A Review of New Things I've Tried #17 (Tea Edition)

Cold weather means I start my mornings with a cup of hot tea. I let it brew while I'm putting my contact lenses in and savor it while I contemplate what breakfast is going to be. I also drink tea when I'm a bit chilly, or if my meal isn't hot (like if I have a sandwich for lunch). I love tea in winter. Tea is one of the easier things to get shipped to me (though not always in quantities I appreciate). Here are three that I've tried in the past year, as well as some philosophizing about "tea" and snobbery. Surprisingly, I have a lot of thoughts about tea.

1. Stash Decaf Chocolate Hazelnut Flavored Black Tea

This tastes like what it says it is! (Sometimes that's miraculous in the world of tea). I don't make hot cocoa very often because I'm too lazy, but this is often a good substitute. I love it with some soy creamer and a bit of sugar.

2. Traditional Medicinals Healthy Cycle Raspberry Leaf Tea

I want to emphasize: I am not a medical doctor. But I am annoyed with my medical doctors for never mentioning this to me, because this tea changed my life--no hyperbole, no exaggeration. It might not have to be this brand but I'll only branch out to others if this one disappears, because at this point, I see this as miraculous. It doesn't have a very strong taste, and I drink it plain, after steeping for 15 minutes. For this I use their "tea buddy," which they sent to me for free long ago when I sent them an email raving about a different tea of theirs. Although I am not sponsored, and I bought this tea, the fact that Traditional Medicinals once upon a time sent me six boxes of new kinds of tea to try with the "tea buddy" may influence my opinions of the company; take this as full disclosure. (It had nothing to do with the blog. I'd sent them effusive fan mail about their Stress Ease tea.) The "tea buddy" is just a silicone "hat" for my mug with a slot in it to hold the tea bag. It keeps the tea hot when steeping for longer periods (like 15 minutes!) and you can use it to squeeze the goodness out of the tea afterward. But you could be a more traditional person and just steep your tea in a teapot. This article was good for explaining to me what this tea is doing.

3. 담티 (Damtuh) Walnuts, Almonds, and Job's Tears Tea

This might be a bit on the more adventurous side for Westerners, though it is a really popular drink in South Korea. Other than walnuts, almonds, and Job's tears (a form of millet) this tea has peanut powder, pumpkin seeds, and sugar. It's a bit thick (the consistency of hot cocoa), sweet, and very nutty. It has finely chopped nuts that float to the surface when you mix the packet with hot water as directed. I really like it, though I don't often drink it because it can be kind of heavy. It's nice to get the protein sometimes, however. This is a really rich tea, and probably most of us wouldn't think of it as tea at all in this country. Koreans, though, call just about any drink that starts with hot water infused with something else "차," i.e. "tea." (And yes, you can drink iced tea in Korea, and it is still tea.)

This brings me to my philosophizing--or perhaps my ranting--about tea and snobbery.

If you shop for tea online, you will run across websites that tell you that flavored teas are not really tea, and people who drink them don't actually experience the flavor of tea. Some of these sites will also claim that herbal teas aren't teas at all. And okay, yes, there is a tea plant (the camellia sinensis shrub), but those arguments sound an awful lot like the arguments against calling anything that doesn't come from a mammal "milk." Tea is many things, like milk is many things. If you like black tea or green tea or white tea or whatever, then good for you! But you're not somehow better or smarter or what-have-you for drinking straight, plain black tea while the plebs have their decaf chocolate hazelnut.

There is also criticism of people who say things like "chai tea," when "chai" just means "tea," and thus we should just say "chai." Okay, except that in the term "chai tea," chai is the modifier of "tea," and it is denoting what type of tea. "Tea chai" would obviously be nonsensical, and that's how you know what is modifying what here. If in your language you couldn't say you're having "chai" without that being spiced in a specific way, then you're denoting chai as a type of tea, not being an unsophisticated moron. It's okay to just call it "chai," but it's also fine to call it "chai tea."

All these types of discussions feel like layer upon layer of snobbery to me, and I have stored up this rant while avoiding the websites that make such claims in hopes of attracting buyers who will think of themselves as more virtuous than the masses for their purity of flavor and educated vocabulary. (In order to do so, they generally charge more for the tea, too.)  Here's the bottom line: If you infuse it in hot water, in English, we can call that tea. If you like what it tastes like, you can enjoy it without being ashamed of it not being as "good" as something else without flavoring. Unflavored tea is not magically better tea. If you like your tea unflavored, I am happy for you to drink it. If you judge other people for drinking flavored tea, then you should engage in some self-reflection.

If you made it all the way through this philosophizing (i.e., this rant), I thank you.


  1. I love Traditional Teas 'Throat coat' too, i get scratchy throat in the winter from the dry air i assume an it has a nice flavor and very soothing. Love tea reviews since I've bought many in the past that i did not really enjoy..

  2. I agree with your philosiphy and rant! People who say 'oh, you are not drinking tea, it is a tissane', when I drink my peppermint and other assorted fun herbal teas... they can get bent. Just let me enjoy my tea!

    1. I now have evidence someone got all the way through that! Ha. Those people are insufferable, aren't they?


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