WHO TRIED IT: Mark Marino, Deputy Editor, PEOPLE.com
WHY HE VOLUNTEERED: Pure curiosity — oh, and he loves Oprah.
Yes, I love Starbucks. And yes, I love Oprah. So when the two married and gave birth to Oprah Chai Tea, I couldn’t wait to meet their new arrival. And Tuesday morning, it happened. I was ordering my usual venti Iced Coffee at Starbucks when I noticed small sample cups of an unfamiliar beverage on the counter. I picked one up. I tasted it. My life changed.
It was an Oprah Chai Latte. And it was amazing. Spicy, sweet, comforting. It’s described as a “bold infusion of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves,” but to me, it tastes like a hug from Oprah.
I walked out of the store with my iced coffee but couldn’t stop thinking about that little shot of Oprah. Why was it so special? Did the media mogul herself bless each beverage before they were handed to customers? Was Gayle somewhere in the back, frothing up the milk? Finally, that afternoon, I returned to Starbucks for a big ol’ venti Oprah Chai Latte. And it was bliss.
Thankfully, Starbucks sells the Teavana tea blend in canisters and kits, so you can take Oprah home with you. But is she as warm and comforting when not handled by a barista? I decided to find out.
First, I tried the tea hot, without milk or sugar (it’s naturally sweet). While I usually stick to mild teas like Earl Grey and herbal blends, I really enjoyed the zing of the Oprah Chai and its Christmassy clove and cinnamon. But this wasn’t as comforting as the latte version I had in the shop; it had a kick. Remember how Oprah used to introduce celebrity guests on her talk show by yelling out their names? “Please welcome … JOHHHN TRAVOLTAAAAAAA!!!” It’s the liquid form of that. It wakes you up a bit — ideal for those mornings when you need a little “oomph.”
NEVER TOO LATTE
Still seeking that Oprah nirvana, I added milk to the tea. It tasted smoother and more mellow. I imagine this is what they would have served at Oprah’s Book Club, had the tea existed back in the day. I don’t have a book club, but I would definitely serve this to guests or drink it in the afternoon while reading a book.
THE BIG CHILL
Finally, I tried my hand at making an iced latte. Basically, I added ice. And, like an “aha” moment, it hit me: I suddenly felt very zen and relaxed, like everything was right in the world. This must be how the Oprah’s ‘Favorite Things’ show audience felt after coming down from their extreme highs. It was like drinking a cup of love, on the rocks. I didn’t quite feel hugged by Oprah, more like I was basking in her glow. I have found my go-to summer drink.
Like the woman herself, the Oprah Chai tea is magical. It’s delicious hot or cold, with milk or without, and is good as a pick-me-up or wind-me-down at any time of day. Most of us will never get a chance to meet Oprah, but I tell you, this is the next best thing.