There is a surprise among the fall lineup of drinkware offerings at Starbucks this season. I usually peruse the website to see what kinds of tumblers they offer and to check if there's anything worth adding to my collection. Oddly enough, this season's Tazo plastic tumbler marketed as being for tea doesn't appeal to me. I'm not entirely convinced by plastic mugs being used for boiling-hot beverages, and what I'm thinking is a ginko flower design is certainly pretty, but not striking enough for me to bring it home. It may be of interest to those who frequently use tea bags or need something flexible for the commute, so you can find more info about it here.
When I stopped by one of my local shops, the Via ceramic traveler tumbler got my curiosity, and as it turns out, it is perfect for steeping and drinking a full cup of tea from sachet or *gasp* tea bag. Sometimes it's just more practical to steep with a sachet than to bring along the usual loose-leaf filters and equipment, but practicality, to some, is a relative term.
Designed for use with Via instant coffee (which I admit to also enjoying in certain varieties), the interior is marked with a line for the 8 oz. of hot water recommended for use with the normal-sized packets. (There are larger Via packets for the iced coffee varieties and so forth). But for those of us who are inclined to take tea, the line is a good vantage point for knowing how much hot water to prepare for the type of tea you're drinking.
As an example - the typical cup of tea is around 6 oz. If you were steeping a particularly strong Indian Black, Pu-Erh (in a T-sac filter), or a salty broth of Sakura blossoms, the 8 oz. marker might be more appropriate for your taste. It's a visual starting point.
The cover itself snaps over the top of the ceramic tumbler and fits on an interior lip, so that when the tumbler is closed, it's resting flush with the tumbler. It has a rubber seal around the edge that I've found to be surprisingly secure, and there is a lipped handle on the other end for ease of removing when done. The cover slides open for drinking and back to keep it closed.
I wouldn't recommended it for everday microwave use as the exterior gripper is made of silicone and shouldn't normally be removed, but it's this gripper that also makes the tumbler unique and fuss-free. It feels solid and sturdy and there's no need for a handle taking up space in your bag when you pack it up for traveling.
Does it retain heat? As it's not intended to be set on a desk and walked away from for several hours, it does a good job of keeping the water hot for the time the average person needs to finish a good cup of tea. I've been able to enjoy a number of English Breakfast cuppas without noticing it getting tepid.
It comes in orange, as pictured, and a version with a white exterior, brown grip, and orange interior (which I may also pick up at a later date). You can find more details on the Starbucks store website here. I would caution you to ignore the user review ratings in place at the time of this posting, this traveler mug is fine. The first person who submitted a review gave it a low rating because it wasn't larger than 8 oz. and they didn't purchase it. Can't please everyone, it seems. And as for my review here, I'm not an uber-fan of Starbucks, I just stop at my local shop from time to time and found this particular mug to be interesting.
Here's to Fall and happy steeping.