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Is It Coffee or Tea? What You Need to Know About Japan’s New ‘Tea Coffee’ Drink

This new hybrid drink released in Japan last week hints at the fact that we might be missing something in our lives, so we had to find out more.

By 3 min read

Last week, most of us in Japan were mindin’ our business and then out of nowhere, tea got mixed with coffee — and got commercially distributed.

Yes, you can now pick up this tea-coffee hybrid called (surprisingly enough) “Wonda Tea Coffee” at most local grocery and convenience stores. Released last week, the beverage that can’t quite decide what it wants to be, is the creation of one of Japan’s biggest drink companies, Asahi Soft Drink Co., for part of the new Wonda Coffee lineup with the slogan “Life… it’s all about having fun!”

It’s supposedly marketed toward young people who are “not strong enough” to go all in with a straight coffee. That’s according to a press release by Asahi about a new commercial nationally broadcasted with actor Ryunosuke Kamiki, former AKB48 member Rina Kawaei and renowned director and comedian Takeshi Kitano (aka Beat Takeshi) to promote the tea-slash-coffee drink.

New, well, kind of new

This is pretty shocking for most of us die-hard coffee or tea people who would never dream of mixing the two, but this type of drink is already popular in Hong Kong. There, it’s called yuenyeung and is made from coffee and milk tea. Swirling on the internet is also talk of the beverage not necessarily being popular in the West, but “existing.”

In the past decade, even Starbucks had it on some sort of “secret menu” reportedly as far back as 2010. (One of the nicknames for a version of it is “Dirty Chai” — decidedly less tame than the Japanese version.) However, unlike in Japan, it seems like a drink you order at a café, not something you have on your grocery list.

While this new product’s label indeed reads “Tea Coffee” in English, clearly, there are layers to this.

While this new product’s label indeed reads “Tea Coffee” in English, clearly, there are layers to this. Underneath that, it says, “カフェラテ X 焙じ茶” or café latte with hojicha, a distinct Japanese green tea that is fire roasted rather than steamed. Still, what it says directly under that roughly translates to “tea leaf fragrant refreshment.”

How people reacted

Reactions to it on Twitter and Instagram have been mixed, but that all depends on who you ask.

One reader wrote on Instagram that it was, indeed, tasty: “This is oishii! It’s not that sweet so it’s easy to drink. I’m convinced that it’s over 500ml (laughing). Looking forward to the next flavor!”

Despite that bright review, a Twitter user’s review in French came with a cryptic warning of: “Advised if you like to drink detergent.” Eww.

And some people were just plain confused: “I tried it and… well, is this coffee? Or is it tea? It was a bit too much of a hybrid for me.”

What’s next?

A 525 milliliter bottle costs anywhere from ¥99-¥160. It has roughly 155 calories and 2 1/2 grams of fat per bottle. If you’re a fan, the good news is that Asahi is set to release another version of it June 12, according to a March 5 press release from Asahi. This one will be a mix of black coffee and tea called “Black × Sencha” (sencha is the most popular type of green tea used in drinks in Japan). It’s reportedly created to showcase the taste of Brazilian coffee and the scent of domestic green tea leaves.

Have you tried Wonda Tea Coffee? If so, let us know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t tried it, would you buy it? Why or why not? 

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