelmingly dense. Although the drink had the right amount of ice, it was not creamy at all, and it had a really strong grass-like smell that even a matcha lover like me finds off-putting. It also took a lot more sugar syrup than I usually add to make it taste remotely flavored. Mainly, it is quite powdery, and after each sip, you are left with a dry texture on your tongue. In fact, after a few minutes, you can see the matcha particles starting to settle down at the bottom. I would say it is closer to a badly mixed matcha tea than a matcha latte.

Ambiance: (4/10)
CTB is an Ithaca staple, and the quirky side of this city is shown well here. Over the summer, the patio becomes an amazing place to hang out while munching on your favorite food items. There’s a nice natural light coming from the windows and many outlets for those of us who want to study in a place that’s not a library. One big negative about the ambiance, however, is its “signature smell.” Due to the vast number of sandwiches and bagels being made every single day, you definitely get hit by the smoky smell of burnt toast every time you enter CTB and more often than not, leave smelling like it, too.

The price is average, but is definitely not worth it due to the quality of the drink.


3. Starbucks (Collegetown)

$4.50 with tax
Cash and card accepted, no card minimum

Matcha Latte: (6/10)
This is the matcha latte that you can get at every Starbucks in the country. The drink is creamy and smooth; it has a layer of foam over it that goes down in a couple minutes to reveal that the cup wasn’t actually filled to the brim. They sweeten the drink for you, but I found it too sweet for my liking. There is a lot of ice in the cup, and the smell of matcha is nice and clean. It’s nothing special, but if you like especially sweet drinks, you’ll definitely enjoy this one.

Ambiance: (7/10)
Starbucks is a place where you can sit in nice couches and hang out as you enjoy your food. If you don’t mind the chatter, it’s a nice place to study.

At $4.50, it’s slightly more expensive than the other matcha lattes. However, there’s nothing special about it to justify the few extra cents.


2. Cafe Jennie (Central Campus)

$4.09 + tax = $4.42
BRBs and CornellCard accepted

Matcha Latte: (8/10)
This drink is creamy and has a frothy quality that comes from the fact that they mix the powder with the liquids in a blender. This allows the matcha to completely dissolve in the drink and, in my opinion, makes the latte incredibly smooth. However, this also causes the drink to be one-fourth foam, which is something to be aware of. Finally, the amount of ice makes the drink perfectly refreshing without watering it down in any way.

Ambiance: (8/10)
Cafe Jennie is a nice place to hang out, have lunch or do work when you can get a seat. If not, its location in the middle of campus still allows it to be a to-go option for many Cornellians. Even on days where the weather in Ithaca is gloomy, the glass ceiling allows bright, natural light to come in.

The price is average but the option of being able to use BRBs make this a nice choice. Also, if you have a specialty drink punch card, you can use them here towards getting a free drink after 10 purchases.

chatty cathy

1. Chatty Cathy (Collegetown)

$3.50 + tax = $3.78
Cash and card accepted, no card minimum

Matcha Latte: (9/10)
This drink is creamy and smooth without the frills. It smells like just the right amount of pure powder to remind you what you are drinking without overpowering the nose. You can taste the milk that is perfectly coating the matcha powder as well. Although there is a little too much ice in the drink, the quality of the matcha makes up for it.

Ambiance: (9/10)
Chatty Cathy is a tiny café with very limited space. However, if you can grab one of the eight seats available, it is such a nice place. The vibrant colors really go with the vibe of the café and the staff is always warm and welcoming — they also drew a cute heart on my cup, which is so fitting for Chatty Cathy.

At $3.50 this option is definitely is the cheapest one on the list and the quality is amazing. Count me in!

After tasting all of the various matcha lattes around Cornell I can honestly say that my go-to place has changed from Cafe Jennie to Chatty Cathy.  Whether you are trying to learn about the best matcha latte in town or trying to see what this “green drink” is all about, I hope this piece inspires you to try an iced matcha tea latte from one of these places yourself.