Exploring the Green Tea Smoothie Revolution in Japan
Trends have a way of taking something relatively obscure and pushing it through a “coolness” filter. The latest trend, the green tea smoothie, has revolutionized the way green tea is consumed, and Japan is at the forefront of this exciting trend. And, like every trend, there is a story behind its popularity which you should know a thing or two about.
How Did the Trend Start?
The truth is that it goes back to green tea in Japan and the different stages of popularity. Most people know that green tea is a staple in Japan, but it hit new grounds of popularity in the 90s. This is mostly due to some of the benefits everyone’s heard about, but popularity fizzled until bottled tea was introduced, revamping the industry.
There was a stagnant period where the tea’s popularity kind of fizzled, however. There were a lot of green tea farmers at the time, and they began to struggle, which forced them to change things up a bit. It was around this time that many green tea farmers began to produce green tea pet bottles. People began to drink the tea in a bottled form more and more, and by the year 2000, the green tea craze regained popularity… but the quality of the tea suffered.
There was a time when every household in Japan had a teapot, but that slowly began to change because it was so much easier to pick up a bottle from a store than to actually brew your own tea. Not to mention the fact that there were other drinks making their way into Japan’s market, such as black tea and soft drinks.
The bottle explosion kind of led to the revolution in Japan regarding the green tea smoothie. Those who wonder about how this jump occurred should consider some of the other trends happening around the world.
Many of the bottled teas were considered low-quality, but people ignored this because of their accessibility. The industry changed however, when Japan’s youth became aware of additives, natural living, and organic foods, just like the rest of the world. Japan’s youth started moving away from subpar items, and the people of this country wanted to return to high-quality sencha, gyokuro, and even matcha. The green tea smoothie came out of this shift.
The Green Tea Smoothie Explosion
Yes, people love the idea of returning to something a little more pure and natural, but it is a bit of a chore to brew your own tea. Sure, you may love the benefits of doing so, but that does not mean you are going to fall in love with the process. Some people will find that brewing tea is a beautiful experience, but it is likely not the majority.
Another reason the green tea smoothies became popular deals with the green tea shops showing up around Japan. You might be comparing this to the coffee house trend that took over the United States not too long ago, which is an accurate comparison. These tea houses began to brew specialty drinks like green tea smoothies for patrons who were mostly young people.
As you probably guessed, it did not take long for these tea pubs to become meccas for young people in Japan. It resembled coffee houses here in the States, and boba houses sprung up in many countries in Asia. The number of young people who are now flocking to these houses has cemented this resurgence of green tea as a cool and new trend. Still, there was bound to be a star that was going to take over, and this time it happened to be green tea smoothies.
Green tea smoothies are made from some of the finest green tea leaves, which is a major component of why people love it since it guarantees a strong taste and all the health benefits people love. People also love just how different the drink is from other drinks. Everyone knows that green tea has always had a watery-texture, and while that has not really changed, the smoothie completely flipped this idea on its head. One can easily see how blending something frothy, thick, and creamy with green tea made a splash. People, especially young people, love something different because it helps identify their generation while defying past generations.
Green tea shops are not the only locations in Japan where one can find green tea smoothies. There are several trendy restaurants that offer green tea smoothie variations, and some actually create signature blends that make their green tea smoothies different from others. For example, one blend that is making its rounds in some restaurants is the green tea yogurt smoothie that uses real probiotic-filled yogurt for the mix. It usually blends three-fourths of a cup of cold, green tea, one cup of green spinach, one cored and diced apple, a lemon, one tablespoon of honey, and one-fourth of a cup of plain yogurt.
Many people in Japan are also becoming aware of the farmer’s market trend and the small business craze, so this could be the reason why there is a rise in success for street vendors and food trucks, both of which are jumping into this new green tea smoothie trend. Street vendors and food trucks appear in events, festivals, and other similar activities throughout eclectic neighborhoods in Japan, but they do this in different ways.
Street vendors and food trucks also do their best to offer blends that are a little different, and those that serve green tea smoothies from a food truck are known to serve things that are a little edgy. For example, it is not uncommon to get a green tea smoothie topped with a little bit of vodka or gin to spice things up a bit. (Read my other article 10 trendy green tea cocktail recipe if you are interested to know more about this) Food trucks are staples in adult-oriented community events like raves or concerts. Likewise, most of the time these trucks are run by young entrepreneurs, making them quite hip amongst the youth in the country. This is one reason why it is easy to associate food trucks to younger subcultures in Japan.
Green tea smoothie vendors at the farmer’s markets like to make their smoothies with the fruits of the season. People who frequent farmer’s markets are in love with eating or drinking foods that are in their natural form, so making smoothies with farm fresh fruit is always a good idea. An example of this is the Mikan green tea smoothie, which is served when the Japanese variation of the orange is in season. It consists of one-fourth of a cup of coconut milk, yogurt, and green tea; a farmer’s market vendor will likely get his Mikan oranges from stands at the market.
The Mikan recipe also calls for four ice cubes and five frozen ice cubed-sized chunks of spinach along with five grams of whey protein powder with the last ingredient being half a teaspoon of vanilla. It is a very interesting variation of the smoothie and one that only comes once a season. Vendors try different variations depending on the time of year, which is what makes them exciting to green tea smoothie lovers.
Now, many businesses are trying to join this trend with bottled tea. The difference is that these new bottled teas are now made with higher quality tea and have added natural fruits to make smoothies in a bottle. Some blends contain cold-pressed ingredients since this is a natural way to extract juice from fruits or vegetables. Some people are accepting the new bottled version of tea, but most are only interested in fresh, brewed teas made into their favorite green tea smoothie.
There is no telling where this trend is headed, but its popularity is actually reaching Europe and the United States. Many people are beginning to see the benefits of green tea smoothies and just how versatile this drink can be. Keep in mind that there is always a blend out there that has not been discovered, so do not be afraid to experiment with your green tea smoothie recipes.
If you are interested in making one at home, check out one of my most my popular article: 20 Yummy and healthy green tea smoothie recipes – and everything you need to know about green tea smoothie here.
This is a chapter of my published book: Green Tea Cha – How Japan and the World Enjoy Green Tea in the 21st Century