Green Tea, Against All Odds, Was Once A Coca-Cola Flavor

Coca-Cola's cherry and vanilla flavors may have its fans, but the company also once had a green tea flavor as well. Unfortunately for United States consumers, it was a Japanese exclusive. The soft drink company first launched in Japan in 1957 and has created flavors in Japan not found anywhere else. We're talking variants that go beyond just Zero and Light and tap into fruity flavors like strawberry, peach, apple, and yes, even green tea. 

Coca-Cola first launched its green tea flavor in 2009, hoping to capitalize on the importance of the tea in Japanese culture. Katsuya Sato, a Coca-Cola Japan's spokesperson, told NBC News, "We wanted to cater to people who are looking for something that tastes good but is also good for health and beauty." The soft drink targeted women between the ages of 20 and 30. It also featured antioxidants found in green tea called catechins.

Green tea is an important staple in Japanese culture and is by far one of the most consumed drinks in the country, factoring into almost every meal. Green tea is just one of the unique variants introduced by Coca-Cola there. As Raymond Shelton, senior executive officer for Coca-Cola East Japan, once told, NDTV, "I have traveled the world for Coca-Cola, and I have never seen such a variety of products, and such an intensive pace of new launches."

Japan has long been Coca-Cola's creative playground

While the green tea and cola combination was certainly one of the more unique flavors that Coca-Cola has launched, it isn't the only innovative flavor that the company has introduced in Japan. According to Coca-Cola Australia, Japan has long challenged the beverage company and its creativity. As Khalil Younes, the executive vice president of marketing and new businesses at Coca-Cola Japan, puts it, "It's not acceptable in Japan to have a product that doesn't evolve and get more perfect."

Consumers in Japan are more drawn towards beverage options with better health benefits, more flavor options, or even catchy advertisements and are more willing to try things that are new and different. This was why Coca-Cola launched the green tea variant in 2009, given the health benefits associated with the tea. In fact, the company also launched the Ayataka brand only two years prior in 2007, which made bottled-green teas in partnership with the famous Kanbayashi Shunsho Honten tea shop in Kyoto. 

While not much is known of how the green tea-flavored Coca-Cola faired, Aayataka crossed the $1 billion mark in 2016 making it one of 21 billion-dollar brands under the Coca-Cola banner. Coca-Cola, it seems, was onto something when it turned towards green tea to inspire new drinks in Japan.