A few years ago, I visited Harpo Studios in Chicago, and even stopped by Oprah’s gift shop there. While I remember stacks of self-improvement books and colorful pieces of Oprah’s worn clothing being sold, what I didn’t see available was tea.
It wasn’t until April of this year that Oprah expanded her empire to include a signature tea called Oprah Chai that’s now sold at Starbucks and Teavana. To my surprise, the tea was introduced right before Mother’s Day, when summer was around the corner and things were about to heat up. In addition to the tea itself, Starbucks and Teavana created a line of Oprah Chai-inspired gift sets and tea tins. Originally, all the proceeds from the tea and tea products were to go towards charities for youth education (if you watch this video, isn’t that what she says?).
I was disappointed to learn recently that, in fact, only a small fraction of the proceeds go towards these charities. Despite this, organizations like Pathways to College, the U.S. Dream Academy, Girls Inc., the National Cares Mentoring Movement, and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy will benefit every time you buy Oprah Chai.When it comes to teas blended by large companies, I know that there are many skeptics out there. So, with the minimum 2 ounces of Oprah Chai I purchased at Teavana and some dedicated blogging time at Starbucks, I decided to taste this blend 3 ways and report back to you.
Oprah Chai Brew #1: Plain, Over Ice, Following Directions
I originally wanted to brew this tea just one way…over ice, without sugar, and in true Oprah style…with a stainless steel straw (does anyone remember the Lance Armstrong interview?). Teas purchased at Teavana typically have a label that indicates times and temperatures for steeping that particular tea. I brewed this batch of Oprah Chai for 2 1/2 minutes @ 200 degrees F, and the result was a very light tasting chai, perfect as a summer drink. After drinking this I realized why it made sense to launch this tea in the Springtime, as it wasn’t dark and rich like the other Teavana chai blends I’d tasted before. The brew had a lingering natural sweetness from the generous amounts of ginger and cinnamon added in, and was pleasant but not bold.
I didn’t think to brew Oprah Chai this way until I watched Oprah performing her morning tea-making ritual on OWN. First off, I should say that the way she brews her tea is not how Teavana’s packaging directions explain how to brew the tea. Lady O brews her tea with double/triple strength and for a longer period of time. She also tops off her brew with a healthy dose of frothy milk…”savory and strong” is how she describes her perfect cup of chai. Watch Oprah brew her signature blend here…it’s highly entertaining and will leave you wide-eyed and wired just like her chai will! This method produces a stronger tea–darker, but not actually more flavorful. How to Froth Milk (without a Frother): Fill a jam jar with milk until 1/3 full. Place lid on and shake vigorously until the milk doubles in volume. Remove lid and place jar in microwave for 30 seconds. Remove jar from microwave carefully, pour warmed milk into the chai tea, then top with froth.
Oprah Chai Brew #3: A Starbucks’ Iced Oprah Chai Latte
Ok, so I actually don’t go to Starbucks very often. I ended up here when I was out and about, looking for a place to write this very post. I stepped into the shop and voilà! there it was again…Oprah Chai, this time in the form of a latte! How naive of me, of course they would find a way to serve it at Starbucks! There couldn’t have been a better time to try it, and I must admit that I was really pleased with the taste. This latte was basically the love child of my 1st and 2nd brew methods, with an added light dose of sugar to bring all the spicy flavors together.
So what’s the verdict on the best way to enjoy Oprah Chai? Ironically, I like the iced methods better than Oprah’s signature way of brewing the tea. I find both cold versions to be light and refreshing, without any traces of bitterness. Her blend has a characteristic warmth and sweetness that makes sugar an entirely optional addition. The 2nd Oprah method of enjoying the tea might be tasty as we head into winter, but flavorwise I think the tea is best steeped as instructed on the package.
I do think this tea is a bit overpriced (especially since not all the proceeds are going to charity), so my suggestion is to try the blend out at Starbucks before committing. And if you are a true Oprah fan, you should check out Steep Your Soul, the site that she launched to go along with her tea brand. You’ll learn a thing or two about how Oprah created this blend, and maybe even delight in some “Ah-Ha!” moments on living a strongly steeped and tea-inspired life!
Tasting Notes for Teavana’s Oprah Chai Tea:
BREWING TIPS: 2-3 minutes @ 200 degrees F.
THE LEAF: Chunky bits of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves blended with loose-leaf black tea and rooibos…watch Oprah create her tea blend here!
THE SCENT: Heavy on the cinnamon and ginger…spicy, warm, and winter-like.
THE STEEP: Brews to a golden amber. A medium-bodied tea with a mildly sweet and spicy essence.