Best Coffee and Tea for Your Money

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — If you make a habit of reading personal finance articles, you'll probably find the age-old trope: "If only you gave up that daily coffee . . ."

As we settle in for a winter of cold, the temptation to buy a warm, happy drink grows stronger. At most coffee shops, a decent cup costs at least a few dollars, while even the nicest teas and coffees cost less than $1 to make at home. And that includes blends from the tea purveyor for 5-star hotels like the Mandarin Oriental and the Ritz-Carlton.

I reached out to a bunch of prominent tea and coffee companies to see if they could provide samples for a taste test. All brands sent the coffee or tea varieties they most wanted to showcase, and we gladly tried the motley assortment. My husband, Boris, was the coffee expert, and I took the lead on tasting teas. We're not professional taste-testers, but we did our best to follow good practices (new habits I've developed: warming my teapot in advance and being more precise about steeping times).

Because we received an insane number of samples and no human can possibly be that caffeinated, we tried them at a fast clip, but not all back-to-back. (Except for that time we made eight different Earl Grey varieties and compared them all.) Anyway, if you make tea or coffee at home, you're probably more likely to follow your moods, use humble equipment and drink from mismatched mugs, like us, than you are to brew your drink in a double-blinded laboratory environment.

We chose winners in different categories; there are more tea categories for the simple reason that we received greater and more diverse quantities of tea. There's no decaf coffee category, because we only received a couple samples of decaf and didn't really like them. Same with instant.