It is important for this review to know that at my core, I am a tea person. And I really mean I am a TEA person. I regularly drink loose leaf tea (I have over 10 different varieties in the house at the moment) and both Mike and I have our special tea strainers. [Seriously, if you drink loose leaf tea, you MUST get one of these- IngenuiTEA.] We also have more kinds of bag tea than I can count, some leftover from before we converted and some because there are bag teas we haven't found a suitable loose leaf alternative for. Also, bag tea is much easier to tote around, something we both do.
Every since I was little, I've always been a tea person. On rare occasions, I'd do coffee, but it's always been tea for me. The only exception to this rule used to be Starbucks' holiday beverages. My two favorites are the Gingerbread Latte and the Chestnut Praline Latte. The molasses on the top of the gingerbread makes it absolutely amazing and I love the sweet nuttiness of the chestnut praline. I usually splurge each holiday season and get each kind at least once. This year, I've already had a Gingerbread Latte.
Usually, though, if I'm going to splurge on a drink at Starbucks, I'll get a Chai Latte (with soy milk! no dairy please!). It's one of my standard drink orders for any cafe, really. I LOVE chai. This past year, I discovered dirty chai lattes, which is when you get a shot of espresso in a chai latte. Ever since this discovery, I've usually allowed myself one of these during tech. They're a great, early morning punch of caffeine. It's all the goodness of chai with the strong presence of espresso. You know I'm tired if you every hear me order, "Hot, grande, Chai Latte with soy milk and a single shot of espresso."
Even more recently than my discovery of the dirty chai, I've started drinking coffee much more frequently. The switch mainly occurred this summer when I was working at North Shore Music Theatre. The 9am call plus hot and ready coffee in the building made it entirely too easy to add a cup of coffee to my morning routine. Then, my first director back at Stoneham Theatre was very much a coffee person, so we bought good coffee for rehearsal and tech. Finally, my mum came to visit and I made her coffee every morning. All that together and I've been drinking significantly more coffee than I used to (more during tech than show runs, though).
Because I've been drinking it more on the regular, I've discovered a few things. You can't always get lattes (they're expensive!) but I apparently really like hazelnut flavored coffee. Both HoneyDew and Dunkin Donuts have hazelnut coffee. My best find, though, was the 99 cent coffee at Cumberland Farms. There's one about 10 minutes away from Stoneham (same distance as the nearest Starbucks) and any size coffee, hot or iced, will be $1.06 after tax. You make it yourself and they have a ton of flavor and non-dairy creamer options. I usually double up on the hazelnut flavor and creamer. It makes for a delicious coffee!
I've been trying not to drink coffee when I don't really need that extra caffeine, though, because I want to maintain a caffeine tolerance such that a coffee or an espresso still is more than my body is used to in the morning and I can turn to it when I need that extra jolt.
All that in mind, today I tried the Gingerbread Tea Latte at Starbucks. I really wanted to like this, because it would be a delicious way to get my holiday fix without the caffeine punch of espresso. And since I'm inherently a tea person, it seemed like it would be a win-win. Unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. I've never been a huge fan of Teavana's black teas and whatever they picked, I believe it's their English Breakfast Tea, just didn't blend well with the Gingerbread flavors. It also seemed like they dialed back the gingerbread-y-ness of the latte. I'm used to much more spices and especially much more molasses in the regular Gingerbread Latte. That's the main reason I love it! This beverage failed for me on both the gingerbread and tea fronts, which meant it really had no redeeming qualities. In addition to the disappointing taste, it also took a long time for my order (despite the barista being fairly speedy) because the first time he made it for me, he made it with regular milk. Luckily, I saw him do it and asked him if it was soy when he tried to give it to me. He quickly made another, but it meant it just took that much longer. And, to top it off, I'm pretty sure that as a Starbucks Gold Card member, I was supposed to get another holiday beverage free because I bought one holiday beverage today at 3:30p. All in all, a sad, sad day in Starbucks land.