Argo Tea: Points for Not Being Boring

Argo Tea

Argo Tea

I Paid: $2.39 per 13.5-ounce bottle (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 3 stars

Marketing: 5 stars

Appearance is rarely predictive of flavor. That said, it's hard to resist a beverage as beautifully packaged as the ready-to-quaff signature drinks from the Argo Tea chain of cafés. From the fonts to the color palettes to the artfully geometric patterns, the things look like a million bucks. Metaphorical monetary assessment of the taste varies, however, from "somewhat less than a million bucks" to around a buck, maybe, if you're being generous.

I sampled three of the six varieties: Mojitea (mint tea with lime juice and sugar), Green Tea Ginger Twist (green tea with lemon and ginger root), and Carolina Honey (black tea with wildflower honey and lemon).

Green Tea Ginger Twist bombs your palate like a B-52. While each sip starts with a bit of pleasant tea flavor, it finishes up with a cloud of finely minced ginger that scours your mouth. After a couple of swigs, all but the most passionate of ginger-lovers will likely move on to a more potable beverage.

Mojitea had a similar problem. This time, the offender was the hyperintense acid kick of lime, which shouted down every other aspect of the drink.

It was therefore a bit of a surprise when I tried Carolina Honey, a downright delicious and beautifully balanced beverage that united a gentle hit of black tea with a perceptible but reined-in undernote of lemon and a clean-tasting, sweet but not aggressive kick of honey.

One out of three ain't great, but it's not hopeless, either. Though not consistent, Argo Tea gets credit for the tastiness of Carolina Honey, and for the gutsiness of even the flawed flavors—while a ginger bomb isn't ideal, at least it isn't boring.

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.