We here at the Philly.com newsroom live and breathe a lifestyle of coffee. It's the thing that wakes our senses in the morning and keeps us alert all day. So when we received a box in the mail from Philadelphia-based company Zest Tea, a product which claims to be the most caffeinated tea on the market, we were intrigued and skeptical.
Zest is a product that promises the same caffeine punch as a cup of coffee – that's three times the amount of normal teas. The level of caffeine in each of the four varieties varies depending on what you choose. The Earl Grey Black, Apple Cinnamon Black, and Blue Lady Black all have 150 mg/cup while the milder Pomegranate Mojito Green has about 140 mg/cup.
For three days, five of us volunteered to replace our coffee with Zest Tea. Each day we kept a brief diary of our experience: which flavor we had (we tried all but Apple Cinnamon), how many times we loaded up with a new bag, and our general thoughts on the drink versus our beloved coffee.
Each variety of Zest comes in a lightweight cylindrical canister with 20 individual packets. The teabags themselves are really beautiful. The loose leaves come in a biodegradable pyramid satchel that allows you to see vibrant colors of the ingredients, especially in the Blue Lady. The company sources ingredients from the Nilgiri region of India and the Anhui province of China, so you can really smell and see the quality.
We unanimously agreed that the smell of this tea is powerful and pleasant, even before we put it in hot water. So far, so good.
STEEP & SIP
The aroma of a hot brewed cup left a nice lingering fragrance around our desks. The Pomegranate Mojito Green had the most enjoyable sent.
While the smell was overall favorable, many thought the flavor was a bit much. "The tea is strong and the flavor is too overpowering if the bag is left in the cup for too long," said staff photographer Steph Aaronson. "There is also no string to pull the bag out so having a spoon handy is necessary." Zest recommends that your tea steeps for 4-6 minutes.
What many of us noticed, including myself, is that less than 30 minutes after having several sips from our cup, we felt "in the zone" almost more clearheaded than we would normally be with coffee by our side.
Staff writer Nick Vadala admitted to drinking at least 8-9 cups of coffee on a daily basis. With Zest, he cut down to 3-4 cups of tea, which proved to him that it matched, if not exceeded, the caffeine content in a cup of coffee. "It definitely hits you harder, but I didn't get jittery or anything," he said. "The real benefits are that you drink less so therefore less calories are taken in, and the tea feels like it's a little easier on your stomach than coffee can be."
It was quite the opposite for staff photographer Colin Kerrigan, who had an average of 1-2 cups of coffee a day. He said that Zest's high levels of caffeine left him with "a weird head high" and recommends not drinking it on an empty stomach. "Tea is nice to have in certain situations but it's just not my morning coffee," he said.
I, like Colin, drink about 1-2 cups of coffee everyday so I experienced that same head high during the morning hours of day one. In succeeding days I lost that jittery feeling but retained the alertness and clarity. Contrary to Colin's feedback, I drank the tea on an empty stomach and it was actually very soothing in my belly.
While we all really enjoyed the flavors and smells of the tea, after day one we couldn't help but yearn for our old friend coffee, but that doesn't mean we had abandoned the idea of tea.
Both Steph and executive entertainment producer Leah Kauffman replaced their afternoon coffee with Zest and said it "provided a flavorful pick-me-up" and found that it actually stopped their cravings for coffee.