Sunday, September 26, 2010

Returning To My First Tea Review: Celestial Seasonings Tropic Of Strawberry Underwhelms.

The Good: With enough sugar, it tastes like strawberry! No negative nutritional aspects.
The Bad: Sour, unflavorful, Indistinct, Caffeine free, Meh!
The Basics: "Tropic Of Strawberry" is a disappointing tea from Celestial Seasonings that does not make the grade hot or without sugar. Lots of sugar.

Back when I used to write for a website (as opposed to my own blog), I was excited when Celestial Seasonings teas were added to the site, so I could review their product lines. I recall being very excited to begin my food reviews, my tea reviews, with Celestial Seasonings because I had long had a love of their teas. I did not shirk, however, from reviewing all of their teas. That included the good and the bad. Oddly, even as I declared my love for the brand, I started with one of their lesser flavors, Tropic Of Strawberry.

Since then, I have reviewed over fifty Celestial Seasonings products, including their new Zinger To Go flavors Peach Delight and Wild Berry Chill. I still love Celestial Seasonings and their teas, but Tropic Of Strawberry is one of their virtually undrinkable flavors. I'll have a lot of tea reviews to transfer over and as Celestial Seasonings comes out with new flavors, I tend to review them as I make an annual trip to the Celestial Seasonings factory in Boulder, Colorado. Enjoy this retro review! It might not be as refined as some of my later tea reviews, but I kept the majority of the review as it was because I enjoyed the eagerness and freshness of this first tea review.


Tropic Of Strawberry is a tea from Celestial Seasonings. It is a 100% natural herb tea that is caffeine free (actually I'm pretty sure all herbal teas are caffeine free). It comes in Celestial Seasoning's standard stringless tea bags, which are paired together with easy to separate perforations that allow one to separate the tea bags. When I make pots of tea, I tend to use two bags and leave them connected. A box of Tropic Of Strawberry comes with ten pairs (20 individual) of tea bags.

As one might guess, Tropic of Strawberry is intended to be a strawberry flavored tea. I purchased this tea when visiting Celestial Seasonings's plant in Boulder because they had samples of Tropic Of Strawberry served iced and it was good. I should have left the memory where it was . . .

Ease Of Preparation

Tropic of Strawberry is a tea, so making it is certainly not rocket science. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea and could be reused and make a second decent cup of Tropic Of Strawberry. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, though it's virtually impossible to get a decent second pot out of the bags, especially of Tropic Of Strawberry.

To prepare Tropic Of Strawberry, simply boil some water, and pour it over the tea bags. In the "Coffee is hot" school of disclaimers, the tea bags ought to be in a pot or cup or mug when one pours the boiling water over them in order to get the best results. Tropic Of Strawberry is recommended to take four to six minutes to steep and I've found four minutes is more than enough to get the full flavor out of a bag of this tea. Letting the tea steep more than six minutes does not net any additional flavor, nor does it denature the flavor of the tea.


Which brings us to the payoff; the only reason I can think of to read a review of a tea is to figure out if its a worthwhile investment as far as the taste. With a tea, the key question has to be, does it taste like what it is supposed to taste like? With Tropic Of Strawberry - and I'm on my last pot of this - the answer is a resounding "no."

Tropic Of Strawberry is a clever title to disguise a very weak tea. In its hot form, this tea is simply an embodiment of sour. There is no real strawberry flavor to it, just a generic sour taste overcoming the faint taste of tea. I mean, I think one could get the same basic flavor by taking a standard Lipton tea bag, sitting it in lemon juice over night and then making tea with it. Tropic Of Strawberry, straight, is utterly flavorless and a failure to be strawberry in either the sense of actual strawberry flavor (I have a strawberry patch in my back yard, so I know what real strawberries taste like!) or the generic flavor people call strawberry when they are ordering things like milkshakes or ice cream.

In its pure form, Tropic Of Strawberry does capture the sour quality to some wild strawberries. The problem here is aroma. Aroma can save a weak tea, but the vapors that come off this tea do not smell like any form of strawberry. I'm fairly sure they do not smell like the Tropics, either (not enough salt in the scent!). So, we get a hot tea that embodies sour without real flavor and an aroma that is that of fairly generic tea scent which fails to reinforce the desired flavor of the tea.

There are, I have discovered, two solutions to this problem. The first is sugar (see nutrition below). Two teaspoons of sugar in this hot tea and it's right as rain. Yes, with enough sugar, Tropic Of Strawberry tastes like strawberry ice cream or strawberry syrup. The flavor Americans have come to accept as strawberries, which is more analogous to strawberries in sugar or cream, can be achieved with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of sugar in this tea.

Ironically, Tropic Of Strawberry tastes most like sun-warmed strawberries when the tea is cold. Iced - prepared usually in a pitcher and then cooled (there are additional directions on the package) - the tea tastes like real strawberries. Yes, the dominant flavor is still generally sour, but so are fresh strawberries. Without heat, cooled, the flavor of real strawberries comes out. A slight amount of sugar enhances that flavor and makes the tea very drinkable, but even without it, cooled, this tea finally tastes like strawberries and not either generic tea or simply sour.

I've never added milk to Tropic Of Strawberry hot or cold, though milk may be added to this tea without any adverse effects (at least in terms of chemical composition).


I refuse to kill space by listing ingredients as a disguise for a review, but it is worth noting that Tropic Of Strawberry is an all natural tea. The ingredients list reads like a witch's potion as it includes hibiscus, rosehips, and orange peel. There is nothing unpronouncable in the ingredients, though the closest thing to a strawberry is the seventh ingredient; "natural flavors of strawberries." There is a footnote in the ingredients, possibly for allergy sufferers: "Contains milk." The tea brews clear, so where the milk is is a mystery to me.

In terms of nutrition, I return to the idea that this is a tea, not an energy drink. Tropic Of Strawberry is calorie free and contains no fat, sodium, carbohydrates or protein. At least, I'm assuming those stats are for the tea that is brewed from the bags. As it is not recommended to actually consume the tea in the tea bags, actual nutrition of the herbs might differ some from the tea that is brewed from them.

In other words, the only nutritional value one will get from Tropic Of Strawberry is from whatever one adds to the tea.


Tropic Of Strawberry is easy to clean up after - the tea bags may be disposed in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. The tea itself has a reddish tinge that will stain, but mugs that hold the tea ought to clean up with a rinse without any problems.


I'm a big fan of Celestial Seasonings's teas, but Tropic Of Strawberry is one of its failures. The tea does not taste like what it is supposed to without a great deal of aid and while it tastes like strawberry with enough sugar or cold, it's just not all that good either way. The company can do better, but fans of strawberries - or tea - are unlikely to enjoy this product. I know I did not.

For other tea reviews, please check out:
Yogi Berry Detox
Stash Coconut Mango Oolong
Republic Of Tea Earl Greyer


For other beverage reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2007, 2008, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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