To be honest, I almost never buy bagged green tea unless it is flavored with something fruity. The reason is that, while there are lots of excellent green teas out there, many of the more “mass produced” teas don’t have a flavor that appeals to me. They can range from bland to having somewhat unpleasant vegetal notes to them. In fairness, as green teas have become more popular the overall quality of what is widely available at grocery stores has improved tremendously, and a supermarket tea is likely to be much more affordable than a specialty blend. In the most recent issue (Aug/Sept 2011) of Cook’s Country magazine, the test kitchen set out to taste test a bunch of supermarket green teas to pick out a winner. They were looking for something with good flavor that was affordable for everyday drinking and for cooking with (cooking being a category where you really don’t want to use the most expensive wine or coffee out there, either!).
They tasted five nationally available brands and tested them brewed, infused in a custard and rubbed on their luau-style Kalua pork. The test kitchen admitted that none of the options blew them away, but they still were able to find one that fit their needs. The winner was Celestial Seasonings Authentic Green Tea, with a “clean” flavor and a “nice grassy quality” that was good plain and in recipes.
Twinings Green Tea, Bigelow Green Tea and Lipton Green Tea were all “recommended with reservations.” The Twinings tea had a harsh, astringent flavor that the taste testers didn’t like, but that balanced out fairly well in recipes. The other two were subtle and bland, with the Lipton barely squeaking into this category. Tazo China Tips Green Tea was “not recommended,” with its overly strong “harsh,” “soapy,” and “tinny” flavor that verged on an unpleasant bitterness, even in recipes.
As much as I enjoy a good cup of black coffee, I also love topping a cup of coffee or a shot of espresso off with a dollop of steamed milk or whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon or cocoa powder to add a little extra flavor and just generally dress up the drink. It is one of those little touches that somehow makes the drink seem fancier and me feel like slowing down to enjoy it – as I would do at a coffee shop, but might not necessarily do at home. It was clear that the new Trader Joe’s Sugar, Chocolate and Coffee Bean Grinder is designed to make it easy to add this sort of coffee shop flare to your coffee drinks at home. The grinder looks like a pepper mill, but is filled with white and brown sugar, chocolate and coffee beans. A few twists of the cap and you have a sweet sprinkling on top of your drink! The mix is great, and because it comes out of a pepper grinder, everything has a very coarse texture to it, so you get both an attractive look and a lot of flavor from just a small amount of this mix. The sugar crystals are crunchy, the coffee is subtle and the chocolate just leaves a hint of richness on your tongue as it melts. I’m keeping mine by the coffee maker.
TJ’s also recommends putting this on buttered toast, ice cream or other desserts. I can vouch for how delicious it is on top of buttered toast, and I’ll definitely be up for experimenting with it on other desserts that need a little spike of coffee, chocolate and sugar to dress them up.
A tea bag is a disposable bag that is meant to make it easy and convenient to infuse your hot water with the tea of your choosing. It is a convenience item, and over the years bagged tea has picked up a reputation for not being as good, as fresh or having as clear a flavor as loose leaf tea. This isn’t true of all brands, of course, and it really has very little to do with the tea bag itself. The bag is still a great way of easily infusing your tea. That said, you’ll want a high quality bag, and while you can find high quality paper tea bags, the Tea Bag Tea Infuser is definitely a step up from most designs. Designed to look just like a regular tea bag, this stainless infuser sits upright in your glass on its silicone base and can be lifted with its silicone tab when your tea is ready. It isn’t disposable, but it brews any loose leaf tea with ease and it is easy to clean. And even if you’re not the type of tea drinker that typically uses bagged tea, you have to admit that this particular “bag” is definitely a cut above the rest.
Starbucks Refreshers are new summer drinks hitting the menu boards at Starbucks this summer. The drinks were test marketed in several areas last year, and must have been quite the hit to get the push to a larger market! The drinks are slightly sweet, fruity drinks that are designed to be – as the name suggests – refreshing in the warm weather. They’re made with frozen fruit and a flavor-neutral extract made with green coffee beans. The green beans are ground into a powder that is incorporated into the drinks. It doesn’t add a coffee flavor, but it does add a small amount of caffeine (less than a regular cup of brewed coffee) and green coffee beans are said to help lower blood pressure and promote weight loss. The drinks are low in calories, too.
The Refreshers come in two flavors: Cool Lime and Very Berry Hibiscus (pictured above). I felt like the lime tasted a bit like watered down limemade, and while it wasn’t bad at all, it also wasn’t terribly exciting. The hibiscus was much better. It had a very light berry flavor, floral notes and was very refreshing. It was just barely sweetened, just enough to highlight the fruits without leaving a sticky taste in your mouth. I like their tea-lemonade, but I think I would definitely choose the hibiscus refresher over that on a hot day. I didn’t notice a caffeine kick – but then again, I had already had a bit of coffee in the morning before I tried the drinks.
I also want to mention that this is the first drink in my area offered in the extra large Trente size, and having had the drink, I can actually see it working in that much larger size (remember, a lot of the volume is offset by ice ) on a hot day when you want more than just a few ounces of refreshment from a very lightly sweetened drink like this one.