Match-a-do about matcha

My journey to find the perfect matcha drink

As a child, drinking matcha felt like a delectable treat if I performed well at school or if I completed my chores. I would stare in awe as my mother poured in the strange green powder into steaming milk and twirled the wooden spoon around the liquid, mixing the green and white. While the liquid initially looked like putrid vegetable juice, the liquid transformed into a pastel green, its aroma floating throughout the kitchen. 

Matcha has an earthy, pleasant smoothness. It is grassy and sweet without tasting dirt. It leaves a slightly bitter aftertaste but it doesn’t linger on the tongue for too long. It smells like fresh leaves, which perfectly fits its leafy color.  Matcha has a unique flavor that is different from the usual bitterness of coffee and the sweetness of floral teas. It is a middle ground between the two and if you are willing to try something new, matcha is the fit for you. 

But matcha from where? That’s the question that I took with me to the streets as I visited multiple nearby cities, ducked into chain cafes and bakeries, asked my friends for their favorite matcha places, all to find the perfect drink that will give me the ecstatic nostalgia I had as a child. 


A matcha drink from starbucks. Pretty, green, and pastel, but if you closed your eyes and gave it a taste, you’d never know it was matcha. (Photo by Annette Suk)


Location:  775 S Rand Rd, Lake Zurich


I’m not sure if the barista made the drink a little weird that day, but Starbucks was at the bottom of the list. While it looked like the matcha I was familiar with, the taste was not what I expected. 

At first sip, I was intrigued. I could only taste milk. It looked like matcha, with its pastel green, but the earthy tones and its slight bitterness was nonexistent. All I could taste was the sugar and I was immediately disappointed with what I had received. Matcha is supposed to have an earthy taste with some bitternes,s but the only flavor my tastebuds registered was milk. Even after drinking half of the grande cup, I could not taste my childhood nostalgia. 

However, it was smooth and I could not taste the chunky powder that could have been left at the bottom of the cup. It was easy to just swallow the drink in big gulps rather than take small sips because of how smooth it was. Unfortunately, I could not smell any leaves of the matcha and couldn’t smell a single thing. 

As someone who enjoys matcha, I would not recommend this to anyone who is a matcha lover like I am. I was upset at spending $4.25 for a grande iced matcha that I could have spent that money on a higher quality drink. 

Since the LZ area has 2 locations, this matcha might be worth it for its convenience, but for a better experience, I recommend traveling a little farther to find a better matcha drink. 

Overall, I had high expectations for Starbucks, especially because of the location and the fact that I already like most of their drinks there. I assumed that the matcha would be one of my favorite drinks, but there was no scent or earthy tones that indicated that whatever I was drinking was matcha or milk with green food dye. The pretty pastel green of the drink gave me hope at first, but I would definitely not go back there for more.

A matcha drink from the Korean bakery, Tous le Joures. Although I had to drive a little further to get my hands on this one, its balanced tone and subtle flavor made the miles worth it. (Photo by Annette Suk)

Tous les Jours

Location: Hawthorn Center Mall, 670 Hawthorn Center, Vernon Hills

Stars: ☆☆☆☆

Tous les Jours is a Korean bakery that my friend recommended I visit. I was initially hesitant to make the journey there but my friend insisted that the drink would be worth the trip. I stared at my matcha and frowned, unsure if I would like the drink. However, the minute I was about to prove my friend wrong, my eyes widened.

The bakery only offered a matcha smoothie, so I couldn’t smell the leafy greens from the drink. The color of the drink was not as pastel as the Starbucks drink, but the darker green gave me more promise that the drink would have that matcha flavor I was looking for.

This matcha was the perfect balance between sweet and bitter. The sugar did not overpower the drink and it was not bitter to the point where it would leave an uncomfortable feeling at the back of my throat. I could feel the sugar and grassy tones because the milk did not overpower the flavor of the matcha. The taste of matcha was very subtle too so it would not overwhelm my tastebuds. This drink would be perfect for someone who is new to matcha and scared of its strong flavor. 

This drink was not as smooth as the Starbucks one. There were chunky parts and I had to nudge my straw back and forth around the cup to properly take a sip. However, once I melted the drink, I was drinking at the speed of light. For Starbucks, it took me a while and I only got through halfway until I was satisfied. With this drink, the taste had me reaching for more and by the time I was reaching in again, all I was sipping was the air. 

Unfortunately, there was only one size to order from and the location was significantly farther than the local Starbucks. However, I paid nearly the same amount for the same drink and the cup size was larger than a grande. For the quality, I did not regret the journey or the money that I spent. 

Overall, I walked into the bakery with zero expectations and I am pleased that the drink was amazing. The quality of the drink, with its sweet and bitter tones, left me with no regrets. I also loved the atmosphere of the bakery and I had a fun time exploring the place. For the quality of the drink, the drive and price were all worth it.

A matcha drink from Liquid Fusion in Lincolnshire. The darker color of this drink correlates with the bitter leafiness of it, but I found myself actually enjoying the authenticity of such flavor. (Photo by Annette Suk)

Liquid Fusion

Location:  275 Parkway Dr, Lincolnshire

Stars: ☆☆☆☆

Liquid Fusion sells many kinds of bubble tea and it’s a place I often go with my friends. I had never tried their matcha before, but I was excited to see what they offered. I already loved their other boba drinks and my expectations were high. Fortunately, their matcha was just as good as I’d hoped.

I liked how smooth the drink was. I was so absorbed with the flavor that when I stopped taking my first sip, I had already drunk at least s quarter of my drink. The smoothness of the drink allowed me to get a better taste of the matcha’s leafy tones. 

Liquid’s matcha had the darkest shade of green out of the other drinks. While the other places had pastel or light greens, Liquid was a darker green and I had a fear that the matcha would be too overpowering. However, I liked the flavor. There was more matcha flavor in this drink, but I was not opposed to it. 

I liked how prominent the matcha flavor was in this drink. Rather than the taste of just milk, I could taste the earthy tones of the matcha and I liked the contrast from the sweetness at the first sip and the bitter aftermath it left. The contrast of the two had me sipping it again and again to experience the difference. 

There was a stronger bitterness to the drink than the rest of the locations, but I thought it added the authenticity of the drink. Matcha is not supposed to be a bundle of sugar. The bitterness is interesting and adds to its original flavor. I liked how subtle the sweetness was and the rapid surge of bitterness that faded away in seconds. 

Once again, the location became another issue. It was difficult to find a location that was as convenient as the local Starbucks. However, while the price was similar to Starbucks, I thought the quantity and quality were better than Starbucks.