Monday, April 6, 2009

Chocolate Spice Rooibos Reviews Wax Philosophical

It seems like David's Tea and Mighty Leaf are on the same wavelength lately. I recently reviewed David's Cream of Earl Grey and Mighty Leaf's Earl Green, both of which are Earl Grey variations. Today, I was going to review a selection of David's Teas, but ML sent me a new sample -- Coco Chai -- that is similar to David's Spicy Chocolate Rooibos*, so I decided to review them both together. Last time, David's won out as my favorite of the two. Who will be the winner this time?

Spicy Chocolate Rooibos -- First off, I want to say two things: I love spice and I don't like banana unless it's fresh or baked into banana bread. This "spicy" blend has pink peppercorns, but not the spice the name would indicate. What it DOES bring in full force, though, is dried bananas. As far as dessert blends go, it's good -- smooth, balanced, not drastically overdone -- it just happens to lie far, far from my personal preferences.

Coco Chai -- I'm a sucker for a great masala chai. The piquancy of the ginger and (sometimes) peppercorns, the sweetness of the cloves, the spice of the cinnamon, the richness of the cardamom... Gotta love it! This is by no means a great chai. The aroma starts off pretty well, but the taste leaves me wanting more. There's no cardamom in the blend, and hardly any ginger. There are pink peppercorns, but they don't add much flavor. It tastes just about exactly like mildly spiced hot cocoa made with water instead of milk, which is (once again) not as alluring as the name suggests.

So who is the winner? I don't know. Is it the tea connoisseur? Hardly.

What about the tea companies seeking to make money off dessert blends like these? I have to wonder if the enormous surge in creation of dessert blends is outpacing the growing demand for them. (I'll address that further in an article for World Tea News later this year.)

It's easy to say the winner is the noob tea drinker who wants something to replace soda or orange mocha frappuccinos (Zoolander nod). However, I think it goes beyond that. These teas attract a whole new kind of tea drinker. Some of them will stick with flavored teas until the days they die, but some will refine their tastes and pick up more sophisticated blends or (gasp!) unflavored teas. I grew up drinking sweetened, iced tea, so who am I to judge?

As much as some of the purveyors of more sophisticated teas moan about how macadamia-vanilla-spice-chocolate-mint-orange rooibos is ruining the tea industry, I think that all new tea drinkers are just that -- another person in the world who is drinking tea -- and there's no reason to complain about that. Maybe, if you're nice to them, they'll become YOUR customer one day. :)

On top of that, it's hard to deny that dessert blends are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated. Had you told me a year ago that I would actually like a flavored oolong, I would have laughed. Now, yup, there is one that has put me in my place. (More on that another day!)

So, maybe, just maybe, by attracting more customers and providing more options, the whole tea industry wins. And you thought this was a simple "David's vs ML" post. Hah!

*David's also carries a Coco Chai Rooibos. I'm well aware that comparing the two would have been a fairer fight, but given the outcome, I think all is well in the world of online tea reviews. :)

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