13932693382_92ba3091ff_zI’m a penny pincher. I don’t wear that moniker with pride by any means, but I will say that I am a sucker for a sale. So when the Dunkin’ Donuts app on my phone informed me I could get a hot tea for a dollar, I used it as an opportunity to try their new “Premium Hot Teas”. For those unaware, Dunkin’ Donuts is a national chain in the U.S. known for its coffee and doughnuts.

The little cardboard ad on the counter makes it look appealing. The now-familiar pyramid sachets are here to stay, it seems, and Dunkin’ is offering their own selection of loose-leaf teas, including “Cool Mint”, “Hibiscus Kiss”, and “Harmony Leaf”. Is Dunkin’ trying to take on Starbucks with this tea? Bloomberg seemed to think so. I’m not so sure.

I settled on their “Bold Breakfast” blend, as I figured the best way to test the waters is with either a “standard” black tea or a green tea. Unfortunately, what I found wasn’t much better than run-of-the-mill teabags.

After finishing my cup, I took a look at the sachet itself, and it looks just like any other. Designed to let leaves expand during the steeping process, it was relatively large, and had a lot of leaves (but not too many) stuffed into it. The problem was when I realized that the leaves themselves were still a low-quality broken bunch of leaves, more resembling the inside of a paper shredder than anything else. This isn’t high-quality stuff, and it has the same problems that a standard teabag does.

There’s not a lot of flavor, and I kept the tea steeping hoping the flavor would come through. But before it could get there, the tea became bitter, and I wasn’t able to get the taste I was looking for. I suspect that true problem is that no matter what size cup you get, you only get the one teabag. This means that unless you get a small cup, you’re never going to have enough tea leaves to flavor your cup properly. This is less a problem with Dunkin’ Donuts as much as it is a problem with almost every restaurant serving tea.

A place dedicated to coffee like Dunkin’ (or Starbucks, or Peet’s) knows that to make a competent cup of coffee, you need to get the proportions right. Making a four-cup pot requires more grounds than a two-cup pot. Why this simple logic escapes them when making tea (a much easier process, really) drives me crazy.

I think that the new Dunkin’ Donuts Premium tea might be decent if they were willing to put more tea in the cup, but until cafes use the same proportion rules they use for coffee on making tea, I will be disappointed. An improvement? Definitely. “Premium”? Not even close. But is anyone surprised?

Note: As far as I am aware, this Premium Tea from Dunkin’ Donuts is currently limited to the Chicago area. I’m curious to know if it has expanded to any other markets, especially if this is meant to replace Dunkin’s current stock of standard teabags.

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