Starbucks New Teas and Vegan Cookies! Taste Test.

This dark, damp, oddly humid, and blustery morning I had a thirst to check out Starbucks new teas and vegan cookies. I had been hearing speckled rumors about new vegan cookies, full-leaf teas in tin containers and a few other healthy on-the-go snacks - I had to investigate this. The pale sunrise ushered me to the store where other groggy eyed, open-coated, thirsty early-morningers stood in a willowy long line. Orders were being shouted out left and right "Skinny Latte!" "Half-Caf Coffee." "Triple Venti Soy Latte!" "Double Tall No Foam Latte" "Grande Mocha, No Whip!" Etc. Etc. Etc.

Taste test! New treats indeed - Starbucks has set up a huge "snack station" - a bunch of straw bins filled with dried fruit, exotic gourmet nuts, crackers and cookies - all in snack-sized pouches. I spotted the Lucy's brand vegan cookies and snatched a chocolate chip flavor. There were about 3 flavors to choose from. I then snatched a Sahale Snacks Cashews sack, two canisters of tea and headed for the register. I politely asked the cashier if they still carried almond butter for the bagels. She giggled and said "Huh? No." Hmm. Have they really ditched the healthy Justin's brand almond butter? Sad. I love that stuff. So anyways, I rushed home to taste test the snacks and teas, but did they past my health-minded taste test? Find out...

$20 for some tea and snacks? I was a bit shocked when my two tiny sacks of snacks and two canisters of Starbucks new tea came out to around twenty bucks. The new TAZO tea is $6.95 a tin and my snacks around $2.50 each. "This stuff better be good!" I thought, as I shoved my tea and snacks into my reusable bag and headed home to try the new eats n sips.

So lets get snacking!

The Cookies.

Lucy's brand vegan cookies were the lucky company to get Starbucks to sell their snacks. Vegans all over Twitter and Facebook have been buzzing about the new vegan cookies. But is there really cause for buzz? I was hoping for a super healthy, fresh, warm, chewy vegan cookie. But no such luck. Just a bag of store-bought looking crisp cookies. The taste: like Famous Amos chocolate chip cookies - only vegan and gluten free. Nut free too. Very tasty, but not "homemade" tasting. Not chewy or warm or soft or delectable. Just a nice sweet tasty dessert snack. The nutrition: 173 calories per bag. 4 mini cookies per bag. I was a bit annoyed when I saw that 3.6 out of the 6.6 total grams of fat per bag were saturated. 3.6 grams of saturated fat per bag is not my idea of healthy. The oil used is a mix of organic soybean, olive, palm fruit and canola oil. And the vegan chocolate chips in the ingredients just said "vegan chocolate chips" so I don't know what went into the chips. There is 3.6 grams of protein and 3.6 grams of fiber per bag. Not bad. I like the almost 4 grams of fiber, but that still didn't win me over. Sodium is about 9% RDA per bag. Not great at all. That's more sodium than in the bag of nuts I bought!

Overall, not impressed with the new vegan cookies at Starbucks. Yes, they are much healthier than many treats that crowd the baked goods window, but they just aren't my thing. I won't be buying them. Although, I'm guessing my cookie-obsessed husband who loves vegan treats, will love them. And yes, the cookies are great for allergy sensitive folks. But vegan baked-goods snobs like me will not be too pleased. These cookies are no Babycakes cookies. Side Note: I know a lot of you have started to ban Starbucks altogether, but I still love it. So I hope they will continue to evolve with their vegan snacks. Maybe a Babycakes brand fresh cinnamon toastie??? Please?

The nuts were Sahale brand Cashews with essences of pomegranate and vanilla. "Glazed Nuts". Yummy. I've had them before. But honestly, not so different than the nuts Starbucks already carries. Good snack add, but nothing mind-blowing.

Starbucks New Full leaf Tea. Price: $6.95 per tin. 15 sachets per tin.

I was really excited about this TAZO tea. At around 47 cents a bag, I was hoping for some yummy teas, and the second I opened the tin and smelled sweet fragrant tea aroma, I had a good feeling. I bought two teas: Chai and Zen. I had purchased these bags often in the past, so I knew the flavors well and could compare old vs. new tea flavor. Both had lovely sachet bags and fresh smelling full leaf teas. High quality. Similar to many brands I can find at Whole Foods and even the tea bags at Le Pain Quotidien. Taste Test: I loved the new Zen. Green tea is always best in full leaf form. The Chai, however wasn't as good as I had hoped. It was full of fresh flavor, but the taste was still a bit too bittersweet for my taste. I like a chai that is a bit more peppery and briskly spicy rather than bitter. So overall, I am thrilled with the new tea upgrade. It was about time that Starbucks stepped up their teas.

I'm glad that there is another vegan, allergy-sensitive snack in the store, but Starbucks definitely has a long way to go if they really want to impress their vegan health-minded customers. The new teas are fabulous. Well done.

1/26 UPDATE: I just had an amazing at-home soy green tea chai latte. Ingredients: 1 zen TAZO tea bag, 1 chai TAZO tea bag, 1 cup soy milk, 1 cup chai tea concentrate OR water + 1 Tbsp agave syrup, dash of cinnamon, dash of cayenne. Spoonful of soy foam on top. Soooo delicious! Adding plenty of milk and side flavors removes the bitterness from the Starbucks chai tea bag. Delicious! Energizing and zen-filled.

Lastly, a few ideas for Starbucks, from me to you. Dear Starbucks, here are a few of my ideas:

*A fresh vegan pastry or treat made with whole grains, organic natural sweeteners like maple or agave syrup and nut or fruit flavors. A walnut-goji berry spelt scone perhaps?

*Experiment with other non-dairy milk options like hemp, almond, rice or grain milks.

*Next summer, launch a soy-blended frappuccio that's 100% vegan. Made in a separate dairy-free blender too.

*Launch a vegan breakfast sandwich with Daiya cheese and vegan Field Roast sausage. Crisp arugula or spinach and a spicy Veganaise morning mayo. On a quinoa grain english muffin. 100% vegan.

*Try again with the fruit smoothies...and actually, I don't know, include more real fruit than a simple banana. Make them dairy-free this time.

*Have an organic fruit bowl with whole, grab-n-go, yummy-looking fruit rather than not-so-yummy looking bananas.

Just a few ideas Starbucks, from this health-minded vegan, to you.

Have you tried any of the new treats or teas?? I'd love to hear what you think!

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