Frappuccino season is back, but the return of the mocha crumble frap isn’t what’s dominating the ad space and sales floor right now — it’s the Oprah Chai.

Born of a partnership between Starbucks’s recently-acquired Teavana line and Oprah Winfrey’s charity work, the Oprah Chai blend is available as a loose-leaf tea or a tea latte made at your local Starbucks. This review focuses on the latte version of the drink — I haven’t tried the loose leaf tea itself yet. (Edit: Bought some, tried it, here’s the review)

This is the first Starbucks drink I know of with a person’s name attached to it. It’s literally referred to as the “Oprah Chai” on the menu boards, and that’s how you order it. Like the regular Starbucks chai, it’s a sweetened tea-based drink with your choice of milk. It can be made hot or iced, which in the warm summer months is a blessing.

A tall Oprah Chai.

A tall Oprah Chai.

The regular Starbucks chai is quite sweet, and the Oprah chai follows that trend. Where it departs from your garden-variety Sbux chai is in the blend of flavors. The individual spices are much more noticeable, particularly the cardamom and cloves. You can also clearly taste the rooibos in the blend, giving it a taste that kind of lingers on your tongue. The overall taste is harmonious, with no one flavor overpowering the others. The advertising copy will tell you it was personally developed by Ms. Winfrey and Teavana’s “lead Teaologists”, and while I can’t tell you how exactly that works I do feel like a lot of thought went into balancing the spices, rooibos and tea against each other.

Overall, while this is not the best chai I’ve had, it’s head and shoulders above the original Starbucks version. If you normally order a chai at Starbucks, give this one a shot and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’re pickier about your chai, this one may or may not fit the bill.

If you’re interested in more information about the tea and its connections with Oprah Winfrey’s youth education charities, here’s the details.

Bullet-pointed summary:

  • What: Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Latte
  • Where: Starbucks and Teavana stores
  • Options: hot or iced, your choice of milk
  • Verdict: An improvement over Starbucks’s original chai, with a well-balanced blend of flavors