Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Three words: Don't Go There

As we have down time, I do a lot of web roaming. It can't be called searching because I'm not looking for anything specifically. I'm just clicking on links with interesting titles.

Today, Starbucks asks tea drinkers to pay up, caught my eye. (Follow this link to the actual article.)

If you know me, you know I don't go into Starbucks unless I'm with someone who goes there or I'm getting a friend with a known Starbucks habit a gift card. Years ago, when they first wandered or strode mightily or used a scorched earth policy, depending upon your perception of their proliferation of stores, I could go in and get a tea, just a tea. It could be black or green. It could be herbal or a semi-well known name. Occasionally, they had some different teas on the menu, depending upon season, but I could walk in and get a dark oolong-style tea.

Then they went to Tazo and "experience" teas. I could be "envigorated" or "energized" or "rested" or "reflectioned" or any of 8 different adjectives. I couldn't get an English Breakfast or an Earl Gray. I had to decide what my adjective was and order that way. That's when I quit going to Starbucks for tea.

Yes, tea drinking can be, for me, a calming, enlightening experience. I love to sit on the deck in a summer's warm rain with a steaming mug of English Breakfast. I love to laugh with friends over multiple small cups of woody Chinese Restaurant tea while sharing dishes of stir fried rice or moo shoo gai pan or oriental beef or almond chicken. I drink copious amounts of Assam while playing World of Warcraft and a good book, a cat and hot Lapsang Souchong make a chilly Saturday afternoon go by fast. I am totally enamored of Market Spice's Huckleberry tea and you cannot go wrong gifting me a box of tea, even something you get at the grocery store for $2.00 a box. I'm not a big fan of herbals but I'll drink them.

Starbucks is not where you should be going for tea, folks, it just isn't. Starbucks built their reputation on purveying coffee in forms that make it almost unrecognizable. That's "Cee - Oh - Eff - Eff - Eee - Eee". Nowhere does tea figure into that word. You should not be surprised that the company that gave you $6.00 cups of the same stuff your parents brewed for $6.00 a can would eventually raise the price on steeping dried leaves in bags, fabric or paper.

In larger cities, entrepreneurs have started tea houses where the preferred beverage served is tea. Some are better than others and there are two in Wheaton, where I live. I don't frequent them often because I find they have to charge more for their tea than I'm willing to pay, although I understand this does cover the rent, utilities, salaries and stock. The very positive side of these shops is that they are run not with a corporate mentality, but by people who love tea, first and foremost. Some of the most interesting tea flavors are to be had in these small shops. Teas will often exceed coffee on a price per pound basis, particularly if you look at organic loose-leaf teas.

So, really, tell Starbucks to stick to coffee. If you don't have a tea shop and don't want to order tea off the Internet, just go to a grocery and get a goodly supply off their shelves. Let Starbucks crank out the $6.00 cups of coffee. Ask for hot water and then add your own bag. You'll get exactly what you need at pennies per cup.

Beverage: Huckleberry Tea (what else?)


1 comment:

  1. The vietnamese/chinese restaurant near us has what is now my favorite tea - pots of hot jasmine tea for just $1. I love my chai but there's just something about that tea.