December 14, 2011

Review: Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea K-Cups

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Here at the Single Serve Coffee kitchens, we're always keeping an eye open for the latest innovations in single serve products and a while back, Green Mountain decided to do something which had never been attempted before... they manufactured the World's first "all-paper' K-Cup. Made from a special combination of printed cardboard & paper lined with a special film (to prevent a soggy mess during brewing), this K-Cup marks a manufacturing milestone for Green Mountain and opens up the door to future innovations. Today we review Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea K-Cups.

While we realize this review is LONG overdue (this product was introduced around Sept. 2010 and has since been discontinued) & apologize for the delay, we figured we would at least give our readers an idea of what the product was like. There's always a chance that another flavor may be introduced using this new paper K-Cup format sometime in the future. You can even read our earlier review of the packaging we did last year. As you can see in the photos, the things that stand out the most are the floral design & Celestial Seasonings logo printed on the side of the K-Cup (marks the first time print/artwork has been able to appear on a K-Cup) as well as the unique paper crimping process used underneath. You keep thinking the thing will blow apart inside your machine, but it's surprisingly well designed to withstand the water pressure. Did we mention this thing was made entirely of fricking PAPER? Amazing.

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This flavor is billed on the packaging as a green tea "blended with delicate Bai Mu Dan white tea - one of the rarest and youngest of teas - to create a smooth, balanced cup with a pleasantly mild flavor of sweet honey, lively lemon and spicy ginger". We decided to try out a sample & see for ourselves.

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Brewing these K-Cups resulted in strong lemon aromas filling the room & upon closer inspection, we definitely detected the sweetness of honey along with a faint hint of ginger underneath. Spot-on. Flavor came at us on multiple levels and revealed delicately layered tastes that started off with a nice hit of lemon at first, then followed-through with a faint spicy nuance of ginger in the background, the sweetness of the honey on the back end and the characteristic green tea taste in the finish. Using white tea really did work wonders on the smoothness. We could barely tell we were drinking green tea had we not detected the flavor on the finish.

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What we had here was an amazingly complex blend of flavors that harmonize perfectly into a nice, smooth, satisfying cup of tea. The fact that ginseng was added as a natural stimulant only helped liven things up even further and helped give us a great little afternoon boost to keep us going throughout our daily routine. Acidity was perfectly balanced as we could notice it was present in the background and helped keep the flavors popping, but the natural tannins in the tea blend did not hinder the final taste whatsoever.

Body was a beautifully done blend of liquid gold that reminded us immediately of most namesake flavors on the label. You get the golden honey colors, the yellow tinges of lemon and the greenish shades from the green tea. When held in front of a light source, the body took on a jaw-dropping & ghostly, almost ethereal appearance which made it seem as if the tea was glowing in the dark. Our minds were officially blown (and that's not just the ginseng talking). As noted earlier, a delicate & rare form of white tea was used to smooth the flavors out and it worked wonders on mouth feel making the tea seem silky smooth without any watery notes and it finished with a pleasingly dry lemon aftertaste. Superb.

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Normally we'd be tempted to add natural sweeteners or flavor enhancers to a cup of plain green tea (depending on the circumstances) but Green Mountain have succeeded in creating the perfectly flavored green tea K-Cup that doesn't require you to add anything. You can thoroughly enjoy this K-Cup as-is & even though some folk add milk to green teas, we strongly recommend against it in this instance as we feel it would ruin the delicate flavors.

  • Aroma - 10 - For once, you finally get what's on the label. Strong lemon aromas fill the room followed by the sweetness of honey & the faint spicy notes of ginger hiding underneath. Spot-on.
  • Acidity - 10 - We went into this expecting the sharp bite one would normally get in a green tea but the inclusion of Bai Mu Dan white tea balanced out the tannins and acidity perfectly into a super-smooth mix. We dare anyone to find a green tea that's smoother than this.
  • Body - 10 - Lively shades of yellows & greens emulate most namesake flavors on the label. Introduce a light source and prepare to have your mind blown apart like a 4th of July firework. Simply amazing.
  • Flavor - 10 - An ever-evolving layering of flavors that start off with lemon and reveal sweet honey notes, faint spicy flavors of ginger and a green tea finish.
  • Mouth Feel - 10 - The white tea blend works wonders here. Silky smooth feel without any watery notes and a pleasingly dry lemon finish. Outstanding.
  • Tea Drinker - If you love green tea and usually add your own mix of honey & lemon to your cup, then this K-Cup is definitely a must try. We're sure it will please a variety of green tea fans if they're lucky enough to still find a box online or at a local retailer.

Overall Rating: 100 - Excellent!

This is by far our all-time favorite green tea K-Cup and we feel it deserves the perfect score it received. We honestly couldn't find any faults whatsoever here and our only regret is that this K-Cup has been (as best we can tell) discontinued. Once again, we finally find an awesome K-Cup only to have it disappear from store shelves. *sigh*

We were curious to see how an all-paper K-Cup would hold up to the Keurig brewing process but after many years of R&D, GMCR managed to get it right. Who knows? Maybe someday their entire line-up of K-Cups might be made from these materials. We're not exactly sure how much more it costs to manufacture these paper K-Cups, but we can only guess it's somewhat higher due to the paper cutting/shaping process, the bonding of the waterproof film to the papers, etc. vs. just vacuum-forming a plastic cup and fusing a foil lid on top. It would likely explain why GMCR haven't created any other flavors or transitioned their existing flavors into this new format yet & might be one of the reasons it had to be discontinued.

Just the same, we have to say congrats to those involved on taking the initiative to give this new format a try. If it ever catches-on & if GMCR ever figure out a way to make the K-Cup itself 100% recyclable, it could revolutionize the way K-Cups are produced and would help turn them into products that are much more environmentally friendly. We really hope Green Mountain reconsider bringing this flavor back into production as it's a crying shame it's no longer around.

Celestial Seasonings Honey Lemon Ginseng Green Tea K-Cups will work in all Keurig brewers. It appears GMCR have since discontinued this flavor since it was introduced last year, yet they still maintain a product info page on Keurig.com. As far as we're aware, these K-Cups were not made available in Canada.

A special thanks to SH for providing this Single Serve Coffee staff review. We would also like to note that Green Mountain Coffee provided us these K-Cups to review.

Read how we review and rate single-serve coffee and other single-serve coffee beverages here.

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Posted by Jay Brewer at December 14, 2011 7:43 AM

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