What Does Beige Taste Like?

Chocolate Mix Skittles

By: Mars

Suggested Retail Price: 79 cents for a 2-ounce bag

Taste: 1stars


Marketing: 2stars

Are you ready to taste a rainbow of chocolate? Skittles sure hopes so, because it has put out a “Chocolate Mix” of its colorful fruit candies. The treats are still colorful, but now those colors are brown, light brown, dark brown, really dark brown, and beige. They represent an ambitious undertaking, for they’re meant to taste like chocolate caramel, s’mores, chocolate pudding, brownie batter, and vanilla, respectively.

It’s not clear what makes the vanilla flavor “chocolate,” but in defense of Skittles, the bag does clearly indicate a “mix” of flavors.

And how do they taste? Like the foul droppings of some deranged imp fused, through an act of satanic sorcery, with a Hershey’s bar.

Brownie batter? Sugary crap. Chocolate pudding? Slightly buttery-tasting sugary crap. Vanilla? It’s actually not bad: An effervescent note of smoke blows through the bracingly intense but smooth combin- … no, I jest. Sugary crap. S’mores? Not since S’mores Crunch cereal has there been such a crappy insult to one of America’s most indulgent homespun desserts.

Lest you think this column is penned by a highbrow, Scharffen Berger–nibbling candy pansy, I slammed an entire packet of fruit punch Pop Rocks just last week and thoroughly relished the experience. Normal Skittles? Just fine for a snack.

But there is no excuse for Chocolate Mix Skittles. They are a cancer in the bowels of the American gastronomic experience. They are awful little turds.

Tea-Over-Ice

By: Tea Forté

Suggested Retail Price: $42 for the pitcher system, $24 for 12 large iced tea infusers

Taste: 4stars


Marketing: 4stars

Just in time for summer, Tea Forté—the maker of those fancy teas that come in pyramidal bags—has introduced what it’s hoping will be the killer app in the world of high-end iced tea. The pricey new Tea-over-Ice system creates what Tea Forté appealingly bills as “flash-chilled” tea: In a nutshell, you dump boiling hot tea over a lot of ice and drink your iced tea on the spot.

The system consists of two stacking glass pitchers: a small one with a little lid that sits atop a larger 24-ounce pitcher. Making tea is relatively simple: Put two trays (!) of ice into the bottom pitcher, then insert your specially designed Tea Forté megabag into the top pitcher and fill the top pitcher with boiling water. Steep for three to five minutes (I recommend five, because your end product gets pretty diluted), remove bag, pour tea over ice, drink.

If you’ve never had Tea Forté before, the iced flavors (White Ginger Pear, Pomegranate Blackberry, Ceylon Gold, Raspberry Nectar) are accurately billed and delicate; the only frustration is that the damn bags float, and thus need to be hand-steeped or weighed down by a spoon. The Tea-over-Ice minipitcher takes care of that problem by containing the bag. Also, in theory, one could use nonproprietary bags and the system would still work just fine.

Tea-over-Ice is quite nice. Assuming that you’ve steeped to your desired intensity and sugared as you see fit while the water was still boiling, you’ll get three to four eight-ounce glasses of iced tea out of the deal, far more than you might expect based on the dainty size of the top pitcher. And everything looks gorgeous during the brewing process. If you’ve got a friend from out of town you’d like to casually impress, the elegance and ritual of Tea-over-Ice will do the trick. If you’ve got a party full of people, however, the old “massive jar of sun tea” method will serve you far better, unless you’ve got a hundred pounds of ice cubes and all afternoon to brew, ice, pour, and repeat.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.