In my review of the Oprah Chai Tea Latte, I mentioned that the Oprah chai is also available as loose leaf tea. Since every Starbucks seems to have a big shiny display of the tea for sale, I figured I should grab a box and give it a shot. Here’s my review of the loose-leaf variety of the Oprah Chai.

The tin and the box it came in.

The tin and the box it came in.

Now, I don’t normally include “unboxing” photos with my reviews, but something needs to be said about the packaging here. You get a sizeable, pretty, sturdily-manufactured box, with the logo and the color scheme and blurbs about the charities and a description of the tea. Inside that box is a tin — you’ve probably seen tea tins like this before, it’s pretty standard packaging for tea. The tin is also pretty and well-made. So far, so good.

That's a lot of air.

That’s a lot of air.

When you open the tin, there’s a plastic bag inside with the tea. This helps keep the tea fresh, and helps contain the tea’s aroma (more on that later). But when you open the plastic bag and empty the tea into the tin, you’re faced with a little over an inch of tea in the bottom of that big tin. Depending on whether you’re more eco-conscious or cost-conscious, your first thought will be either “that’s a lot of wasteful packaging for such a small amount of tea” or “that’s all I got for fifteen bucks?!”

Setting aside the question of the packaging, let’s move on to the tea itself. The smell is very strong and quite nice, although it only seems to smell of one or two of the ingredients, instead of the whole balanced blend as the tea latte does. Well, when you’re dealing with the actual plant material rather than a premade syrup, these things happen. I advise you, if you buy this tea, to keep the tin tightly shut and inside the box if you don’t want your whole kitchen to smell like it.

The next step is to brew it. The instructions say 2-3 minutes so I gave it just under three, to get as much flavor as possible. The strong scent is still there after brewing, so your drink will have the pleasant-but-somewhat-overpowering aroma of … chicory, I think. And rooibos.

The brewed tea, as only the Happy Sun Mug can model it.

The brewed tea, as only the Happy Sun Mug can model it.

After all this powerful, delicious smell, I was ready for a tea full of flavor. What I got was … well, kind of medium-to-weak tea to be honest. The spices are not very strong at all in the brewed tea. It tastes okay, and quite smooth, but in a word: underwhelming. All of that beautiful marketing and packaging and spiced aroma led up to a decidedly unimpressive cup of so-so tea.

I’ll brew a few more cups over the next week or so — gotta get my fifteen bucks’ worth, I guess — but all in all I just can’t recommend this tea. It’s too much money for too little tea with too little flavor. If you want to taste this chai in a far superior form, go for the Oprah Chai Tea Latte at your local Starbucks.

For each 2 oz package of this tea purchased, a dollar goes to Oprah’s charities. You would be far better served to find a different loose-leaf chai you like, buy two ounces of that, and send the money you saved directly to the charity of your choice. Less waste, less disappointment.

  • What: Oprah Chai loose leaf tea
  • Where: Starbucks stores (and possibly Teavana stores?)
  • Verdict: Overpriced, wastefully packaged, and completely underwhelming when brewed.