Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gross, Just Gross, At Least "Red Zinger" Tea Isn't Giving Me Kidney Stones!

The Good: Decent with sugar, Nothing bad in it
The Bad: Naturally decaffeinated, Terrible sour taste and aftertaste
The Basics: At least it's not bland, Red Zinger tea is sour and undrinkable by most standards. And, as an herbal tea, it won't give you kidney stones.

I'm a big fan of Celestial Seasonings teas and I actually enjoy the challenge of writing reviews of "adjective" teas. There are teas where the title is a description of something, not a concrete flavor but rather a concept or a color and I tend to have a love-hate relationship with reviewing those. I love the writing challenge, I loathe the problem of trying to describe things that taste like what they are (i.e. "Earl Grey" defines a very specific flavor of tea that tastes like tea). So when I was visiting Celestial Seasonings this summer for my annual trip to the factory, I decided I would enjoy the writing challenge of writing about Red Zinger tea.

Having gotten through my first few pots, I am at a loss. I mean, for a change, I can describe the flavor just fine. Unfortunately, the language filter is going to force me to modify some of that description and the thing that is leaving me truly baffled is this: Red Zinger has - according to the box - been a staple tea for Celestial Seasonings since 1972. Were people truly that desperate for something other than Lipton tea that they would drink this terrible flavor for thirty-five years?! I mean, until I read that there was history for Red Zinger at Celestial Seasonings, I was wondering why this tea was kept around given the recent revamping of teas at Celestial Seasonings!


Red Zinger is a tea from Celestial Seasonings. It is a 100% natural herbal tea that has no caffeine because all of the all natural herbs in it are naturally devoid of caffeine. Red Zinger 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 Red Zinger comes with ten pairs (20 individual) of tea bags.

Red Zinger is a tea that is not claiming to be any flavor; indeed, the box has a picture of red flowers on it. I suppose it is a novelty to have a flower-flavored tea, but this is just gross. Sour, vaguely fruity, I have no idea what this tea is trying to do but how it ever got out of Boulder mystifies me!

Ease Of Preparation

Red Zinger is a tea, which means preparation is as easy as boiling a pot of water! A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea, though reusing the tea bags yields little more than hot water. These tea bags cannot be reused and even credibly call the result "tea." I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, though it is impossible to get a decent second pot out of the bags.

To prepare Red Zinger, simply boil some water, and pour it over the tea bags in a cup, mug or steeping pot. This tea is recommended to take four to six minutes to steep and after a couple cups and pots, I've found that with truly boiling water, the tea is ready at the four minute mark and letting it steep longer does not change the results in any significant fashion. Letting the tea steep more than six minutes does not net any additional flavor, nor does it denature the flavor of the tea.

When visiting the Celestial Seasonings plant in Boulder, Colorado and taking the free tour there, I remember distinctly the tour guide warning us all that with the Zinger teas milk cannot be added. If you add milk to a Zinger tea, the tea curdles the milk, I'm fairly sure it was because of the citric acid in the tea. The problem is, I'm not positive that's the reason (I am sure of the warning and the result of adding milk to Zinger teas), but I seem to recall that citric acid was to blame. As a result of a good faith belief that the people who produce this product know what they are talking about, none of my sampling of Red Zinger involved adding milk to it.


Red Zinger has a fairly floral aroma. The scent is a strange combination of roses and cherries and it was sufficient before I started drinking Red Zinger to make me perk up and note that the scent was actually intriguing to me. Sadly, the steam and the tea could be from two different cups!

Red Zinger tastes like anger. I've no context to describe what this sour, fetid tea tastes like. If "unloved" could be a flavor, Red Zinger would be it. It is sour, strong, and empty. This is the taste of what one assumes washing one's mouth out with a floral perfume would taste like. It tastes like rose pedals do, but turned. Actually, it tastes quite precisely like rosewater and lemons. It's fouls. It is seriously, unredeemably foul.

Even with a teaspoon of sugar, the sour taste is not cut sufficiently to make this tea palatable. It is still sour with up to two teaspoons of sugar and at that point, I stopped adding sugar because I figured I was already far enough away from the "natural" taste of this tea.

I did, however, find a way to make this tea palatable. At room temperature with a teaspoon of sugar, Red Zinger does not taste like poison. Sorry, Celestial Seasonings, that's the best you're going to get out of me on this one!

It is not surprising that a dominant flavor for Red Zinger is tough to nail down, considering that the primary ingredients are: hibiscus, rosehips and peppermint. This tea is a mix of herbs and mints that are not commonly found in other food or drinks. Red Zinger tea is 100% natural and it is caffeine-free.

Were it not for the sugar I add whenever I make pots of Red Zinger, this tea would be devoid of any nutritional value. It contains no calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates or protein. It is Gluten free for those for whom that matters. And as an herbal tea, I have recently come to appreciate that this tea will not contribute to kidney stones. In fact, I would suggest that if I had any before, they are running out of my body now, just to get away from this tea as it enters my kidneys!


Red Zinger 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 is fairly dark and red, so it would likely stain, if one left it on fabric for a long time, but mug that holds the tea rinses clean. Spills ought to be cleaned up quickly to prevent this tea from staining fabrics, though that's a pretty good general rule not just limited to the Red Zinger tea.


Red Zinger is lousy. Period. I think that's enough, for a change.

For other Celestial Seasonings tea reviews, please check out:
African Orange Mango Rooibos
Mandarin Orchard Decaf Green
Vanilla Hazelnut


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

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

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