Tea pods for Nespresso machines: yes, they’re real, but are they any good?

Good news if you’re a tea drinker, because the encapsulated coffee machines can now make tea with specialised tea pods. But with teabags being dirt cheap, are these capsules even worth it?

New in stores, and available online, Dilmah is experimenting with the idea of tea in a coffee pod, engineering what is essentially a teabag for Nespresso machines.

Nespresso’s range of automatic instant espresso machines are among the most popular in the world, competing in this country with offerings from Lavazza, Nescafe, and even Woolworths, the latter of which is also doing quite well (likely because of the inexpensive price) and supports pods under the MAP system which can be found from numerous retailers.

In general, the Nespresso machines have been designed, built, and engineered for coffee, and Nespresso’s several Grand Cru coffees at that, but in the past year or so, we’ve seen at least one third-party brand release compatible coffee capsules into supermarket chains across the country.

Now it’s time for Dilmah to try its hand with something different: tea pods.

Yes, these are exactly what they sound like, with plastic Nespresso compatible pods filled with tea, designed to be used with a Nespresso machine so that instead of coffee, you get a nice cup of black tea in under 20 seconds.

Two types of tea have been made available, with English Breakfast and Earl Grey made into these tea pods. Dilmah says the tea is “hand-picked and artisanally made in Dimbula region renowned for strong, full-bodied, flavoursome tea” which puts it in its “Single Region Selection” range of teas, which can be found for around $5 for 50 teabags normally.

Opening the pod up against that of a teabag, there’s not a lot of difference here, though the smell of the tea is certainly strong.

The amount of tea inside the pods equates to three grams (3g) of tea, and while we weren’t able to find Dilmah’s equivalent tea bags, we did compare it to that of Dilmah’s Premium Quality Ceylon Tea which has two gram (2g) teabags, as well as the Twinings English Breakfast teabags which have two grams (2g) of tea inside them, too.

Before we bought the pods, we had our doubts that the short period for water passing through the pod wouldn’t be enough to create a strong cup, but after getting a whiff, we suspect Dilmah has specifically gone with stronger tea to make sure that the resulting tea is just that: strong.

Now it’s important to note that these pods are only designed for Nespresso machines, and Nespresso compatible machines. Other systems, like those in the MAP system, will not run these pods, and neither will Nescafe units.

The pod styles are just a little too different, and if you try to run them in an incompatible machine, it’s at your own risk.

Testing with the Nespresso Maestria, the Dilmah pods are much stronger than we expected, resulting in a tea that is closer to leaving the teabag in for four minutes.

That’s a nice strong blend, and that’s when used with a Lungo setting, though there was a faint smell of coffee grounds as we drank, likely a result of previous use from earlier that day.

At home, we tested with the Nespresso U machine on the longest setting and at work with the UMilk, a choice that makes sense because both a 25ml ristretto and 40ml espresso style of drink just doesn’t seem to make sense for tea.

Tea is meant to be consumed from a tea cup, which generally has at least 100 millilitres of liquid inside, hence lungo and its 110ml size is what you should be using.

The U only has these three settings, so we used the biggest one, its lungo setting, which once again produced a strong cup of tea.

But therein lies one of the catches of using the Dilmah pods: you’re basically stuck with the strength of the blend that has been engineered for these pods.

Tea isn’t like coffee. Sure, you can have a coffee pod at different strengths by changing the length of the cup, but tea is infinitely more controllable, and depending on if you leave a teabag in a cup of hot water for one minute, two, three, four, or ten, you’ll have a different strength cup of tea.

Not so with the Dilmah pods, which seem engineered for a surprisingly strong cup, and only this surprisingly strong cup.

There’s also the issue of price.

One box of these pods costs $5.20, and contains 10 pods. That’s ten cups of tea for five bucks, and fifty cents per cup of tea. That’s an expensive tea, especially when you consider that the grade of tea isn’t far from what you get in a teabag.

Contrast that with a box of teabags, which for the same price can grab you 50 tea bags. That’s ten cents per cup of tea, which is a dramatic comparison, and only takes marginally more time because you have to steep the tea yourself.

In this writer’s opinion, being able to steep your own teabag is a positive thing, though, as it allows you to select your own degree of tea infusion, which is a good thing, as everyone has different tastes.

Ultimately, you’re paying extra for a gimmick, and that gimmick is tea in a pod.

From left to right: the Dilmah Tea Capsules are $5.20 for 10, the Dilmah Ceylon teabags are $2.10 for 25, and the Twinings English Breakfast teabags are $2.15 for 10. You do the math.

Is it more convenient than a teabag? Marginally, since you basically drop the pod in, hit a button, and get the tea out.

Would we ever pick a tea pod over a teabag or loose-leaf tea? Nope. Teabags are more cost effective, and loose-leaf tea is even easier to brew a large pot with.

It’s worth noting that the aroma of coffee grounds on top of the tea is likely one other people will pick up on, especially if the Nespresso machine is frequently used and not so frequently cleaned.

Another fact that’s worth knowing is that if there’s no pod in a Nespresso machine, it can be used to heat water. In general, a kettle is still a better solution, but if you run water through the Nespresso machine a couple of times (once to get rid of any excess coffee grounds), you can end up with a cup of hot water ready to take on your teabag.

Conversely, the fill your own pods that we looked at last year may have been lousy for engineering your own perfect coffee pods, but they’re excellent for loose leaf tea, and if you do end up trying them, they will provide a few rounds of reusable tea pods, which, once again, is even more cost effective than Dilmah’s box of 10 for five bucks.