Starbucks Japan's New Green Tea Frapp Features A Savory Ingredient

The Frappuccino is known as a sweet and frosty blended drink, but Starbucks Japan has just challenged that notion. Given that Japan has pioneered the recognition of umami for years (via Flavour), it's no surprise that Starbucks retailers in the Northeast Asian country have decided to introduce a savory ingredient into the otherwise saccharine sip. A Starbucks Japan exclusive, the Matcha Genmaicha Mochi Frappuccino is the newest addition to the Frapp family — but can you guess what the secret, savory ingredient is?

Available nationwide in Japan starting December 26, JW Magazine reports that the Frappuccino is a limited-time offer along with other get-it-while-you-can items such as the earthy and sweet Matcha Genmaicha Mousse Tea Latte that's topped with luxurious matcha mousse, along with the toasty Japanese Chai Tea Latte that provides a unique twist on the chai latte thanks to its roasted green tea (hojicha) base and the inclusion of ginger, yuzu, and Japanese pepper.

As for the Matcha Genmaicha Mochi Frappuccino, the concoction offers the perfect balance of sweetness and bitterness in every sip. Topped with an airy matcha mousse, the creamy, yet clean-tasting Frapp also boasts a layer of whipped cream underneath the mousse and a sprinkle of rich, white chocolate powder on top of the drink. Visually stunning and just as impressive to taste, the Matcha Genmaicha Mochi Frappuccino also features one very unlikely ingredient that adds an element of earthiness.

Seaweed is the secret savory ingredient

Promising to provide some relaxation as the year draws to a close, Starbucks Japan explains that the Matcha Genmaicha Mochi Frappuccino features three types of matcha (green tea powder) along with genmaicha (a blend of green tea and roasted popped brown rice). However, the drink also contains a sweet powder made from black soybeans, and — drum roll, please — kombu seaweed as the mystery ingredient.

Adding depth and dimension, it's true that the marker of seaweed is its salinity, but different types of algae may vary in flavor. For instance, Japan Living Guide shares that briny nori is a staple for sushi and snacking, whereas milder wakame shines in salads, and earthy kombu is essential for soups, among other (sweeter) uses. Packed with nutrients, the aquatic ingredient appeals to the Japanese palate and is a key component in a variety of dishes, making it no wonder that seaweed is also featured in Starbucks' newest Frapp.

Although many would agree that the combination of sweet and savory is always a winner, the addition of umami-rich kombu in a sugary Frappuccino might also be a nod to tradition. According to Sora News 24, time-honored cafés that specialize in desserts have been known to serve kombu alongside plates of sweets, meant to enhance flavors and act as a palate cleanser. Providing a bit of balance through contrasting tastes, the Matcha Genmaicha Mochi Frappuccino is sure to incite curiosity!