Tea sommelier rates Deece selection, finds steep competition

Above is the spread of Deece tea available between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2. Since campus dining services rotates its offerings, you might find different types at different times. Frankie Knuckles/The Miscellany News.

Before we get started, let’s talk about what “tea” actually means. All tea comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The differences result from processing the leaves. Tea exists on a continuum of oxidation, with white tea being least oxidized, followed by green, oolong and black. Pu-Erh is fermented black tea; some people claim it cures hangovers, but I’m skeptical. Other teas are named after their region of origin, like Darjeeling and Assam. Any “tea” that doesn’t contain Camellia sinensis isn’t tea, despite the moniker “herbal tea.” Rather, these are infusions, or “tisanes” (The Tea Spot, “About Tea Types: Oolong, Green, White, Pu-Erh and Black”). For some reason, Numi Teas spells this “teasans,” but as far as I can tell, they’re the only ones. I’ve included both teas and tisanes here. I could talk tea specs ad nauseum, so in lieu of that profusion of unnecessary words, let’s just move on to our main event: the rankings.

Caffeinated

Breakfast Blend 4/10

It’s fine for what it is, but I’m not sure if it’s any better than Lipton black tea. It’s an uncomplex, flat black tea.

If you like this, try James Joyce’s Black Tea Blend by Simpson & Vail. This was purchased for me as a joke, but it’s actually quite tasty and packs a hefty, caffeinated kick, with an exceptionally smooth finish. I’m unable to find information on this company’s exact sourcing practices though, so you may want to do your own research before supporting them.

Get my recommendation here.

Golden Chai 5/10

This tea is exemplified by a shrug. It’s okay. It delivers the promised flavor profile: spicy, cinnamon-heavy. It’s quite warming. But I found it unspectacular, and thus disappointing, especially for a chai, which I expect to be bold and daring.

If you like this, try Dawn by Turmeric Teas, which is a blend of Assam black tea, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cardamom, pink peppercorn and black cracked pepper. Those last two ingredients really add to the flavor, lending a more complex, impactful layer to the overall profile of the tea. While Turmeric Teas is not Fair Trade Certified, their parent company, Good Food for Good, has a Buy One, Feed One policy. To date, the company has fed over 40,000 people (Turmeric Teas, “Buy One, Feed One”).

Get my recommendation here.

Jasmine Green 8.7/10

I’d rate this higher, but I’ve been spoiled by fancy jasmine green tea. Overall, a strong floral note, but not overpowering. This is exactly the blend I know and love. Note, however, that I would recommend using cooler water to make this tea. A temperature “slightly cooled” from boiling, as Numi recommends, will scorch the leaves and create a bitter taste. I recommend using water that’s just a little hotter than you can stand touching, around 175 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you like this, try Organic Jasmine Green Tea by OLLTco, which is an absolutely delicious, light, fragrant tea. Essentially, it’s the extra nice version of what we have in the Deece, and it’s transcendentally good. Seriously, give it a try. It’s a bit on the pricier side, but I don’t regret my purchase.

Get my recommendation here.

Aged Earl Grey 4/10

Like Golden Chai, this tea underperformed. I was hoping for a bold, characteristic bergamot note, but I was disappointed. I would expect an Assam blend to pack more of a punch, too. That said, this is still a decent morning caffeine delivery system, and the taste is fine (if unremarkable).

If you like this, try Earl Grey Bravo by Adagio Teas, which is my go-to morning tea. Alternatively, their Lavender Earl Grey is quite tasty if you favor a floral kick in your morning cup.

Get my recommendation for bravo here, and my recommendation for lavender here.

Gunpowder Green 7/10

This lived up to my expectations of what a gunpowder should be. It’s, as the name implies, smoky (which some people dislike, but I enjoy). It’s fine, but not spectacular. Note that, like Jasmine Green, this should be brewed at a cooler temperature to avoid a bitter, burned taste.

If you like this, try Sleeping Dragon by Adagio Teas, which is also a green with tightly coiled pearls. Like Gunpowder, this has a slightly smoky flavor, but with a smoother, subtly fruity note.

Get my recommendation here.

Decaf/Tisanes

Decaffeinated Earl Grey by Choice Organic Teas 2/10

It’s likely that my anti-decaf tea bias colored my perception, but this smelled and tasted like window cleaner. It is flavored with bergamot oil, rather than bergamot pieces, so it has an unfortunate slimy feel to me (again, could be psychosomatic).

If you like this, try loving yourself. Please, for the love of god, either drink a tisane or drink caffeinated tea. Not this monstrosity. If you like decaf black tea, I don’t think we can be friends. Sorry. Also, just so you know, white tea has just 30 to 55 mg of caffeine per eight ounce serving, while coffee typically has around 100 mg (Choice Organic Teas, “How Much Caffeine is in Tea?,” 03.18.2018). A cup of white tea is unlikely to keep you up at night, unless you have an exceptionally low caffeine tolerance. Rooibos has a similar taste to actual tea, if you want the flavor of black tea without caffeine.

Get my recommendation here.

Moroccan Mint 8/10

I expected this to have an aggressive flavor, and I was pleasantly surprised by its subtlety. Mint teas have a tendency to be overwhelming to me, and this one wasn’t. It’s a lovely after-meal tea.

If you like this, try Minty Comfort by Adagio Teas. Though honestly, Moroccan Mint is just as good as any mint tea I’ve tried. Minty Comfort mixes it up by combining peppermint, echinacea, apple pieces, orange peels, eucalyptus and juniper berries for a harmonious infusion of fruit with a cooling, minty vibe. Note, however, that fruit infusions can have a syrupy finish for some people.

Get my recommendation here.

Chamomile Lemon 9.6/10

I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did. I found that the tartness balanced out the chamomile, making for a relaxing, well-rounded, highly-sippable comfort drink.

If you like this, try Chamomile Citron by Tea Forté (Note: Tea Forté’s website is unclear as to whether this particular tea is Fair Trade certified or not. You can read about this company’s ethical stances here.) This is a bright, yet calming infusion of chamomile, rosehips, lemongrass, lemon verbena, hibiscus and licorice root, which gives it a more rounded flavor than Numi’s blend. It’s an experience in a cup, and I find it quite calming.

Get my recommendation here.

Honeybush 9.6/10

This has become my favorite evening tea from the Deece. It’s sweet, but not overly so. I find it positively uplifting, especially after a stressful day.
If you like this, try Rooibos Vanilla by Adagio Teas, which is what I brew when I feel like making my evening tea more of an experience. It pairs amazingly with late-night study sessions and tastes essentially like a liquid, carb-free sugar cookie. Add honey, and it’s basically dessert. It’s a great tea for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Get my recommendation here.

Dry Desert Lime  0/10
I hate strong citrus. I hate this tea. I took one sip and noped out immediately.

If you like this, try eating a whole lime, while smiling in the mirror to yourself.

Get my recommendation at: MyMarket, in the back. Or the Deece.

A note on tea ethics: All Deece tea is Fair Trade Certified, other than the odd Tazo that occasionally shows up. I’ve done my best to recommend ethically sourced teas, but not all of them are Fair Trade certified. For example, Adagio Teas states on their website, “Here at Adagio we are disappointed in the efforts of the Fair Trade program. For example, Fair Trade coffee growers receive only five cents more per pound of coffee over market price. This trivial amount is meaningless when it comes to gourmet tea, where a pound of product costs five to 50 times more. In lieu of forcing our suppliers to join the Fair Trade program, we’ve devised our own means of supporting the people who grow our teas, called the Roots Campaign” (Adagio Teas, “Product Information”). I believe this speaks for itself about the responsibility the company takes in handling this culturally and economically significant product, and you’ll notice from my recommendations that I appreciate Adagio’s offerings. Additionally, it’s worth noting that while Numi uses biodegradable filter paper in their tea bags, most of their bags are constructed with two staples, which are obviously not biodegradable. As with any product, understanding from where your tea comes is paramount.

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