Sales of specialty tea have recently outstripped those of everyday black tea. With matcha cropping up in menu launches across the coffee shop and food-to-go market, MCA looks into how it’s changing traditional coffee shop culture

Blank Street matcha

Blank Street Coffee

Matcha has long been touted as a healthier alternative to coffee, with benefits purported to include everything from slower releasing caffeine properties to boosting brain function. Brands across the UK’s ready-to-drink category have for some years featured the antioxidant-rich green tea, but it has only recently made its mark on the eating and drinking out market.

Tea specialists The Tea Group revealed research last year that found 55% of Brits now prefer a herbal brew, with 22% choosing a green tea such as matcha. The study, based on over 2,000 respondents, indicates a substantial shift from only five years ago. In 2019, traditional English breakfast tea accounted for 85% of sales, according to a report from Unilever.

Meanwhile, sales of specialty tea are now worth £345.5m – overtaking everyday black tea, which stands at £340.8m, according to market research company Kantar.

Globally, the matcha market was valued at $3.48bn (£2.74bn) in 2023 and is projected to reach $5.78bn (£4.32bn) by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 10.7%, according to Mordor Intelligence.

Japanese-inspired concepts have spotted an opportunity to lean into their roots while capitalising on a trend relatively new to the UK market. Casual dining chain Wagamama included a new Iced Matcha & Strawberry Latte in its summer menu refresh, while Shoryu Ramen has launched a new Matcha Detox mocktail as it opens its 12th location.

Outside the Japanese cuisine category, healthy food-to-go chain Leon introduced the Unsweetened Matcha Latte in its spring menu, while Soho Coffee co launched its own take – the vegan White Chocolate Matcha Latte – as a Christmas drink last year. Starbucks debuted the Iced Strawberry Matcha Tea Latte across the EMEA earlier this year. Meanwhile, British-owned JENKI will open its third matcha bar in London this summer – boasting the “perfect coffee antidote”.

Soho Coffee Co Christmas Drinks

Soho Coffee Co

The Black Sheep Coffee chain – which recently opened its 100th store globally – unveiled a new range devoted to matcha earlier this month. Consisting of five drinks, the range featured the Iced Blueberry Matcha and Iced Strawberries & Cream Matcha – ideal for a summer launch – as well as the Passionfruit Matcha CBD Lemonade, ticking off two trends in one.

The new offer claims to be the cheapest premium range on the high street. Matcha may be considered a premium product; with prices between £3.89 and £4.39, Black Sheep has nevertheless proven it can be accessible.

While the brand is known for its status as an innovator in the coffee category, rival chain Blank Street revealed earlier this year that matcha is its fastest growing category. As the New York-founded concept scales rapidly across the UK, its TikTok-viral Blueberry Matcha drink has played a role in its meteoric rise.

The ‘Meet for Matcha’ campaign plays into insights from Blank Street’s research, which suggested the green tea is more of a social ritual than coffee. Matcha drinkers are more likely to visit stores with friends rather alone, and twice as likely to share their drink on social media, playing nicely into the brand’s penchant for Gen Z-oriented, digital-first marketing.

According to Blank Street, the on-trend ingredient has changed the way people engage with coffee shops, with the rise of matcha-forward drinks driving an afternoon peak. Coffee shops are usually busiest between 8am and 10am, but sales peak between 1pm and 4pm for matcha drinkers, credited to the slower releasing caffeine benefits better suited for a post-lunch pick-me-up.

Moreover, Blank Street termed the change a ‘cultural shift’ from traditional coffee shop culture and labelled 2024 ‘the year of the matcha’, adding to its TikTok-viral Blueberry Matcha drink with two new spring specials: the White Chocolate Matcha and a spiced Golden Matcha. The former is a nod towards indulgence, while the latter is infused with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon, tapping into a simultaneous trend towards wellness. The Blueberry Matcha, meanwhile, was immortalised in the form of a £25 candle on Blank Street’s website.

Leon iced matcha


While cropping up more and more frequently, matcha is yet to become a fixture on menus across the UK. Brands are nevertheless finding ways to experiment, with gourmet egg specialist Eggslut partnering with matcha brand PerfectTed, which also supplies Black Sheep among others.

Canned cocktail company Niche Cocktails has collaborated with train operator Greater Anglia to introduce a range for travellers to enjoy en route, including the Matcha Mojito. Furthermore, Japanese coffee company Ueshima has launched the ready-to-drink Iced Matcha Latte in the UK market.

Is 2024, then, really the ‘year of the matcha’? The vast majority of product launches have leveraged matcha’s health benefits to position it as the healthier caffeine source. Blank Street’s insights, however, go beyond to claim matcha as the driver of a changing coffee shop culture. As specialty brews claw market share from English breakfast tea, matcha may well become a mainstay.