what do earl grey tea, vanilla bean ice cream, and dharma & greg have in common?2

Es­ti­mated reading time is 11 min­utes.

WAY BACK IN 2013, I fell in love with Tazo’s Earl Grey tea. This was sur­prising be­cause I had never ever liked earl grey be­fore. I was a fairly de­voted con­sumer of caf­feine via coffee—usually a strong dark roast with lots of body and oomph! But as I got older, a little oomph went a long way, so I cut down my coffee in­take and sub­sti­tuted tea as an af­ter­noon pick-me-up.

Tazo’s pack­aging for in­di­vidual tea bags was a light purple paper packet with a black box at the top with TAZO in a font type that looked rather rune-like.

A de­scrip­tion of the tea on the front of the packet reads “Black Tea – The Noir – A tra­di­tional tea scented with the essence of berg­amot.” 1

The new pack­aging is white paper with the black box elim­i­nated and the runic let­ters re­placed with plainer type. The de­scrip­tion now reads, “Black tea kissed with berg­amot’s lavender essence.” What ap­pears to be a styl­ized purple wave moves across the bottom of the packet face.

Of course, I froze up in­side when I saw this: I did not like the looks of the bags. When I got them home, it was worse: the blend had also changed, with no­tice­ably less berg­amot in the mix.


Dharma: Tazo Earl Grey tea in older purple packets.

Tazo’s Earl Grey in its heyday.

Enlightenment into the world of Tazo

I was not taking this lying down, so on April 22, 2014, I sent the fol­lowing email to Tazo’s cus­tomer ser­vice department:


Re­garding Tazo Earl Grey tea: while I prefer the fa­miliar purple tea bag packet with the black logo box at the top, I can cer­tainly learn to live com­fort­ably with the new, white packet. In its way, it is a better design.

Un­for­tu­nately, I cannot live with the change in the taste of the Earl Grey: it is de­cid­edly less berg­amotty (sic), less oily even. It is blander all the way through, from first sip to last.

To show my af­fec­tion for the older blend, please find here links to a pair of posts on my web­site re­garding your tea:


I am writing a third post con­cerning the afore­men­tioned changes. I was going to title it “the new earl grey, she ain’t what she used to be,” a nod to the old folk­song, The Old Gray Mare.

Any chance that there are cases of the older, purple pack­eted tea in your warehouse?



To my sur­prise, on April 25, 2014, I re­ceived the fol­lowing reply from a member of Tazo’s cus­tomer ser­vice department:


Thank you for taking the time to write. Your search for en­light­en­ment into the world of Tazo is to be ad­mired. With this first step on the path, may you find an­swers you seek.

I do apol­o­gize for the trouble with the changes with our tea.

A va­riety of Star­bucks cof­fees, Tazo teas, brewing equip­ment and more are avail­able for on­line pur­chase at www.StarbucksStore.com. If not found via the main web­site I could rec­om­mend the 3rd web­sites such as Amazon or Ebay.

If you ever have any ques­tions or con­cerns in the fu­ture, please don’t hes­i­tate to get in touch.


Tea En­thu­siast Advisor

I re­sponded im­me­di­ately on April 25, 2014, to the above email:


Thanks for the response.

Re­garding your mes­sage: en­light­en­ment often comes in forms most un­ex­pected and to those not even seeking it.

Thank you for ac­knowl­edging the “changes with our tea.” I was dreading a note from you ad­vising me to have my taste buds checked.

I will search the other sites you rec­om­mend, but should you stumble over a few years supply of the purple-packeted Earl Grey, please think of me.


So, Ju­lian did, in fact, ac­knowl­edge that the Earl Grey recipe/blend had been tam­pered with and al­tered. I was not pro­vided with any di­rect info on the avail­ability of the older, pre­ferred ver­sion of the tea. And, of course, I have slowly gotten used to the new Tazo, but it’s now on a par with other Earl Greys by other companies.


Dharma: Tazo Earl Grey tea in newer white packet.

The much blander look of to­day’s Tazo Earl Grey.

Real vanilla bean ice cream

Tillamook is a local dairy-based co-operative fa­miliar to al­most everyone who lives in the Pa­cific North­west. It makes a va­riety of prod­ucts, in­cluding ice cream, milk, butter, sour cream, etc. All of their prod­ucts are fine but their ice cream is ex­cep­tional! And for my taste, Tillamook Vanilla Bean is the best vanilla bean ice cream out there! 2

The fa­miliar de­sign of the ice cream’s con­tainer that we have been buying and en­joying for years was a but­tery yellow color with a blue border at the top that con­tained “Tillamook” in white let­ters. There was a dis­tinc­tive cow’s head just below the com­pany name.

The ice cream within was stone cold white with a gen­erous helping of flecks of black vanilla beans. And the bean was the part of the taste that sep­a­rated Tillamook from all of the pre­tenders ad­ver­tising an oth­er­wise bland vanilla ice cream as being “Vanilla Bean.”


We took America’s fa­vorite ice cream flavor and filled it with loads of real crushed Vanilla Beans!


And then things changed: Tillamook started ship­ping their ice cream in newly de­signed con­tainers. It is still a but­tery yellow color, but no­tice­ably paler. The blue border and the cow are gone; “Tillamook” is now in dark blue let­ters with a two-masted ship-of-the-line above it.

The new il­lus­tra­tion is still of Vanilla Bean flowers and pods but without the bottle of milk. Just seeing the new de­sign filled me with trepidation.

We picked one up a Vanilla Bean along with an Oregon Blue­berry Patch. Got home, put them in the freezer, and pre­pared the dinner. Dessert time and Berni and I were both afeared of opening the Vanilla Bean and finding that the pack­aging wasn’t all that had been redesigned.

Need­less to say, our fears were jus­ti­fied: while not de­void of the fa­miliar bits and pieces of bean, the ice cream had con­sid­er­ably fewer par­ti­cles and con­sid­er­ably less flavor.


Of course, over the next week we fin­ished the two—they were good, re­ally: the Vanilla Bean just wasn’t the Vanilla Bean that it had been. So we waited a couple of weeks and went to a dif­ferent store, as­suming that time and lo­ca­tion should get us a dif­ferent serving from a dif­ferent batch of Vanilla Bean ice cream.

Bummer again!


Dharma: Tillamook ice cream in older packaging with cow's head.

This is the pack­aging for the orig­inal recipe for Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with the ar­ti­fi­cial vanilla fla­voring. Note the dis­tinc­tive blue border with the cow’s head at the top and bottle of milk below it. This product is listed as “Tillamook (1)” in the taste test below.

Registering my complaint

Tillam­ook’s new Vanilla Bean Ice Cream was smoother, creamier than the old recipe, but oth­er­wise un­re­mark­able. I would no longer even con­sider it a real Vanilla Bean ice cream, just a tasty vanilla ice cream with a hint of the bean. Berni and I were not pleased, so I sent an email to Tillamook dated April 27, 2014:


Re­garding your re­cent changes in both the pack­aging and the recipe for your Vanilla Bean ice cream, I am writing to reg­ister my com­plaint with the latter. I moved into Bellevue in 1988 and have resided on the east side ever since. I dis­cov­ered our ice cream years ago and was de­lighted to taste your Vanilla Bean: it was the best I had tasted since the heyday of Breyers Vanilla Bean way back in the 1960s and ’70s!

My wife and I buy at least one con­tainer of Vanilla Bean a week, usu­ally with a second flavor. When we saw the changes that you had made in the ice cream pack­aging, we were trep­i­da­tious: few com­pa­nies only alter the wrap­pings without fid­dling with the innards.

And you did! The “new” Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is still a fine ice cream. It’s just not a su­pe­rior Vanilla Bean ice cream. The Vanilla Bean flavor is de­cid­edly less pro­nounced, making for a much blander confection. 

That is, Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is no longer a Vanilla Bean ice cream that we can rave to our friends and ac­quain­tances about. In my case, that in­cludes the readers of my blog.

Im­me­di­ately pre­ceding my sending this email to you, I posted a new ar­ticle ti­tled “what do earl grey tea, Vanilla Bean ice cream, and dharma and greg have in common (part 2: on tillam­ook’s Vanilla Bean ice cream).” I in­cluded the text of this email (“Dear Till­mook”) in the ar­ticle. You are cer­tainly wel­come to read the ar­ticle and to re­spond to it . . .

Hoping to hear from you!


I re­ceived a prompt reply on April 29, 2014. And a good reply: the Tillamook rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ms. Callie O’ Sul­livan (could she sound more Irish?) took the time both ac­knowl­edge the change in their ice cream’s making to ex­plaining what the change had been! So, below lease find my cor­re­spon­dence with Ms. O’ Sullivan:


Thank you for your email! I’m so sorry to hear that you’re dis­ap­pointed with our Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. As a com­pany, we’re ded­i­cated to making the highest-quality dairy prod­ucts in the most nat­ural way possible.

We re­cently re­viewed our ice cream product line and re­moved some ar­ti­fi­cial colors, fla­vors, and sweet­eners from sev­eral of our fla­vors. For Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, this means that we re­moved the ar­ti­fi­cial vanillin from the in­gre­di­ents. All other in­gre­di­ents re­mained the same.

Al­though we’ve changed to a more nat­ural in­gre­dient list, Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream should still taste just as good, and I’m sorry to hear that you no longer enjoy it. Please know that I will be sharing this in­for­ma­tion with our Product De­vel­op­ment team, to let them know you prefer the orig­inal recipe.

If you would like to pro­vide us with your mailing ad­dress, I will follow up shortly in the mail with a re­place­ment coupon for you to ei­ther pur­chase an­other flavor or give Vanilla Bean an­other shot.

Thanks again for let­ting us know about your ex­pe­ri­ence; I hope your next pur­chase de­livers the quality you have come to ex­pect from the Tillamook brand.


Con­sumer Loy­alty Team

I replied as promptly on April 30, 2014; here is my email to Ms. O’ Sullivan:


Thanks for your re­sponse to my email. My apolo­gies for my own less than timely re­sponse to your email below; I am in the process of moving and my time is taken up with packing, etc.

While I have to ap­plaud Tillamook for re­moving ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­di­ents from its ice cream, I still have to mourn the loss of the very best vanilla bean ice cream on the market . . .

As per your sug­ges­tion, I have in­cluded my mailing ad­dress. Please send me the coupon and I will give your Vanilla Bean an­other taste test. In fact, I will do a “taste test” with Tillamook and Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, and Häagen-Dazs!

Thanks again!


Dharma: Tillamook ice cream in newer packaging with masted ship.

This is the pack­aging for the new “all nat­ural” recipe for Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Note the more min­i­malist de­sign: no blue border, no cow, and no milk. Just the flowers and pods of the bean plant. This is listed as “Tillamook (2)” in the taste test below.

My first taste test

So the next round will be the taste-test pit­ting Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream against Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla, Breyers Vanilla Bean, and Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean! I ac­tu­ally did the taste test in June and here are the re­sults. Note that I started with Tillamook’s ear­lier vanilla bean recipe with the ar­ti­fi­cial in­gre­dient (‘1’ below), giving it a score of 10 against which to base the other.

Tillamook Vanilla Bean (1)     10
Tillamook Vanilla Bean (2)       5
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla                  4
Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean        4
Breyers Vanilla Bean                   1

This is NOT a quality eval­u­a­tion! This is my per­sonal re­sponse to these prod­ucts and the grades are relative.

Tillamook is NOT five times better than Breyers, pe­riod! But Tillamook tastes MORE than five times better than Breyers to me!

My second taste test

Oc­tober now and I have ad­justed to the new Tillamook recipe (2) to the pint that I barely re­call the orig­inal (1). So I did an­other taste test leaving the orig­inal recipe as the bench­mark and as­signing it a value of 10:

Tillamook Vanilla Bean (1)      10
Tillamook Vanilla Bean (2)       7
Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla                  4
Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Bean        4
Breyers Vanilla Bean                   1

If I were to do the test without Tillamook (1), then (2) would be­come the bench­mark and get a 10! To bal­ance the af­fair, I’d prob­ably raise the oth­er’s each a notch. I know that’s math­e­mat­i­cally un­fair, but it’s my taste and it’s my web­site and as Ol’ Blue Eyes once said, “That’s life!”

So, it seems that Ms. O’­Sul­livan was cor­rect: the new Tillamook Vanilla Bean Ice Cream tastes fine. Need­less to say, there’s a quart of it in my freezer for today’s dessert.

What about Dharma and Greg?

Please note that this is an up­dated and mod­i­fied ver­sion of three ar­ti­cles that were orig­i­nally posted on this site back in 2014. At the time, I was new to Word­Press, so those ar­ti­cles were in a too-small, sans serif type­face (gag!).

And they were de­void of pic­tures, as I was clue­less about how to down­load im­ages from the In­ternet and then up­load them to my site. This is both more read­able, more vi­su­ally at­trac­tive, and—hopefully—more entertaining.

And the moral of the story about Tazo and Tillamook? Com­plaining may not change things, but you never know until you try—and you might learn a thing or two along the way.

Wait! What about the ques­tion posed by the title of this piece: What do earl grey tea, vanilla bean ice cream, and dharma & greg have in common?

Damned if I remember . . .


Photo of Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson from the television series DHARMA & GREG.

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of Jenna Elfman and Thomas Gibson as Dharma Freedom Finkel­stein and Gre­gory Clif­ford Mont­gomery in the de­lightful tele­vi­sion se­ries Dharma & Greg.

When I began this piece four years ago, it was a three-parter with the final part about Elf­man’s uniquely lovely and de­light­fully daffy Dharma Mont­gomery per­sona. For some reason, I never got around to it. and prob­ably never will. Oh, well.



1   I have written about my con­ver­sion to and taste for Tazo’s Earl Grey tea twice on this site be­fore. The first was on De­cember 1, 2013, and was ti­tled “do you think that popeye and olive oil drank earl grey at tea time?

The second piece was pub­lished on Feb­ruary 1, 2014, and was ti­tled “earl earl earl, earl of grey (yes, I’m the earl of grey),” the title re­fer­ring to Gene Chan­dler’s doowop classic, The Duke Of Earl.

2   Tillamook ice cream is priced con­sid­er­ably lower than many better known brands, even those of no­tice­ably in­fe­rior taste quality. 


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