[Ready Made Tea Review] Adagio's Anteadote

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Summary: Ready made tea by one of the champs of the loose leaf brew? Sounds like a no-fail proposition. Not quite that good, alas. Not all a loss, though, so read on...

Wednesday, 02 June 2010

(16:06:03 CDT)

[Ready Made Tea Review] Adagio's Anteadote

At least in the South, ready made (i.e. bottled) tea used to be the sad second cousin to soda. It was kind of the choice for those who wanted something in a can, and cold, but didn't want carbonation (why aren't carbonated teas more popular? We carbonate grape drink, for goodness sake...) They had names like "Brisk" or, I don't know, other words that managed to not imply tea. They surely didn't taste like tea. They tasted like, hmmm, some citrus concoction that presumably had honey in there or at least some sort of honey flavorings. Across the 90s, AriZona Beverages* tea started showing up and trickling into stores, but it was kind of rare. I dug it, though. For this reason, the past five years, in which bottled tea has reached a variety boom**, has been nice for me. Not nice is that bottled tea, no longer the sad second cousin to soda but the aloof first cousin to the health and nu-organic food movements, now tends to carry a price tag regularly at or above a dollar per cup. Ah well, win some. Lose some.

I am not a fan of Adagio teas. Which is to say that by the time I run out of my tea and might buy something from Adagio, I get a hankering for one of my old stand-bys and end up buying a pound of something or another off of Numi or from the Kaffee Klatsch. I appreciate Adagio, though, who combines the marketing acumen of the pseudo-spiritual tea movement with some common sense approaches to the model. They cost, but at least they do not pretend it is because they are saving your soul. What's more, they tend to have a regular series of flavors that deliver, even as other tea companies have started shrinking their selection to a tighter collection of definite sellers.

For these reasons, I was thrilled that they had a ready made brand—Anteadote—that was readily available at our new Earth Fare store***. Also for these reasons, I was kind of sad at the final product. These were not overwhelmingly tasty teas. They were not even the sort of teas that I would really buy again. Well, not all of them were disappointing: one of them was good and I will buy some more of it. To explain, on to the reviews:

Five bottles of Anteadote in front of a 'case'

My most conflicted view is of the black. Not sure what was up with it, but it came across as both a fair tea but also bitter, astringent, and weak: like a middle-quality tea buried in a watery mix. Trying to guess the brew, here, is an interesting puzzle. Imagine a Ceylon without the characteristic flowery-nuttiness mixed with a Assam without the maltiness: a milquetoast derivation of the usually strong "Irish" blend. In fact, I would say that if you were to take Twinings English Breakfast, make it thin, let it cool, and then add a dash of Vitamin C: you might get this flavor. Maybe. More definitely disliked was the white and the green. Both are missing the characteristic flavors, instead of opting for a rounded flat centrist taste that might be tea, but also might be grass brewed lightly. I think the baking soda flavor punches through, here, ruining whatever chance the tea has of establishing itself. While the black's overall tang is annoying, at least you can definitely know you are drinking tea when you have a bottle of that. My wife, a green tea fan who drinks a number of brands, brews, and strengths, was underwhelmed with her bottle of green.

It is not all bad news, because I really enjoyed the oolong variety. It has some of the same problems as the other three, a weak centrist flavor that gets overpowered by the overall package in places, but it works best with the oolong's characteristic like nothing else flavor. It would be an almost perfect drink on a hot day. When the friends are running for sodas, you can chug down a bottle of this and do a lot better for yourself. In fact, I am thinking of buying a case of the oolong just to show support. It was no surprise to me when oolong won a first place award for iced tea in this year's World Tea Expo. I was surprised that the black variety got equal billing but as said, above, at least you know you have tea in your hand with the black.

Until some second tasting comes along, my current scores are:

  • White: Meh (-1.0)
  • Green: Meh (-1.0)
  • Black: Eh/Meh (-0.3)
  • Oolong: Good (+1.0)

I still need to try the Jasmine variety, which has the highest overall score on the product website though only got a second place in the above competition.

Si Vales, Valeo

*: Why tea that often uses Oriental and Southern imagery to sell itself has a Southwest state as a brand name but originates in New York, who knows?

**: Assuming you count, say, pomegranate infused green tea and blueberry infused green tea as separate varieties from pomegranate-blueberry infused green teas...

***: You can read my review of the place here: My two trips to Huntsville, AL's new Earth Fare market.

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Written by Doug Bolden

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