Drinking this tea has granted me a new self-insight: with little doubt, there isn’t a single decaffeinated tea in the world that I can drink without finding it offensive, vile, and completely unwholesome. Before this experience, whenever I was served decaf tea, I rationalized away its awfulness with excuses: surely I couldn’t expect any better out of a teabag, surely the person who made this just didn’t follow the correct parameters, etc. Eventually, I bought this tea to prove to myself that a decent cuppa decaf can be made. After all, Adagio wouldn’t dare sell a bad tea alongside all its other, high quality offerings, right? I was subsequently yanked into reality with not just one, but seven cups of torture. I’m probably a latent masochist. But thus, I faced the hard cold truth: it’s impossible to enjoy a decent cup of tea late at night without consequence to my sleep.
This tea’s offensiveness won’t be immediately obvious if you just inspect the dry leaf. Compared with an unadulterated Ceylon (OP from Kennilworth Estate), there’s actually little visual difference. However, while the normal Ceylon is piney and citrusy, the Decaf ceylon offers only a faint note of hay.
Brewing this tea yields an impressively dark liquor. I’ve only ever seen pu’ers this dark. There’s a vague tanginess to the aroma, but not much else. Sipping it reveals a medium body and astringency, so you do get some of the feeling of drinking real tea. But that’s where the similarities end.
The marketing copy for this tea claims that there’s “sweet citrus notes like mandarin”, but believe me, there’s nothing of the sort here. My first impression is that I’m drinking hot rusty water. Upon further searching and slurping I find a messy handful of stinky grass with one or two stalks of fragrant hay. There’s something like a faint burp of caramel chew from a previous meal. It gives false hope for something interesting that may be brought out with milk, but upon the addition of milk, there’s only a second distant burp of caramel chew that is just as fleeting.
Given the choice between this and hot water, I’d go for the hot water.