The Good: Great aroma, caffeinated
The Bad: Dry, Does not taste at all like vanilla
The Basics: A strangely dry tea, Bigelow Vanilla Chai reminds this reviewer how surprisingly bland and unpleasant some teas may be.
Some might think that my reviews of the many flavors of tea from Celestial Seasonings makes me inherently biased toward that tea brand. This is not entirely an unfounded fear, but it is based on an erroneous assumption. I chose Celestial Seasonings as my dominant tea brand after years and years of tea exploration. Celestial Seasonings teas were the ones that most consistently tasted like what they claimed to. I am least disappointed - by the numbers - with Celestial Seasonings products because they largely meet my objective standard which demands that for teas that claim to have a flavor, they taste like that flavor. Bigelow's Vanilla Chai tea, for example, does not meet that standard; it tasted nothing like vanilla to me and more than that, it left my mouth dry and that's weird when one is drinking something!
While traveling on my yearly cross country adventure, I found myself at a Quality Inn near the Mall Of America in Minnesota that had a twenty-four hour tea service. Well, with so many options just sitting there, I probably could have stopped myself from taking about six of each flavor, yet I didn't stop myself. Strange, huh? As a result, I have ended up with a good sized stash of a diverse array of Bigelow teas. I am continuing with my tea cheat reviews and reviewing Vanilla Chai.
Vanilla Chai is a tea from Bigelow. It is a black tea that has caffeine and smells pretty amazing, with a rich vanilla bean and chai scent. This is one of those teas that sets the person drinking it up for an amazing burst of flavor when they try the tea. Vanilla Chai comes in Bigelow's standard individually-wrapped tea bags, means that each tea bag has a wax papery envelope it is sealed in for freshness. Each tea bag has a five-inch string with a little paper tab at the end, which is quite a bit more waste than I like from a tea bag. When I make pots of tea, I tend to use two bags and making a steeping pot of Vanilla Chai reminds me of why I like the easy environmentalism of Celestial Seasonings' stringless bags. A box of Vanilla Chai comes with 20 individually-wrapped tea bags.
Vanilla Chai is marketed as a vanilla flavored tea and it lives up that with only the aroma.
Ease Of Preparation
Vanilla Chai 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 and reusing the tea bags yields a fair second pot. These tea bags can be reused as the result is still a fairly strong pot of tea. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well, even for a second pot. Indeed, Vanilla Chai makes for one of the best tea bags to reuse with a second pot coming out about 3/4 as strong as the original pot!
To prepare Vanilla Chai, simply boil some water, and pour it over the tea bags in a cup, mug or steeping pot. This tea is recommended to take two to four minutes to steep and after a couple cups and pots, I've found that with truly boiling water, the tea is ready at the two minute mark, but it reaches its full flavor at four minutes. However, letting the tea steep more than four minutes does not net any additional flavor, nor does it denature the flavor of the tea.
Vanilla Chai prepared me to be surprised with its aroma. The tea smells of rich spices, almost clove like in the potency of the scent. I was, therefore, very disappointed upon taking my first few sips. Vanilla Chai tastes like black tea . . . with a rather nasty and dry aftertaste after one swallows the tea. This tea did not taste like vanilla at all and, in fact, it is so dominated by the dry aftertaste that it is inconceivable how many times I tried this without doctoring it up to try to cut its terrible taste!
Unfortunately, Bigelow Vanilla Chai is one of the rare exception teas; no matter how it is doctored up, nothing kills the aftertaste!
With a teaspoon of sugar, this tea does taste a bit like like vanilla! Even so, the sugar cuts the tea taste and pushes it back so that one can taste the flavor of vanilla, but even that is quickly overcome by the dry aftertaste that ruined every undoctored tasting. Similarly, adding just a splash of milk makes the tea into something creamy, like a coffee house chai drink, but still the terrible aftertaste endures!
Vanilla Chai is absolutely terrible when cold. It is all aftertaste and not even the hint of vanilla that the steam reveals when it is hot.
It is not surprising that the dominant flavor of Vanilla Chai is not particularly vanilla, considering that the primary ingredients are: black tea, spices, and natural and artificial flavors (soy lecithin). This tea does not even use vanilla balm to try to enhance the vanilla flavor, so it is unsurprising that the black tea would kick the vanilla flavor down.
Were it not for the sugar I add whenever I make pots of Vanilla Chai, this tea would be devoid of any nutritional value. It contains no calories, fat, sodium, carbohydrates or protein. It does, however, have caffeine and it actually does kick with the caffeine a little bit, causing one to perk up. Between the caffeine and the terrible aftertaste, it is pretty much impossible to stay tired with this Vanilla Chai!
Vanilla Chai 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. If composting, though, one needs to remove the string and staple in order to insure that everything being put in your garden is actually biodegradable. This tea is fairly dark, especially at full strength and it will probably stain fabrics. However, mugs that hold the tea rinse 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 Vanilla Chai tea.
Vanilla Chai is pretty bad, which is a disappointment for me because when I was swiping tea bags, this was one of two that I took the most of. Unfortunately, we can't always guess right; as one of the few flavors that was not around when I sampled tea constantly and found Celestial Seasonings, I thought this might be a pleasant surprise that would make me rethink Bigelow teas. Alas, it is not. Sometimes, experience teaches us well. For a decent chai drink, check out Celestial Seasonings' chai teas!
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© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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