Ranking all of the Deece teas becomes a harrowing journey

Madi Donat/The Miscellany News.

Additional reporting by Karin Alsop and Susanna Shull

 

Dear friends, I come to you live from the other side of Hell. Today, I bring to you the story of one of the most harrowing experiences of my entire college career and dare I say one of the most harrowing experiences of my entire life. I am a changed person now; I feel as though I have finally entered adulthood after this ordeal. This morning, amidst the calming, routine aura of Deece Breakfast, unbeknownst to the other diners, I, along with two friends—whom I now consider lifelong companions—sat down and ranked every single Deece tea.

This was, for many reasons, a struggle: Firstly, how many teas even are there at the Deece? Some teas differentiate between organic and regular; must we taste-test them both? How can we source every single one? And where, oh where, has Wild Sweet Orange gone? 

The answer to these questions, respectively, is: 14; no; mostly the Deece, but Retreat and the Bridge also, over a whole week; and we have absolutely no idea but we aren’t necessarily complaining. 

So, with our list down by one, my fearless friends and I steeped 13 tea bags in the late morning glare of the Deece. Some steeped for a mere minute, some for three, some for five. We had three timers going at once. But, somehow, we made it. And thusly, I present the list of all 13 Deece teas we tried.

Unlike my other lists, this will not be in ranked order. Instead, the teas will be listed in the chronological order in which we tried them. At the bottom of each, we will list its definitive tier. Please know that these opinions were formed with my friend Karin at the helm, who I consider to be a tea expert. She likes to be modest about that, but I know the truth. And with all that said, let’s get tea-ing.

 

Refresh-Mint

A strong, if underwhelming, start. I myself am an avid fan of peppermint tea and love its ubiquity at the Deece, a place where my tummy could often use its soothing, calming essence. I love peppermint tea. One of my companions did not. She said it reminded her of the times as a child when she used to eat dental floss, which is definitely worrying but also somehow makes sense given what I know about her. She demanded this knowledge be known publicly, so there it is. We didn’t have anything particularly enlightening to say about Refresh-Mint at the time, as we had nothing to compare it to, but later we would realize just how lucky we were to begin with such a lovely tea. 

Ranking: A Tier

 

Calming Chamomile 

I am not a chamomile lover and never have been. Never do I need a tea to make me MORE sleepy. However, one of my fellow reporters is a self-proclaimed chamomile-head, and of this tea, she had this to say: “It must have been a dud because it tasted like cardboard instead of soothing fairy liquid (the type of tea you would gently lower a sugar cube into with a tiny silver pair of tongs. The kind of sugar cube you would feed to a horse out of the palm of your hand, if you’re into that kind of thing).” I cannot say I agree with this statement, but it is true that the chamomile we got was incredibly cardboard-forward. Maybe the tab on the teabag fell into the mug while it was steeping. Maybe they put sawdust in there instead of the actual tea leaves; we may never know the true reason why the chamomile didn’t taste of the gods as it usually does. (Maybe it’s because chamomile isn’t that good to begin with? But hey, that may just be me.)

Ranking: C Tier

 

Baked Cinnamon Apple

A new fighter in the Deece tea ring! I suspect that the dining staff heard of our rankings and conspired to bring in a new, pretty good tea into the mix! I am a big fan of apple teas, and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint! It’s super apple forward, not too overpowering and gave me the faint impression of oats on the tongue. Our tea aficionado, however, was less impressed. “It’s not unpleasant, but it’s mostly just hot water,” was her statement on the matter. I, however, found that it had the most flavor out of our two previous teas. A little watery, sure, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Despite its distinctive apple juice-y notes, it loses a good deal of points by virtue of not being particularly cinnamon-y. It is in the name, after all. I was willing to let this slide— apple and cinnamon too often blend imperceptibly into a singular flavor, after all— but my fellow compatriots were not so kind. For this reason, it was bumped down slightly.

Ranking: B Tier

 

Zen

Another nice way to ease into our taste test. It tasted like a kind of stale green tea, but overall had a nice, minimal flavor to it. There was supposed to be lemongrass flavors in it, which none of us picked up on, but that aside, it was just a kind of green-ish hot beverage that could maybe have given us a sense of Zen if we’d let it. We did not let it. We barrelled ahead, unaware of the power that this Zen could truly have on us had we opened our hearts to it. It won’t be until the end of this journey that we look back and realize what we wish we hadn’t taken for granted. A perfectly respectable tea, for sure, if a little old-tasting.

Ranking: B Tier

 

Passion

This, my friends, is when our descent into madness began. I had never had the misfortune of trying “Passion” before, and, now that I have, boy do I ever wish I hadn’t. The first thing you will notice about Tazo’s “Passion” tea is the smell. My God, the smell—it smells like straight up chewing gum. Like, Trident brand chewing gum that has no actual flavor save for a phrase like “Tropical Splash!” or, “Pineapple Madness!” or, “Surfboard City!” Once you’re through with the initial olfactory shock, you are hit with the taste. And what a taste it is—at first it is unnecessarily sweet, then it is unnecessarily sour. And all through this is the inexplicable, yet unmistakable, smack of salt. Pure NaCl, Gatorade electrolyte, hot sodium juice. My friend explained it thusly: “I could imagine using it as a plant-based dye, perhaps to color yarn, or a scrap of linen, and pretend I am a colonial woman sewing myself a new petticoat.” True indeed that its brilliant purple color begets stares and intrigue, but I implore you all: Abandon hope, all ye that drink Tazo’s “Passion” tea. As my friend so gracefully said, “If this is what passion is, then I don’t want it.”

Ranking: F Tier

 

Sweet Cinnamon Spice

This is a bad tea. And, to drink this bad tea after the atrocious tea that was “Passion” was like a kick in the face, or a punch in the gut, or a “we need to talk” text. Reader, it smelled not good. If “Passion” smelled of Trident gum, “Sweet Cinnamon Spice” smelled like Red Hots. I swear, they use the exact same flavorant as the Red Hots brand. And, reader, that taste does not go away. Rather, it gets worse. My friend told me it tasted like the cinnamon challenge, and I wish I had believed her the first time. Though we steeped it for the requisite five minutes and it burned the back of my throat a little, it was still somehow too watery. I cannot impress upon you enough how absolutely terrible this tea was, especially following the impossibility of the previous tea’s horrificiness. But, we must soldier on. Life is about encountering moments of dread and fear, yet pushing on anyway. And on we push.

Ranking: F Tier

 

Decaf English Breakfast

At least this tea didn’t really fucking taste like anything. It was necessary for us to feature a second brand option to make it clear that we’re not just doing this ranking because we’re in Big Tazo’s little corporate pocket. (Though, by now I’m sure you’re well aware of the fact that, while it might be nice for Tazo to see this list, we highly doubt they’d pay us for it.) The brand name, Choice, recalls our campus’s safer sex supplies org, and this tea’s taste complements the bland and unexciting assortment of men some on this campus may have the option to use such products with. They both come in such nice little packets. Both packets may elicit the same response: It was bad. It was unremarkable, and it was very weak. I want to move on. I want to not drink tea anymore. Jesus Christ.

Ranking: D Tier

 

Chai

This chai smells delicious! It really does. I’m clinging to the small moments of hope here. As expected, it disappointed. The chai ended up as less of a flavor and more of a feeling, though all the while it dried up our tongue and throat. By this point, a thick film of tea flavorant had collected on our tongues, and it was making it hard to be objective taste-testers. It’s like when you try and do a wine tasting and you do use the little spit bucket but a little alcohol seeps in through your cheeks and you’re buzzed by the first hour so you can’t really say anything productive about the drinks after that. By this point, I think I would’ve preferred being wine drunk. At least there’s a little aphrodisiac happening in there. This tea left me dry and sad, in more ways than one.

Ranking: C Tier

 

Vanilla Caramel Chai

This was also a chai. Except it wasn’t, because instead of tasting good, like chai normally is supposed to, it tasted bad. It smelled like a doctor’s office, according to my notes (what does that even mean?). It was sweet in a weird way. It reminds me of the time I was driving home from a sleepover and I was using my pillow, but my pillow was next to the nail polish that I brought to the sleepover, so I was inhaling nail polish for the whole car ride and I got a headache and I thought I was gonna die. It’s got a little bit of a caramel thing happening in the middle, and no vanilla to be found. The cinnamon is a ghost at the back of my throat. I legitimately cannot say anything else except that it sucks. Don’t get this one. Don’t bother. As a matter of fact, don’t get any of the teas from the Deece; they’re all terrible. They’re clogging my nose. They make me queasy. I want to go home.

Ranking: D Tier

 

Awake English Breakfast

This was a normal enough black tea. Pretty astringent, pretty oversteeped, pretty bitter, as teas go. Nonetheless, it was palatable and fruity, and smelled exactly like it was supposed to, instead of like the defunct Peeps store or a CVS. I for one wished I could’ve draunk it with milk, but this is not a time to think about what could have been, lest we dissolve into a puddle of grief for that which we cannot have. If I began to wish for milk, what next? Sugar? Honey? A nap? A moment, a singular moment, away from this, my personal Hell? The sweet embrace of death to come and take me away? To sleep, no more? To sleep, perchance to dream? To shuffle off this mortal coil? I don’t like this anymore. I don’t know why I decided to do this. I want to call my mom.

Ranking: C Tier

 

Earl Grey

Usually we would enjoy the smell of Earl Grey tea, but by this point our whole suite of senses had just been messed up by everything. It was kinda watery, and didn’t have the normal notes that Earl Grey tea normally provides— namely, lavender and dirt. It was sad and boring, and I wanted to not drink it. Much like how I wanted to not drink the remaining teas. Or any tea for the rest of my life, ever. I think I have been ruined, not just in terms of tea, but also just in general. I’m not myself anymore. I’m barely a person. I have been made beast by Deece tea. I have been made unrecognizable. Anyway, this one was pretty good actually.

Ranking: B Tier

 

Green Ginger

Good Lord. Finally, a good tea. I have an incredibly strong nostalgic connection to Tazo Green Ginger, but even if that wasn’t true, I think I would have still sunk to the earth to thank the gods for just this taste of paradise, of ecstasy. For those wondering the flavor profile of Tazo Green Ginger, know that it doesn’t taste like much green tea or ginger, but it is still so good. It does provide the slightest little ginger tingle, enough to trick your brain into thinking that you’re drinking something that’s good for you even though it smells like a witch store and is mostly like hot juice, but not in the way that “Passion” is hot juice; no, this is the ambrosia of Mount Olympus, the milk from the teat of Saint Mary herself. If Tazo Green Ginger was a person, I would be filled with an unrelenting desire, an insatiable lust unlike anything I have ever yet known. Tazo Green Ginger does something to me. It envelops me and caresses me, and turns me to honey in its capable hands. This is a good tea. 

Ranking: A Tier

 

China Green Tips

Finally, somehow, we reached the end of our journey. A normal, regular cup of green tea. I was met with a deliciously fruity green tea smell. I may not be a green tea aficionado, but this one certainly tasted like it’s supposed to taste. It, again, smelled old to our tea expert, who is used to high-quality green teas and not green teas from shit companies like Tazo or Choice (sorry Choice; I know you didn’t mean to be roped into this, but at this point there’s little I can do). This was a normal, regular cup of green tea that made me feel nothing, which, at the end of this arduous journey that took maybe 45 minutes of my late Sunday morning, was all I could really ask for. At this point, I had gone numb. I was fading in and out of consciousness. Even my trusty water bottle, which I’d used as a palate cleanser thus far, was starting to smell weird, like tea and garlic. I had also spilled a cup of coffee on my pants at some point before this, but in my state I had only just noticed it by this point. This tea was pretty good.

Ranking: B Tier

 

So, there you have it. We taste-tested all 13 teas. We did not manage, through the course of this test, to get our hands on Wild Sweet Orange, but you as well as I will know that its primary tasting note is “hot Gatorade.” That said, I do find it important to simply copy and paste the description of this tea as it reads on the box, which was suspiciously put out JUST AFTER we finished our test: “Wild Sweet Orange is like finding a magical orange grove filled with the ripest and most juicy oranges but instead of using a ladder to get the fruit down, you plug in your electric guitar and blast the volume until it’s orange everywhere.” A D Tier description for an unquestionably D Tier tea.

Though by now we were done, in our hubris we decided to prolong our misery a tad bit longer. As a bonus round, we added a splash of milk to our four salvageable black teas (Vanilla Caramel Chai is NOT a part of this list), to see if that improved the flavor somewhat. Some of our final rankings were calculated based on this specific part of the tea-ste test.

Awake English Breakfast

The milk kind of washed everything out. I think I got sour milk. It gave it a sort of cheesy flavor. 

 

Earl Grey

Tasted fine. I wish there was more to say. Tasted like it’s supposed to. It would’ve been nicer with honey.

 

Chai

Just tasted like shit chai.

 

Decaf English Breakfast

Nothing. Weird milk flavor.  

Madi Donat/The Miscellany News.

Final recap: The Frankentea

In our hasty tea bag removal, we ended up with a bowl full of all of the steeped bags. At the bottom of this bowl was a lovely little puddle of liquid, which I lovingly refer to as the Frankentea. And, reader, believe me when I say that we all took a sip. Our journey in the Underworld coming to a close, it was the final elixir, the shot to take us out back into the world of the living. I implore you to understand that this journey was so harrowing, so horrific, so perplexing and disorienting at times, and above all so wholly unpleasant, that this perfect sip of all teas combined was a welcome one. The salty sourness of the “Passion” and fake spiciness of “Sweet Cinnamon Spice” were masked by the calming flavors of Earl Grey, Peppermint, Green Ginger and Zen. And, reader, I beg you to hear me in this: I would have gone back for another sip of this Frankentea. I would have drunk again from the bowl of shame, the bowl of regret. I would have re-entered the fray for that nectar. I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

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