Sunday, March 7, 2010

Chain gangs: Starbucks' gigantea, Jamba's gyp

•• You know your chain is too big when your primary competitor has become McDonald's. That's what's happened now to Starbucks, which is test marketing a new size of beverage in the face of Mickey D's attempt to undercut Seattle's best.

Some McDonald's are selling 32-ounce iced teas for a buck, trying to lure customers to their new McCafe coffee and tea offerings. Starbucks is countering by adding a size to its menu. In addition to tall, grande and venti, Starbucks is testing out the new Trenta, a 31-ounce monster cup of iced tea ($2.60) or iced coffee ($3.30). The test markets are Phoenix and Tampa — warm places where a Big Gulp of tea might not sound so ridiculous.

How quickly we forget. I remember when I lived south of the Mason-Dixon, most restaurants served iced tea in ginormous cups, with two shovels of ice cubes and half a lemon. Even in winter.

•• Jamba Juice is trying hot, tea-based drinks again. Last week they trotted out new chai and tea latte options, plus six different Mighty Leaf teas. An A for effort, but they fall seriously short of the last hot tea drinks they tried. Both blends I sampled last week seemed purely powdered. I opted for soy in both, and despite this being a shop that has actual soy milk available for its smoothie drinks, my server both times seemed to add only powdered ingredients to the hot water before blending it. Boo.

The chai tastes fine, though I agree with another reviewer: It's an odd seasonal flavor to debut in March. The Heavenly Green tastes like decent matcha, but again — powdery. Sigh.

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