New Tazo Tea Lattes at Starbucks: Thanks, But No Thanks

The London Fog Tea Latte: left, as advertised; right, as served.

Walk by any Starbucks and you will instantly find out that it's tea time. Starbucks' newest caffeinated offerings are a series of Tazo Tea Lattes. How does Starbucks now want you to start your morning? Rather than a cup of Pike Place or a normal old tea, there's the London Fog Latte: "Full leaf black tea with citrusy Italian Bergamot and a hint of lavender. Sweetened with vanilla syrup and topped with steamed milk and velvety foam." Interesting.

But while the pictures in the ads look appealing (funny how ads can do that), the drinks themselves don't quite match. From the ad, I had expected something like a chai-style latte: a sweet, strong tea concentrate lightened by hot milk. The newfangled tea lattes, however, are just a normal cup of tea—bag and all—with sugar syrup and a bit of foam on top. Since the tea takes a moment to steep, these lattes are somewhat weak and overly sweet on first sip, growing stronger only over a bit of time. But by that point, the foam has flattened, if it hasn't already gotten stuck in the teabag. Not a good scene.

While the resulting "tea latte" is perfectly tasty, it's nothing but a new marketing spin. My suggestion for tea lovers? Just order tea (the London Fog just uses an Earl Grey teabag), add milk and sugar, and voila—a DIY "latte." You'll get to sweeten the tea to your liking, and the only difference is a few quickly disappearing bubbles of foam. And you'll save yourself at least a buck-fifty. Sorry, Starbucks.