Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Review: Stash's Premium Green Decaf

In my ongoing quest for a portable, convenient and drinkable bagged tea I came across an unusued and justifiably unloved box of Stash's Decaf Green Tea. Before we discuss the company, the ethics of bagged tea, or the travesty of such a highly processed green, we need to acknowledge one big problem - decaffeinated. I've always thought of decaffeination as castigation of a drink. By removing the zip and aftereffect zing of a good cup of tea (or coffee for that matter) an unwitting consumer is left with a whimpering mug of tepid despair. Why would you wish this on anybody, or any drink? Furthermore, why would you buy it, and then commit the ultimate misdeed by ingesting it? I understand that there are some who don't want the caffeine but do want the drink's falvor, or at least it's thermal qualities. But decaffeination is itself a brutal process, vitiating the subtle flavors of a good tea or coffee. Consumers are binding themselves in a destructive contract when they purchase a decaffeinated product. In essence they've agreed to overlook the attenuated quality of the drink in exchange for the extraction of caffeine. Everybody loses.

Return to present. Here I am, faced with a box of green tea that I am tempted to discard simply because it's restorative properties have been excised in a bloody and harmful procedure. But the blood isn't on my hands, and I do think every tea or quasi-tea beverage deserves at least one chance, so here comes a review I deigned to write and most readers deign to read.

The Trifecta

I intend to write a more elaborate and thought out essay on this upcoming point, but I need to mention it now, briefly. For me, bagged tea is an acceptable compromise for convenience, especially pertinent in the workplace. I do not expect the flavor to have ten thousand glorious layers of subtlety. I only expect to be engaging enough while I focus on conversation or work. So there.

The company take is as follows: "A delicate, slightly sweet, slightly nutty flavor. For our decaffeinated teas we use an advanced, completely natural European process. This process removes 99.5% of the caffeine, leaving the tea leaves with all the flavor, color and aroma you expect from Stash premium teas."

Completely natural European process? I'm not convinced. The Inquisition, the colonial subjugation of foreign powers and, initially, chemical warfare were all exclusive European processes. Just because it comes from a land of socialized governments and Bohemian intellectuals doesn't mean it's good.

Note: Stash's website navigates like a poorly programmed science database. I've had easier times referencing arcane and ancient foreign language articles than I had finding the commercial description for this tea. Only when I had started to wrap the mouse around my neck like a crude noose did I finally stumble on the darn thing.

That said, the Stash Decaf Green Tea is nothing short of an abomination. Really, it's awful. It is the worst "green tea" I have ever had. Let's begin.

Liquor & Appearance: At 2' 15" and 3' the color appears to be the exact same. It's dark, but sickly and murky. At first I had assumed I oversteeped it, but hacking off 45 seconds and even adding a little extra water does nothing to make the diseased visage of this tea any better. Ick.

Raw Aroma: Dark and dank, almost odorless.

Steeped Aroma: The smell is, thankfully, not as immediately offensive as the appearance. Genmai-cha's characteristic dusk and ruddiness appears here, but drier and less flavorful. The other half of the aroma is the smell of raw pumpkin/pumpkin guts. Too bad, too. Since I was a kid I've always hated that smell. It induces an inexplicable gag reflex. Since the tea maintains only a shade of this most dislikeable aroma I didn't becpme ill, but I made sure to breath through my mouth before taking a sip.

Flavor & Palate: If you've read the rest of the review you already understand that this "tea" lacks spirit. Thus it comes as no surprise that it lacks flavor as well. Even with accidental oversteeping I can't detect any actual tea flavor. Just as in the aroma, all I can pick up is a somber dustiness and a revolting raw gourd quality. Why Stash's Green Tea is redolent of this unfriendly stench and taste is far beyond the interpretive skills of the author. All I can determine is that it is eminently poor for the tea and induces an acute queasiness in the drinker's gut. Cutting the steeping time by a full minute down to two minutes (Stash reccomends 1-3 minutes) alleviates much of the vegetabal taste, but leaves the tea entirely flavorless. It is an improvement.

Not much more needs to be said. There are no redeeming qualities. Stash's Decaffeinated Bagged Green tea is very, very unpleasant. Not only is it a poor tea, it is actually discomforting.


Steven Dodd said...

I will compromise my habit by drinking tea with only nine thousand glorious layers of subtly. Any less and I'm wasting my time.

Anonymous said...

What did you expect? A review of this seems, um...kinda pointless? Although you do seem to acknowledge this very point in the review.