Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Celestial Seasonings Mortgages Their Environmental Principles With Saphara Premier Estate Assam Tea.

The Good: Fair trade philosophy, Organic ingredients
The Bad: Environmentally irresponsible, Expensive, Tastes lousy with sugar
The Basics: A disappointing tea-flavored tea, Saphara Premier Estate Assam by Celestial Seasonings is overpriced for as bland and environmentally problematic as this tea is.

Each year, I go on a cross-country trip to Las Vegas and on the way back, I stop at the Celestial Seasonings tea factory in Boulder, Colorado! Last year, I had very few choices for teas to review - I had reviewed sixty-six flavors of Celestial Seasonings teas (which are still being transferred to this blog, so be patient!) - so I decided to go in a different direction last year. Instead of trying to try every possible flavor, I used my limited budget to buy the compete collection of Saphara teas from Celestial Seasoning. These boxes were over twice as expensive as the standard teas from Celestial Seasonings and they only have fifteen tea bags!

Right off the bat, the moment I opened my first Saphara tea, the Premier Estate Assam tea, I was disillusioned with Celestial Seasonings. Inside each overpriced box there were fifteen pyramid-shaped tea bags, each in an individual plastic wrapper! For those who know nothing of Celestial Seasonings or its ways, the company has a pretty wonderful corporate policy involving a strong sense of environmentalism and an abhorrence of waste. This is why their usual tea bags do not have strings and excess paper or individual wrapping. While the box of Saphara Premier Estate Assam claims everything in the tea bags is biodegradable, the plastic is not and the mortgaging of the environmental principles Celestial Seasonings stands for on a more expensive tea is a huge disappointment to the avid fan of Celestial Seasonings's products.

As for Premier Estate Assam tea . . . it is average-at-best and for such a pricey tea, it is hard to get excited about it. It became very easy to not endorse.


Premier Estate Assam is an organic black tea from Celestial Seasonings's Saphara line, which is "organic fair trade certified." This black tea is entirely natural and organic. This is a strong tea and one with a more generic black tea taste and it is tough to see what the consumer is paying for, other than their morals with the high price of the box.

Premier Estate Assam comes with Saphara's standard pyramid-shaped tea bags. Each pyramid-shaped tea bag is made of biodegradable materials (I'm guessing bamboo) and unlike other Celestial Seasonings products, the Saphara tea pyramids come with strings and little tags. Each box of tea has fifteen individually plastic-wrapped tea bags. On the plus side, because the tea pyramids allow the tea leaves to expand and offer more surface area for the tea to brew with, a single tea bag will make an entire pot of tea.

Ease Of Preparation

Premier Estate Assam is your standard black tea as far as the preparation goes. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea and could be reused and make a second cup of this tea with most of the flavor that the first cup yielded. The second cup comes out about as strong as the first, owing in part to the pyramid design of the tea bags. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and a single tea bag makes a strong pot of tea and may be used to make a very weak second batch.

To prepare Premier Estate Assam black tea, bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it over the tea bags. Filtered water at a roaring boil makes the tea brew up quickly. This tea takes three to five minutes to steep and when the water is seriously boiling, it comes out strong at the three minute point without needing any additional time. After five minutes, though, the flavor does not concentrate any more so there is no benefit to letting it steep longer than that.


Premier Estate Assam is initially inviting to the consumer with a strong, black tea scent. Whatever safflowers are, they contribute nothing of significance to the scent of the tea. This is a tea that smells like tea and it has a bold, woody scent most reminiscent of Earl Grey tea. Despite there being no bergamot in the Premier Estate Assam tea, it smells most like Earl Grey (which does have that spice).

That said, the bold smell of Premier Estate Assam is not enough to flavor this tea in any meaningful way. Here the problem comes in describing this tea. The tea tastes like a green tea, but more concentrated. Well, when I describe a green tea, how do I usually describe it? Like watered-down black tea. This is how Premier Estate Assam tastes. This Saphara tea tastes precisely like green tea; there is a watery quality to the taste and the tea flavor is not powerful and has a slightly floral undertone to it, as if one has made green tea in water that had been in a vase of lilacs. But the taste is not weak. Instead, this is like having five shots of green tea in one mouthful. The best possible way I can describe this is that it tastes like a standard green tea, in quantity, or a strong black tea, but without the body, without the force or presence on the tongue that black tea usually has.

Thus, Saphara Premier Estate Assam is yet-another tea flavored tea and as such it seems unimpressive at such a high price per box. What is more unfortunate than Premier Estate Assam on its own is what happens when one adds sugar to the tea. With a teaspoon of sugar, the tea becomes a terrible, dry beverage that is utterly unsatisfying. This tea takes on a bitter, dry taste with a slightly sour aftertaste with the addition of only a little sugar, making it entirely unpalatable when one tries to sweeten it.

With a splash of milk, the Saphara Premier Estate Assam simply tastes more watered down and more like a traditional green tea. Cold, this tea is similarly bland, though cool it does seem to have more body and a richer sense of tea flavor than when it is cold or piping hot.


This tea is a fairly strong black tea comprised entirely of black tea and organic safflowers. As with most Celestial Seasonings teas, there is nothing unpronouncable in this tea and it is 100% natural and organic. It does not appear to contain gluten and it is Kosher.

In terms of nutrition, I would not suggest trying to live on Premier Estate Assam. In an 8 oz. mug, there are no calories, nor fat, nor sodium, nor carbs, nor protein. Any nutritional value would come from what you add to this. What the tea has is caffeine and this tea has 30 mg of caffeine per serving, so it is enough to wake one right up!


Premier Estate Assam black tea is very 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 is a very dark tea and will stain most fabrics, so I tend to avoid drinking this one around anything that will easily stain. Consult a fabric guide if you get the brewed tea on a fabric.


My initial disappointment at Celestial Seasonings gutting their environmental policy to target a trendy, upscale market dissipated when I became more peeved that they were creating a mediocre tea while doing it! Saphara Premier Estate Assam is entirely mediocre and at this price, we expect much, much better.

For other teas by Celestial Seasonings, please check out my reviews of:
Zingers To Go Blueberry Splash
Vanilla Ginger Green Chai
Saphara Tropical Rooibos


For other food and drink reviews, please visit my index page for an organized list by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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