If there's anything my morning or afternoon biscuit break's been missing it's a nice hot cup of pseudo-vegetable broth, and Numi tea has answered the unspoken (indeed, likely unconscious) prayers and fears of many (if any) with the introduction of their new line of, that's right, savory, vegetable-flavored, decaffeinated teas.
What's that you say? You've never thought of tea and soup as having such a fine line between the two? Guess again, as you, like us, become surprised at how not totally weird a cup of tomato-mint green tea can really be, in the right mindset.
Numi's 'Garden Sampler' box of savory teas (though you can buy the teas individually as well) contains a panoply of vegetable "tea" flavors: Carrot Curry, Spinach Chive, Broccoli Cilantro, Beet Cabbage, Fennel Spice and Tomato Mint. They're herbal infusions—just like the sicktime Lemon Ginger flavors you may favor—and despite the concept still feeling a bit shocking, still, this is less weird to me than pina colada flavored water.
Using decaffeinated black or green teas as the base, Numi claims these veggie infusions are "not quite a soup"; they're basically being sold as light soup alternatives. More than once the box refers to the infusions as a "snack" (have I ever eaten soup as a "snack"? Isn't that crackers' job?) as well as a "great companion to keep at your desk" (well, I have been lonely...) and a "savory way to mix up your tea routine". Yes! Let's mix it up! On with the mixing!
I started off with Fennel Spice, which seemed the least controversial flavor for early-morning um, snacking. Though it's easy to picture this being sweet, like other fennel teas, the ingredients in this particular tea are decidedly savory: dill, onion, celery root. It's light-drinking (despite the 10-minute steep time) and pleasant enough, its savory tones warming, even. But would they get weirder from here?
Yes. Beet-Cabbage. Looks like rooibos...tastes like...soup! I love beets passionately, and would do nearly anything for them, but mix them with cabbage and drink them is not one of them. In a possibly even more disturbing twist, there is a pronounced clove note in here. Let's move on.
Tomato Mint: Totally drinkable, pleasant and surprising. You like gazpacho, right? What if you accidentally let it warm up? Makes sense, right? Spinach Chive is also drinkable, but prominent onion flavors in my tea-snack will take time to come to terms with.
What else is in the box? Broccoli Cilantro: Cilantro's divisive enough if you don't put it in a broccoli tea infusion. This is a strong one, again heavy on the onion...and garlic!
Carrot Curry? Why yes, it is! My brain and my flavor-brain still hurt, but this one isn't too bad either. You could easily convince yourself it's medicinal and restorative, once you get past the drinking-curry-broth hurdle.
Overall, the execution's right: none of these herbal-vegetal infusions is played with too heavy a hand, and, in the right frame of mind, I could see them growing on the drinker with little hard work. Will it convert a person from soup? Or from tea, for that matter? As with many matters of drastic innovation, this one's too early to call. But for now, we'll be over here in the corner with our tomato-mint drink-snack, contemplating the future.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is currently compiling photographs of the best coffee in the world to be published by Presspop this spring.
Samples provided for review consideration.