There are many caffeine-free herbal teas out there, but just because they’re caffeine-free doesn’t mean that they make a relaxing cup of tea. Many are rich and fruity, better suited to a pick-me-up than something restful. Trader Joe’s Well Rested Tea is a herbal tea that promises to let you down after a busy day. The tea is definitely one of my favorites when I want something to unwind with. It is made with a blend of chamomile, lemongrass, spearmint and peppermint leaves, and it has a very smooth flavor. The mint helps you clear your mind (really!) without being too strong, and the lemongrass blends very well with it to give the tea a clean hint of citrus. Chamomile gave me a little hesitation because it isn’t one of my favorite flavors, but it makes a great base for the even stronger herbs that appear in this tea. It provides a mellow backdrop for the other, brighter flavors.
I like this tea both hot and iced, depending on the weather. In the winter, I’ll definitely stick with hot tea, but it makes a very refreshing iced tea (I prefer unsweetened) on a hot summer night.
Tazo teas have long been a staple in Starbucks stores and tea lovers all have their favorites, although teas don’t get as much of the spotlight as coffees due. Perhaps due to a growing interest from consumers in different teas, Starbucks has announced that it will spinoff a Tazo tea cafe later this year. Starbucks has owned Tazo since 1999, and this would be a huge push in bringing the brand more to the spotlight. The cafe will offer tea, tea lattes and iced teas, as well as a large selection of loose-leaf tea that can be bought in bulk or blended by customers to create custom tea mixes. The overall concept sounds similar to Teavana stores, but with more drinks offered in-store. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fairly large retail space with tea pots and accessories, as well as more seating than a place like Teavana currently offers.
I also wouldn’t mind seeing some more tea options pop up in regular Starbucks stores again, and if the tea stores are a hit that means we might see London Fog Tea Lattes and similar drinks back on menus in the future.
One way to ensure that you get a good cup of coffee is to freshly grind your beans just before you are ready to use them. Oils escape from the beans when they’re ground and your coffee will age much, much faster than whole beans do. Dried out coffee grounds lead to less flavorful coffee. The problem with grinding as you go is that you have to devote some extra time to measuring and grinding the beans before brewing. This can be a slow and noisy (especially for those of us who make coffee very early!) process and there are times when it would be nice just to have that coffee already ground and ready to go! I don’t want to compromise flavor for speed, and neither do the people at Zevro, who came up with the Indispensable Coffee Dispenser. This gadget holds up to 1/2-pound of freshly ground coffee in an airtight environment. With the touch of a button, it will also dispense coffee grounds in 1 tbsp amounts directly into your espresso machine, coffee pot, or other coffee-making equipment. It does not grind the beans, so you can grind them as coarse or as fine as you like before storing them.
The best thing about this dispenser is that it holds enough grounds to be useful, but not so much that you’ll end up with past-their-prime beans in your dispenser. It will keep things fresh until you’re ready for a refill. The dispensing action is also useful because it means that you don’t need to constantly open the container and let air in as you access your beans.
Starbucks, as well as other large food companies, is always test marketing new products to see how customers respond to them. It’s much easier to roll out a new idea to just a few key stores, rather than put it into every cafe without knowing how well it will do. I’ve seen examples of this before, but it’s hard to find the test market products because they’re never advertised. Fortunately, I was out on a bit of a road trip in Southern California recently and discovered one of them: new Starbucks Frappuccino Smoothies at a store in Moorpark, CA.
The smoothies are said to be made with nonfat yogurt, real fruit and have a yogurt whipped topping on them, and they’re available in Strawberry and Mango-Passionfruit. The smoothies are thicker than regular frappuccinos, much more like a Jamba Juice drink. They’re not too sweet, very refreshing and have a great fruit flavor, with a hint of yogurt to give it some richness. I particularly liked tropical Mango Passionfruit, though I’m always a sucker for that flavor combination. The whipped topping was made in the same iSi whipped cream canisters that they use for the regular whipped cream. It had a light, tangy yogurt flavor and the ultra-fluffy texture of whipped cream. It was the perfect topping for a smoothie (which I couldn’t see topping with regular whipped cream) because it tied in very well with the fruity drink and had a nice light, healthy feel to it.
I don’t know if these will make it to the regular menu or not, so we’ll have to wait and see next summer, but they’re a great summer drink and a very refreshing alternative to coffee on a hot day. I’ll be back for another, and I’ll definitely take it with the yogurt whipped topping.