Matcha. Matcha. Matcha. A staple of life for many in Japan and China. Possessing a ludicrously long list of health benefits, the humble green tea powder has now taken the rest of the world by storm: the #matcha hashtag has been used over two million times on Instagram alone; it’s safe to say that if you still haven’t seen a #matchalatte or #matchapancake floating around, you don’t go out very much. You know how else I know matcha is in vogue? When it’s actually in Vogue. It is timely then, along with the advent of winter, that I cover Sydney’s matcha scene with no better representative than the matcha latte.
Also known as green tea lattes (GTLs – used interchangeably with matcha lattes in this post), matcha lattes comprise a short ingredient list: matcha powder, milk, and a sweetener of some sort. Seemingly simple, fiendishly complex to get right. I brave twenty venues to bring you:
The Best Matcha Lattes in Sydney
Sweetness (out of 6)
Too sweet? Ick. Too little sweetness? Also ick. Goldilocks sweetness a good matcha latte makes. For me, a level of sweetness that brings out the earthy bitterness of the matcha powder, without subsuming it is where it’s at. One huge caveat: sweetness is possibly the most subjective – and thus debatable – aspect of this post. Adjust your expectations accordingly if you have a baseline for sweetness that far differs to me
Another note: some venues deliberately serve fully unsweetened GTLs by default. While it can be argued that controlling your own sugar means the venue shouldn’t be scored, I believe that a talented barista can create a very well-balanced matcha latte that will satisfy most palates. As such, take my sweetness scores for these venues with a grain of
Matcha intensity (out of 6)
I prefer not to drink green milk. On the other hand, drinking bitter medicine is a whole different world of unappealing. A GTL scoring highly on sweetness and matcha intensity would be well-balanced, which is a hallmark of quality in execution. Whatever level of sweetness used must be equalised with the amount of matcha powder involved.
Evenness (out of 5)
A good matcha latte should be texturally even. That is, one should not expect to have their tastebuds sullied by an unreasonable amount of powderiness, graininess, and other textural distractions arising from poor whisking and/or milk incorporation. There also shouldn’t be too much frothing/density fluctuations, and so on: a consistent experience from the beginning to the end of the drink is valued.
Misc (out of 3)
By default, all venues earn at least one point if the cost of the matcha latte is within a norm (usually $4-$5 for hot matcha lattes, $6-$7 for iced variants). A matcha latte had better be damn good if it exceeds these average prices. The other two points can be earned through an above-average presentation and/or thoughtful additions that make the GTL offering stand out from the crowd.
Note for lactards/non-milk drinkers: in my GTL adventures, I’ve found that soy milk can actually serve as a decent substitute to dairy milk. However, for these matcha adventures we stuck to full cream. Results may vary if your choice of milk strays from ours.
Without further ado, let’s get sipping!
The Best Matcha Lattes in Sydney – The List
Cafe Cre Asion
Still the OG of GTLs, Cre Asion almost single-handedly dominates the field. There’s a Goldilocks amount of sweetness, intensity, and the fact that it comes in a proper matcha bowl really makes it a must-have every time I’m here. While praising its looks may be vain, aesthetics go a long way, especially when considering the history of matcha in the greater context of Japanese tea ceremonies (chanoyu) where form, in many cases, go above function.
Cre Asion’s GTL could do with less sprinkled powder on top as I occasionally end up battling between the wet milk and dry powder, but overall this is about as legit as the green stuff gets.
The iced version could use a bit of extra balancing – they don’t account for the dilutive effect of ice on the flavour and intensity profile of the drink.
One-liner summary: if the GTL here doesn’t impress you, nothing will.
Sweetness: 6 | Intensity: 5 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 3
It would be a faux pas for a post like this not to include one of Sydney’s most recognisable names in milk tea. Chatime has been sating thirsts for years, and I myself have indulged in many an occasion. With that said, its matcha latte is new even to me.
Fortunately, Chatime’s welcome practice of allowing the customer to determine the amount of included sugar – at 25% intervals – is also available for their matcha lattes. This is good news beyond the obvious benefit of being able to control your sweetness: it is also assurance that Chatime uses proper, unmixed matcha powder, as opposed to some venues that will simply use a pre-mixed concoction of matcha powder, sugars and goodness knows what else.
The result is a decent, though not spectacular GTL. My choice of 50% sugar was close to the mark in terms of sweetness, and both iced and hot versions of the drink were remarkably consistent, without any noticeable lumps or bumps. The one key aspect these lattes lacked was matcha intensity. There wasn’t enough matcha oomph, so ‘green milk syndrome’ was awfully close.
One-liner summary: above average, but not by much.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 2 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 2
My Sweet Memory
My last patronisation of My Sweet Memory was so long ago, I wasn’t even a legal adult. A popular spot with students, this Korean cafe chain has always been a cafe that did things a bit differently, in that you can actually buy the furniture/props used in the cafe. But I digress.
Something else you can buy is their matcha lattes, though straight off the bat: if you prefer your drinks less sweet, you will want to keep walking. As you’ll see in other Korean cafes in this post, My Sweet Memory has a tendency to oversweeten their brews. There’s also a certain steamed green tea (sencha) flavour, again common to all other Korean cafes on this list. My suspicion: they’re all using a similar matcha powder pre-mix, and that this is simply the Korean style of matcha lattes.
The result is a GTL that’s too sweet, lacks sufficient matcha intensity, and doesn’t quite fit my Japanese-attuned matcha palate.
The same can be said of the iced version, though I did like how the ice was finely crushed, so it was more like a frappe, and much more enjoyable to drink than other iced lattes that use chunky ice that dilutes the flavour.
One-liner: come here for the nice space and wifi, not the matcha lattes.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 3 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 1
Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar
For a venue specialising in tea-based beverages, churning out one of the worst matcha lattes on this list is no easy feat. Yet, that’s something The Rabbit Hole has accomplished: it’s a very poor excuse of a matcha latte.
We were served what effectively amounted to milk with green food colouring. No sweetness, no matcha presence, not even much of a milk presence. Just…not much at all. The same can be said of the iced latte, except it’s even more watery, with the same paucity of substance as its hot sibling. Yep, that’s pretty much it. Short review, right? I wasn’t given much to begin with.
While I can personally vouch for some of the other drinks on The Rabbit Hole’s menu, anything with green tea powder in it is best reconsidered.
One-liner summary: you have to wonder if these guys are even trying. Skip.
Sweetness: 2 | Intensity: 0 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 1
Located on the same block as Cafe Cre Asion, the discovery that Indonesian-style cafe Blaq Piq even offers a matcha latte came as a huge surprise. After all, why even bother, when Cafe Cre Asion – serving literally the best matcha latte in Sydney – is right next door? Let’s just say hopes weren’t high, but we gave Blaq Piq a shot anyway.
Well, I’d better swallow my drink. If there was a case of expectations being completely shattered, this is it: Blaq Piq is the black swan of matcha lattes. The GTL that comes out of this cafe is literally as good as what Cre Asion offers, in almost every single way. In fact, it tastes exactly like Cre Asion’s; the flavour profile, the powderiness, the level of sweetness – it’s all there. If you told me Blaq Piq and Cre Asion share the same barista, I’d believe it.
While the presentation isn’t quite as good as Cre Asion’s dedicated matcha bowls, Blaq Piq does provide you with a small cup of sugar syrup so the sweetness of the GTL can be easily adjusted to your liking. As an added bonus, the iced latte at Blaq Piq is decidedly one of the best out there: better than Cre Asion’s. The ice is finely shaved, and actually carries the flavour of matcha as well – no more fear of it melting and diluting the drink! It’s also milky, perfectly sweet, and pretty much no powdery residue. Truly a great summer refresher.
One-liner summary: the dark horse of matcha lattes, you’ll want to see for yourself.
Sweetness: 6 | Intensity: 5 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 3
I’ve made some horrific puns in this post, so you’ll have to also excuse this one. The thing is, Top Impression in Wolli Creek truly gives a (tip) top impression, easily producing one of the best green tea lattes in Sydney. Then again, this is the cafe that’s famous for its matcha croissants filled with matcha creme patisserie; that it would churn out a good green tea latte isn’t really a surprise. Top Impression’s GTLs are delectably intense when it comes to the matcha stakes. In terms of sweetness, it loses out slightly to the other top contender – Cre Asion – Top Impression could use perhaps just a liiiiiiiiiiittle bit more sugar to balance out the matcha. But this is making a mountain out of a molehill. The only major weakness is that it’s a bit frothy and quite powdery towards the bottom, though in my GTL adventures I’ve found that it’s quite difficult to balance intensity vs grittiness. After all, the more intense the latte, the more powder is needed in the first place. While a flaw, it’s one I’d happily accept in order to drink a matcha latte of this level.
Add a very pretty serving cup with a beautifully patina, it’s no wonder that Top Impression wins a medal. While it couldn’t clinch the gold for its hot matcha latte, its iced variant is certainly the best of them all – on par with Blaq Piq’s. Top Impression’s iced product still delivers that same matcha oomph that almost all other iced GTLs lack.
One-liner summary: if you love matcha lattes and live in Wolli Creek, you’re a lucky soul.
Sweetness: 5 | Intensity: 6 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 3
A shoebox cafe in one of Sydney’s hottest food alleys, Glider KS (for Kensington Street) effortlessly glides (oh God help me) into this list with a stunning matcha latte. Marrying presentation with quality, Glider KS’ matcha latte talks the talk and walks the walk. It’s unsweetened by default, with a small cup of honey provided for you to sweeten the drink to your liking. With white/brown sugar also available, Glider takes its GTL implementation seriously. For me, two small spoonfuls of honey did the trick. At this level, the balance of sweetness and intensity is well-executed, though perhaps a little more matcha intensity would be appreciated.
My only two niggling criticisms is that the drink is still slightly more powdery than I would have liked, especially towards the bottom, and that the serving temperature wasn’t piping hot.
Glider KS’ iced GTL is less impressive due to a lot of matcha grit (as visible in the picture above), but otherwise isn’t too dissimilar in flavour to its hot sibling.
One-liner summary: worth a visit for the discerning matcha enthusiast.
Sweetness: 6 | Intensity: 4 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 3
Well Co Cafe
Representing Sydney’s inner west, Well Co Cafe in Glebe is a place where Moroccan baked eggs and green tea lattes can rub elbows on the same table. A bit weird, sure, but why the hell not?
Well…while the (unrelated) baked eggs was undoubtedly delicious, the same can’t be said of Well Co’s matcha latte. Simply put: it’s too sweet; and the matcha sugar dusted on top, does it no favours. Add on a heavy dash of powderiness and this makes for a GTL I can’t recommend.
The iced variant doesn’t do much better – it’s also very, very sweet and overly sedimentary. One thing to note about Well Co’s GTLs is that they have a sencha (whole leaf green tea) taste, which is slightly oceanic versus matcha’s more familiar bitterness.
One-liner summary: come for the matcha latte, stay for the baked eggs (and stop drinking the latte).
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 2 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 1
Chatswood’s Passiontree already has a well-established reputation for Asian desserts, but you may want to reconsider your passion for matcha lattes at this otherwise venerated venue. A high degree of sweetness and matcha inadequacy makes for a GTL on which to pass. Surprisingly, it also got sweeter as one got closer and closer to the bottom of the cup, suggesting uneven mixing.
With all that said, the matcha latte was very smooth; there was almost no powderiness to be discerned. The iced version echoed the warm version in profile, except with a lot more icyness (I didn’t taste the milk very much), so I would recommend this version even less.
One-liner summary: basically everything else on the menu is better.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 2 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 2
Double Cross Espresso
Nobody needs to double cross anyone in order to score a high-quality matcha latte at Double Cross Espresso. This relative newcomer takes its drinks seriously – hot chocolates are from Mork Chocolate Brewery in Melbourne, and matcha powder is sourced from reputed matcha supplier matcha maiden. Couple this with the fact that this is a cafe that features Japanese fusion dishes, it was reasonable that I came in with high expectations for its matcha lattes.
I came away quite satisfied; most components were well-executed – it’s unsweetened (DIY sugar input), and one of the smoothest GTLs on the list. In fact, the only criticism is that the matcha itself needs to be dialled up – double the matcha and that Matcha Maiden goodness will really shine.
The iced variant was basically the same in almost every way, but with a bit of extra powderiness (oh well).
One-liner summary: satisfying goodness in a cup, one not to pass up on.
Sweetness: 6 | Intensity: 3 | Evenness: 5 | Misc: 2
Cafe Cherry Beans
A popular student haunt not unlike Tom N Tom’s and My Sweet Memory, you’ll find more laptops than cups of coffee at Cafe Cherry Beans. We did our part to even out the ratio a bit with our two matcha lattes – hot & cold.
I’m pleased to say that Cafe Cherry Beans delivers an acceptable brew. While it oversweetens its drinks, as is usual with Korean cafes, Cherry Beans’ GTL isn’t cloyingly sweet, and there was actually a decent level of depth in the matcha itself that did its best at attempting to balance it out. Add in the fact that it wasn’t too powdery and it actually made for a drinkable product.
The iced version comes as a frappe, which does add a few understandable dollars to the price, and also made for a refreshing drink. That said, it does include ice cream, so the comparison isn’t completely apt. The crushed ice also had the side effect of hiding any powderiness in the drink. I did find that the GTLs here taste more like sencha (whole green tea leaf) than matcha, again like other Korean venues.
One-liner summary: there are better, there are a lot more worse.
Sweetness: 4 | Intensity: 4 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 2
One Tea Lounge
If you’re here because you’re a green tea fan – I assume you are if you’re already reading this – you’ve undoubtedly come across One Tea Lounge in your matcha monstering. With literally more than two-thirds of their menu items incorporating matcha in some way or another, one would expect that the quintessential matcha latte would be right up there in what’s hot and ought to rock.
Well, colour me green with disappointment: this was a bad, bad matcha latte. I can’t sugar coat this; the same can be said for the latte itself. There was virtually no sweetness, it’s green flavoured milk. Okay sure, I could add sugar, but that would simply make sugary green milk; there was pretty much no matcha flavour at all. I had to rub my eyes – the bowl’s contents looks green, but I’m tasting anything but green. The fact that there’s clearly visible powder on the surface is all the more bewildering. On the plus side, there was no powderiness…and a nice-looking bowl was used, but these provide little consolation when I also had to pay $7 for the drink – the most expensive hot GTL by far (every other hot GTL on this list cost $5 or less). I wholeheartedly cannot recommend it.
The iced version was marginally better, and that’s all thanks to a rather nice soft serve which brought forth some aspect of flavour and creaminess. But it was also eight bucks. Eh.
One-liner summary: I could buy 15 litres of milk for the amount I paid for One Tea Lounge’s GTLs.
Sweetness: 1 | Intensity: 0 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 2
Tom N Toms Cafe
Tom n Tom’s cafe holds a special place in my heart. As a popular haunt for uni students, I spent much of my uni days hunched over my laptop “studying” here, while simultaneously destroying their signature honey toast (side note: get that, it’s good). However, their matcha drinks were a new discovery for me.
Okay, there are some things Tom N Tom’s does well, but matcha lattes do no fall into that bucket. That is, unless you like drinking sweet milk, with an all-too-faint hint of matcha flavour in the aftertaste. It’s unbalanced, with a detectable grittiness and more frothiness than I would have liked.
Their green tea TomNccino (their version of an iced GTL) was a slightly better drink. The presence of crushed ice somewhat blunted the sweetness, and the ice was quite fine which is to my liking (score for misc!). It still lacked sufficient matcha impact, a more fundamental issue. If you have to get your dose of green here, make it the iced version – or not. Your call.
One-liner summary: I’d rather spend my calories on the honey toast, but this ain’t too bad.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 3 | Evenness: 2 | Misc: 1
Purists: calm your farms. The reality is that Starbucks is everywhere, and to its credit, no other venue would offer green tea lovers the greatest chance of sipping a GTL in most of the world.
And heck, the matcha latte isn’t a flop either – I would not be against grabbing one of these if there weren’t any better options. It could be my only option. Thankfully, the “GTL of last resort” actually tastes something like a matcha latte. Yeah, it suffers the common pitfall in that it’s a bit too sweet, but the flavour of matcha was not subsumed, with intensity maintained. It wasn’t wasn’t overly powdery – extra points.
The iced version was noticeably sweeter (not so good), with sugary bits as I approached the bottom (also not good). In fact, the iced variant got sweeter the closer I moved to the bottom. I’d say a hot GTL is the go-to at Starbucks. At least there is a go-to.
One-liner summary: the ultimate, globally-available GTL.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 4 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 2
I’ve gotten away with a lot in life, but I’d be lynched to not include Chanoma Cafe in this post. Anyone worth their weight in matcha powder knows Chanoma Cafe, and knows it well. Famous for matcha soft serves and frappes, Chanoma has long passed the test of time.
But how do they do a good ol’ regular GTL? The answer is decently, even though it’s not as good as I may have expected. In terms of sweetness, Chanoma has nearly nailed it. I like my GTLs light, in this case, perhaps another teaspoon of sugar would have been Goldilocks. Same for the matcha – it isn’t bland like green milk, but it sure could have used a bigger kick. It’s also not powdery, hooray for evenness! The presentation could use some work…
It’s a completely different story for the iced matcha latte. At Chanoma, the iced GTL with Chanoma’s famous soft serve is the true ‘default’ iced latte. Yes, it’s not a fair comparison to the iced GTLs from other venues, but that’s besides the point: this is the drink you’d actually get at Chanoma, and it makes everything alright. It’s smooth, rich in matcha, creamy and sweet. Perhaps not everyone’s idea of an iced tea (given the soft serve), but one for the masses, if I don’t say so myself. One of the best “iced” matcha lattes!
One-liner summary: the iced GTL is a good bet, the hot one less so.
Sweetness: 4 | Intensity: 4 | Evenness: 5 | Misc: 1
As expected due its Japanese focus, Surry Hills’ Cafe Kentaro churns out a mean matcha latte. I discovered many things with my first sip, but sweetness was not one of them – a good thing. Staff will ask you to select the level of sweetness you desire (unsweetened is the default). I chose to DIY, with roughly 2 heaped spoonfuls of brown sugar doing the job. In terms of matcha intensity, Kentaro’s is above average: it’s a real matcha latte, not green-coloured milk as so many others are. Capping that off are its exquisite smoothness, with almost no signs of powder or particulates I could detect. Sure, it lacked an ‘x-factor’ that Cre Asion or Top Impression’s matcha lattes possess but nevertheless made for a solid cuppa.
One-liner summary: you’re here because you like Japanese food. Get a quintessential Japanese drink.
Sweetness: 4 | Intensity: 5 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 2
Now Kahii is a cafe that’s serious about GTLs: with a serious dose of matcha intensity, and excellent presentation with what is easily the best latte art (and that’s not just for lack of competition), served in a proper matcha cup. It is very, very lightly sweetened, with extra sugar (DIY) required to balance it out. It is a little powdery, though it seems that a sufficiently intense matcha latte can’t totally avoid at least some grit.
The iced version is substantially different – it’s about the right level of sweetness, but has a bit of a herby taste to it and the matcha flavour is not as strong. However, solid points on the presentation – GT kit kats and pocky, with an umbrella? Summer has never been so easily defeated.
One-liner summary: an absolute winner!
Sweetness: 4 | Intensity: 6 | Evenness: 4 | Misc: 3
Originally starting out as just one cafe in Sydney’s CBD, Piccolo Me has become a significant cafe chain, producing coffee and cafe food for the masses – with its own twists. Now, there are more Piccolo Me locations than I have pickup lines. But whatever secret they’re employing to expand, it’s not owing to their matcha lattes.
Piccolo Me’s GTLs have about the right level of sweetness; however, matcha intensity is basically at the ‘green-coloured cinnamon milk’ level. The hot version is quite smooth, while the iced version has visible chunks of matcha powder and sugary bits as I approach the bottom. The presentation was a bit underwhelming – we specified to be seated customers and yet our GTLs were served in takeaway cups. Are GTLs a second-class citizen at Piccolo Me? Given how they’re executed, possibly.
One-liner summary: I think I’ll go back to making my own matcha lattes at home…
Sweetness: 4 | Intensity: 1 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 0
Devon Cafe Barangaroo
While I’m a big fan of Devon Cafe’s food in all its incarnations, I’ve never actually been impressed with their matcha lattes and unfortunately, that trend continues with the product by the Barangaroo outpost. There’s insufficient sweetness, matcha intensity was lacking, there are clear segments of froth and percolates in the cup. To add to that, it got sweeter as I drank closer and closer to the bottom of the cup.
To further my criticisms: the iced version comes in the same cup which, given the massive ice cubes used, meant less milk in the cup, resulting in a far more watery drink. Devon’s a great cafe for food, but you’ll have to go elsewhere for the ultimate GTL experience.
To its credit, the GTL at Devon’s Surry Hills outpost is slightly different in that it’s slightly less powdery, slightly sweeter, and thus superior overall. If you had to choose based off GTL quality alone, the Surry Hills Devon would be your pick. That said, come to Devon for food, go elsewhere for matcha lattes.
One-liner summary: the coffee is a better bet at (either) Devon.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 4 | Evenness: 3 | Misc: 0
The Coffee Lab
A curveball entry, The Coffee Lab chain of cafes, one of which being located in the heart of Martin Place is not somewhere one would expect to sell matcha lattes. That said, because it’s located a literal stone’s throw from my workplace, its inclusion in this post made some sense. However, while I can vouch for their coffees, I can’t say the same for their matcha lattes. The sweetness was through the roof, being one of the sweetest GTLs on this list. But that’s not all – there was almost no matcha flavour; if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a bit of green colour, you could totally fool me into thinking the drink I’m holding is a chai latte. Yes, you read that right – it’s a chai latte disguised as a GTL. Seriously, that’s what the flavour profile is: spices, cinnamon, the whole shebang.
Finally, there were crystalline sugary bits at the bottom, so there are some skills missing in the mixing department. Ah, and the iced version? Pretty much same same – but icy.
One-liner summary: try the nutella shakes instead. You’ll thank me later.
Sweetness: 3 | Intensity: 1 | Evenness: 2 | Misc: 0
If the health benefits of green tea lattes scale with volume, then I am positively sure that after downing
40 39 matcha lattes (sorry, I missed Cafe Kentaro’s iced GTL!), I’ve accumulated enough health points to eat junk for the rest of my life.
If my blog’s name was “I’m Still Thirsty”, well, I’d be looking for a new name now.
All venues in this post were paid-for on an independent basis.
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