Organic Chai Tea
Last week, we explored chai concentrates; this week, we continue our spicy adventure with chai tea bags. With dozens of varieties of chai tea bags available - too many to taste in a single panel - we zeroed in on certified organic varieties of the classic blend of black tea and spices.
Each tea was steeped according to package instructions. Milk and sugar were served on the side for panelists to add to their brew, if desired.
Top spot went to the Fair Trade Certified brand, Numi, in Oakland. Several panelists thought the tea's spicing was "balanced" and had "good spice flavor, " although one felt it was a "tad heavy handed." Another noted that the tea was "bitter and medicinal" with no "chai characteristics." Three would buy, one might, and one would not.
Yogi brand, made with organic Assam tea and a blend of spices - some organic, some not - took second place. Panelists noted that the tea was "very spicy and aromatic" with "lots of cloves." One thought that while "nicely spiced, " the actual tea flavor of the brew was "a bit weak." Four might buy, and one would not.
In third place was Whole Foods' Allegro brand. While one panelist thought that the tea had "good balance, " others found it "thin tasting" with "no chai spice" flavor. One would buy, two might, and two would not.
Starbucks-owned Tazo came in fourth, despite its chai tea latte concentrate coming in second last week. One thought the tea was "balanced" and had "good flavor." Others felt it was "highly spiced, to the point of bitterness" and that it had a "harsh finish." One would buy, two might, and two would not.
Choice, which touts itself as the first tea crafter in the United States to offer fair-trade certified tea, rounded out the top five. Panelists found this tea to be "timid" with "not enough spices." Three might buy, and two would not.
Organic chai tea bags
Numi Organic Tea
Golden Chai 65
Yogi Chai Black 62
Allegro Fine Tea Organic
Indian Chai 60
Tazo Organic Chai 58
Choice Organic Teas
Masala Chai 54
Two Leaves Tea Company Organic Mountain High Chai 51
Tulsi Masala Chai 30
Panelists were Linda Anusasananan, food writer, San Mateo; John Carroll, cookbook author, San Francisco; Paolo Lucchesi, Chronicle staff writer; Emily Luchetti, chief pastry officer, Waterbar and Farallon, San Francisco; Roland Passot, chef-owner of La Folie in San Francisco and three Left Banks. All products are tasted blind; a perfect score would be 100. Prices listed are the lowest found, but products may be available at other stores.