Savory teas from Numi come in six flavors: Carrot Curry and Broccoli Cilantro (not pictured), and Tomato Mint, Fennel Spice, Spinach Chive, and Beet Cabbage. (Photo: Numi)
Every once in a while, a product comes along that is so creative, so original, and yet so obvious, that it leaves the rest of us shaking our heads while mumbling, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
There are products like those and then there are these Numi Savory Teas. Though I’m a big fan of the premium, organic tea company and love most of their products — not only do they have a delicious Chocolate Earl Grey but they’re also wildly philanthropic — I’m a little perplexed by this particular offering.
According to the tea company, each savory tea “combines real organic vegetables, wild herbs, decaf tea, and aromatic spices for a satisfying experience. Inspired by recipes from around the world, these satiating veggie-spice-tea blends are rich in flavor, yet light enough to enjoy any time of day. It’s not quite a soup, but more than a tea. Enjoy a comforting cup of garden goodness one savory sip at a time!”
What is “not quite soup”? Do these teas approximate soup in the same way that vegetarian bacon bits are “not quite bacon,” reminding me that what I am consuming is not the “real thing” while leaving me dissatisfied and still hungry for bacon? And how exactly are these “more than tea”? They don’t contain any caffeine and that, in my book, makes them decidedly less than tea.
If you consider that 2014 saw juicing go mainstream, it makes sense for a tea company to try and capitalize on the whole “drink your vegetables” craze. But there is one very obvious problem. Though I may not love the taste of a kale-celery-ginger juice, at least I am getting some of the nutrients held within the cellular walls of those vegetables. But these “not-quite-soups” teas are all taste and very little substance. Some of them have a bit of vitamin C, some have a smidge of calcium, but if I’m going to chug a garden-flavored beverage, it had better count for at least two servings of plant matter. Otherwise, I’m just not quite sure what the point is.
Numi is one step ahead of me. Correctly assuming that the public would need help applying this tea to their everyday lives, they have compiled a helpful list of “ways to enjoy a cup,” including “a great complement to a light lunch” and “a snack on your next hike or camping trip.”
Along those lines, I really take issue with Numi calling these a “satisfying snack.” String cheese is a snack. A handful of almonds and dried cranberries is a snack. This is vegetable flavored water. This, like the mushroom broth I slurped down during a particularly ill-fated juice cleanse, is a fake snack, an attempt to trick yourself into thinking you are eating. It didn’t work with the mushroom broth and it probably won’t work now.
Regardless of whether they are tea, soup, or some undefined new liquid that cannot be categorized by chef or scientist, these new savory infusions are definitely curious and I have a curious mouth. My local Whole Foods had stocked four of the six flavors — I was denied Carrot Curry and Broccoli Cilantro, but I think I’ll be okay — so I stocked up on Tomato Mint, Fennel Spice, Spinach Chive, and Beet Cabbage.
Let’s begin with what will surely be the least offensive.
Appearance: You average green tea.
Smell: Pure fennel with aromas of licorice and a hint of citrus. Numi’s website promises it will transport me “to the enchanting European countryside,” but as far as I can tell, I am still firmly in Hillsboro, Oregon. Perhaps my journey lies in the tasting.
Taste: Pretty one note. Mostly licorice, a nice cup overall. A hint of onion and black pepper keeps this from being a “regular” non-savory tea, but I’m not sure I’d notice if I hadn’t read the ingredients list.
Rating: 6.5. I can drink a whole cup and find it pleasing, but wouldn’t buy another box (which sets you back $8).
Appearance: Orange-ish. Almost looks like a rooibos.
Smell: I am supposed to be greeted by the “ sweet savory scent of stuffed grape leaves” but I mostly smell mint and the faint aroma of tomato juice.
Taste: Again, mostly mint, but after it cools a bit I start to get the tomato, with onion contributing a small amount of heat at the very end. It’s very light and subtle and, dare I say, refreshing? It reminds me of fresh bruschetta, but with mint. It is not unpleasant.
Rating: 7.25. I still don’t think I would buy another box, but I will definitely finish this one.
Appearance: Like Fennel Spice, this looks like an unassuming green tea. In fact, no one would suspect it wasn’t green tea, until they smelled it.
Smell: Upon first sniff, one is greeted with the smell of dehydrated chives, quickly followed by lightly boiled spinach. It’s not necessarily an unpleasant smell, but it isn’t one I associate with tea. If, however, you’re a fan of cognitive dissonance, it’s actually kind of enjoyable.
Taste: Boil some spinach, drain the water into a glass, and at a bit of dill and coriander. There. You now know what this tea tastes like and I just saved you $8.
Rating: 4. A plain cup of green tea would have been much more satisfying (and cheaper and caffeinated).
Appearance: This tea reminds me a bit of myself, actually: pretty on the outside, but kind of disappointing once you get to know it.
Smell: So much cabbage. Though I love eating cabbage (with bacon or some other pork product), I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed the aroma. It’s one thing to smell cabbage when you are cooking cabbage, it’s quite another to bring a beautiful crimson tea to your mouth only to be greeted with the stench of dimethyl sulfide. It is off-putting, to say the least.
Taste: More boiled plant water, only this time instead of boiled spinach it’s cabbage. But at least there are cloves. Cloves pair really well with cabbage.
Rating: 2.5. You sit there and think about what you’ve done.
As a whole, these teas are not what I would call “worth buying.” The Tomato Mint was the most successful in terms of being drinkable and interesting, and is the only one I would recommend as a potential purchase (if you are looking to spend $8 on decaf tea). Fennel Spice didn’t really taste as “savory” to me, but perhaps a connoisseur of fennel teas would enjoy it as an addition to their collection. The other two were upsetting and we shan’t speak of them again.
In short: I could’ve had a V8; or Numi’s delicious Chocolate Earl Grey. I could have had that.