Thursday, October 23, 2014

Smiley360 Mission - TAZO Chai: Where #SweetMeetsSpicy + Coupon!

 

Several years of working in the office has taught me one thing: you're either a coffee drinker or a tea drinker. Of course there are a few lucky ones who can go either way but generally you fall into one of those categories.

I love tea. I don't love coffee.

I think my aversion to coffee started in high school when our symphonic band took a trip to Japan. I wanted to celebrate my independence and since we were strictly forbidden to buy booze from the vending machines, I did the next best thing: I bought vending machine coffee. Dude. It doesn't sound like a big deal but coffee was something I only saw the adults drinking. And I was parentless in freakin' Japan. I don't remember what brand the coffee was but I do remember I was ill-prepared for such an indulgence and had no sugar or creamer. But who cares, I was cool and was about to drink coffee with friends. Without supervision! And I really think I may have been okay with black coffee. Then after my first sip some other friends came over to hang out in our hotel room. After 45 minutes of socializing I had completely forgotten about my coffee. Not wanting to see my ¥100 go down the drain, I got the bright idea of downing the coffee. Bottoms up! Holy sh*t, that was horrible. Nobody should be subjected to room temperature black coffee. Since then I have avoided all black coffee like the plague and will only succumb to coffee-related beverages if they are iced and blended with everything else in the world to cover up the coffee taste. I don't even eat coffee candy. I've only tried black coffee once since then and that was because I got a sample from a subscription box.

It's much easier to get me to drink tea.


Every time I go to Starbucks I drool over the Tazo teas. I've only ordered the strawberry passion tea lemonade (I'm sure there's some Tazo tea in there somewhere) but never got around to trying the chai. I have a friend who won't buy anything else from Starbucks except chai so I figured it must be good. 

Then the tea gods took pity on me and I got an opportunity to try Tazo Chai through Smiley360. If you haven't heard of them before, Smiley360 is an online review community in which you go on "missions" and receive free products to review in exchange for your honest opinion. Sometimes the item you get to review is full-sized; other times you receive samples, but the amount will always be enough for you to form an opinion on it.

THE KIT
First of all, WHAT IS TAZO CHAI?
Tazo's Chai tea is an Assam black tea blend of ingredients sourced from all over the world. In general, the sweetness from cinnamon and vanilla are blended with the spiciness of black pepper, cardamom, and star anise.
The Tazo Chai kit came with three flavors of chai (Classic, Chocolate, Vanilla Caramel), a product brochure, and three coupons for a free box of Tazo Chai teabags. Sorry the coupons didn't make it to the photo; I snatched them up and put them in my purse as soon as I could. They are meant to be shared with friends but screw that, they're staying in my greedy mitts. 
Tazo Chai ingredients come from all over the globe
The brochure is styled like their website - very elegant and simple yet informative. It's clear from browsing these sources that Tazo takes great pride in their craft. And I had no idea they had so many flavor varieties!

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Tazo does filterbags. That's good because I do too. I mainly drink tea at work and don't have the resources to brew my own loose leaf tea. The only downside is that a lot of their chai flavors sound better with milk (especially the chocolate and vanilla caramel I got in this kit), and I don't keep a carton of milk at work. Some mystery person does because I always see a carton in the fridge, but I don't want to be that office moocher/thief. FYI all the teas I got contain 31-45 mg of caffeine per serving.

Anyway, here are my thoughts on the varieties I received (and Tazo has hands-down the best tea descriptions I've ever seen):

Classic - A robust blend of black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper & spices. Black tea takes a Saturday drive through an exotic marketplace. The essences of sweet cinnamon, spicy ginger and fragrant cardamom float in through the open windows while black pepper flirtatiously grabs the steering wheel - just to heat things up a bit.
INGREDIENTS: Black teas, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, star anise
I decided to start off with the classic Tazo chai to get a feel of the basic blend I can expect from the others. This was also the first time I tried a tea with cardamom, anise, and clove notes, all of which I don't especially care for in food. You can definitely taste the ginger in it, but it wasn't strong at all. The milk may have had something to do with it because I could barely taste anything at all even after steeping for 10 minutes. It was like the milk prevented the filterbag from imparting any taste. Ohhhh. I guess that's why they also have a latte line with black tea concentrate made specifically for brewing with milk. And I guess it also would've helped to read the directions online beforehand: "Pour water over the filterbag" Doh. You seriously wouldn't think you could screw up using a teabag. BUT YOU CAN.

Chocolate - Robust black tea blended with rich cocoa & classic chai spices. Feeling especially decadent, cocoa went in search of a new winter coat that swings. Cinnamon sticks sewed a gingery satin lining and cardamom buttons from collar to hem - for sweet spice with every step.
INGREDIENTS: Black teas, cocoa peels, natural flavors, licorice root, cinnamon, ginger, yerba mate, cardamom, black pepper, cloves
Now that I know how to drink this correctly, I can give an actual opinion on this one. And um, I've got mixed feelings. I can definitely taste the chocolate, but chocolate milkshakes and chocolate ice cream have spoiled my expectations and now this is watery chocolate and my tongue is just so confused right now. I definitely think this would be better in the chocolate latte form.

Vanilla Caramel - A delicate blend of black tea, vanilla, caramel & classic chai spices. Cinnamon sticks gather on a lush black-tea lawn for a leisurely afternoon of croquet and conversation. Ginger offers to keep score from the sidelines while handing out elegantly wrapped vanilla caramels.
INGREDIENTS: Black teas, cinnamon, natural flavors, licorice root, ginger, black pepper cloves
I'm not sure where the vanilla and caramel are in that ingredient list? "Natural flavors," perhaps? 
Hm. Well I do like this one better than the chocolate. It's got a little spice to it and you can actually smell the cloves and licorice in it. I normally don't care for either but in here they actually work. I can't find the vanilla or the caramel though, I'll have to keep look-- er, tasting. It tastes more like a spiced tea than creamy and smooth like I expected. One thing I noticed with both the Chocolate and Vanilla Caramel flavors is that the tea suddenly turns sweet as it's going down your throat. Odd but interesting. 

THE VERDICT
My favorite of the three varieties was the Vanilla Caramel. I may have liked the Classic, but I managed to use a filterbag incorrectly so any opinions I have on that are moot. The Chocolate was just too weird for me to get used to; I can't do the watery chocolate thing just yet. 
I use yogurt lids to hold my tea bags. Ghetto fab y'all. It's called being resourceful.
After browsing Tazo's tea lineup I found an armload of others that I'd like to try. Some of my top choices are the peachy green, baked cinnamon applecocoa mint maté, apricot vanilla creme, and peach cobbler varieties. 
organic peachy green organic baked cinnamon apple cocoa mint mate apricot vanilla crème organic peach cobbler

I've been looking for Tazo at the grocery stores but haven't been able to find one in my area that sells it. :( Unfortunately, you can't order straight from the Tazo website, but I'm pretty sure there are other online retailers who sell this brand. If you have better luck at finding a store, you can save $2.00 on any Tazo product with this link. Happy sipping!


Note: This post contains referral links. I received these TAZO Chai samples complimentary from Smiley360 for testing purposes. This post reflects my honest opinions of this product.

4 comments:

  1. Mmm, room-temperature vending machine coffee reminds me of taking night classes at community college. Classy times. I am actually one of those freaky coffee OR tea people, but I have to say, chocolate tea sounds like it would be gross. I like a good piece of rich chocolate as much as anybody, but watery chocolate? Just ... no.

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    1. Exactly. It's like drinking the yummy goodness that gets hosed off the chocolate bar machines at the factory. Or maybe that's just what I picture. But watery chocolate is definitely a no-no in my book. I can tolerate hot cocoa made with water instead of milk, but not choco-tea. Blech. My mouth gets confused thinking about it.

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  2. Hi, I am a Smiley360 member too. I have a blog that I review them and some other similar site's products. I am trying to get followers and building my follower list. Please come follow my blog. Thanks!! (freehungryholly.blogspot.com)

    P.S. I did get this mission too,but didn't do a blog post on it. I really was hoping it would be more like the chia tea lates i get, but it was just tea. I tried it with milk and i still wasn't too impressed.

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    1. Hi Holly! Glad to meet a fellow Smiley360er on here! And fellow BzzAgent...and Influenster...hehe. Wow, you've got lots of missions going on! It's been quite a while since I've qualified for one :-/ Thanks for reaching out to me, I've followed your blog; please feel free to follow mine too :) Hope you're having a great holiday season and I look forward to reading about your missions!

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