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Wednesday, 14 November 2018


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Maybe you haven’t given good quality decaf coffee a chance. I now enjoy it more than some of my former regular coffee favorites, without my caffeine intolerance issues. Some people just don’t like the thought of decaf, but blind tasting can surprise...

What Ginger Baker had to say about tea in the States.


"and a pot of water
though it may be hot
but boiling it isn't
so tea you have not"

Switched from coffee to green tea for the very same reasons several years ago. Amazing coincidence.

The effects of green tea are subtle, in my experience. Lower caffeine levels aside, something akin to magic takes hold while sipping that second cup of brew.

Sometimes I still miss the coffee morning punch in the face, but sooner or later we all have to get out of that ring.

I drink lots of tea! 1-4 pots a day. I buy my tea from Porto Rico which is a coffee store/distributor in NYC. They have a great collection and the best price I've found anywhere. You can order an ounce up to a pound and it's free shipping anywhere if you spend over 75$. I usually put in a large order a year. I store the bag in the freezer and keep some in mason jars for daily use.

If you are looking for a low/no caffeine warm drink you need to give Rooibos a try. I won't call it a tea because it is not a Camellia plant, it's actually a legume, and it is not fermented. It is however caffeine free, very healthy and has great flavor profile.

Being a tea-drinker myself (loved coffee also, on mainland Europe good coffee was widely available long before Starbucks made life bearable in the U.S., but when I quit coffee temporarily to try and sleep better, almost instantly the headaches that had plagued me for years at least one day a week disappeared completely), I wonder why you settled for green tea and not for black Darjeeling - arguably the best tea there is, and available in first flush and second flush choices. Have I missed an earlier tea-post?

"(I don't like the idea of decaf.)"

I'm hoping you've actually tried a good quality, Swiss Water varietal decaf? I have a (UK) supplier that always has a range of 3 or 4 different varietal decafs, most single source, that are just wonderful (and only a small amount dearer than the full-caf equivalents). Every few weeks I go to Warwick Market to pick up my order; if I haven't pre-ordered I'm out of luck because it appears however much they put on the stall it sells out before the afternoon (the supplier says demand for good quality decaf is increasing by leaps and bounds)! The flavour is as close as you could imagine to the full-caf version, just misses that caffeine buzz. So far I've had Brazilian, Colombian, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Ethiopian and PNGian... the only trouble is, they can only get limited supplies of any but the first two...

I am no expert on tea but I do enjoy green tea when mixed with mint tea. One teabag of each in a cup and then let the Keurig pour hot water over it all. Not sophisticated but neither am I so for me it works.


Good decaf coffee (e.g. Dean's Beans Peruvian French Roast) tastes a lot better than green tea. Principles are important, but so is the actual taste of the stuff you drink every day.


Have you tried Japanese green tea? I usually get mine from Kyoto and their gyokuro and sencha are wonderful! Ippodo and Nakamura Tokichi both offer online sales.

One of CTEIN’s articles eventually made me a Tea Source customer. And now you’ve introduced me to other purveyors. Oy vey! As a Canadian I’m sorely tempted to give Clearview a spin; your choice of Teavivre confuses the issue further. Thanks, Mike. Just Thanks.

Since taking up tea I found my tastes have changed and I drink far less coffee. Part of that is that coffee purchased at all but the best coffee shops is not good; some of it is dreadful. And brewing at home can be fraught with disappointment because the formula (amount, temperature, steeping time, etc.,) for different beans, vintages and roasts can be a real challenge.

PS I’ve been VERY happy with Teasource - the one time I called them to get advice was one of the most pleasant customer care experiences I’ve ever had. They are a first class operation - highly recommended.

Well the bad news about green tea is it concentrates fluoride, which is bad for the thyroid. I occasionally do coffee but only about once or twice a month. A few months back I have taken to making my own hot chocolate beverage. I have three cup mug which I put in five packets of stevia, a large scoop of ground cocoa bean powder, and a small dose of ground cinnamon. At boiling water from a Silex vacuum coffee maker and life is good. The long term effects have been good on the body. Hot chocolate on a cold day or night is very nice.

Not where I am, Mike. Your Wednesday column appears on Thursday this side of the Date Line. You're always a day late, mate. Better drink coffee.

I happen to just be back from a trip to Fujian province, where I visited Wu Yi Shan.
That's where Da Hong Pao tea comes from, which is one of the most famous teas in china.

Here is a mobile phone produced panorama picture of the place where the only remaining "original" Da Hong Pao tea trees grow.

only as URL, because the format of the picture will not suite the layout of this page

you can see a guy arranging a ladder, left third, upper image area. he's approaching those tea trees, a little bit to the right on the picture.

sorry for the harsh contrast ... that part of the picture is almost blown out. but that's the risk of mobile phone photography, especially when doing panoramas.

my choice for the cold season: oolong tea with osmanthus flowers (Gui Hua Wo Long).


Good luck with you tea exploits Mike. As an aside, may I send you a link about the only tea plantation in Europe? It is located in Sao Miguel island, Azores.


Have you tried Gorreana? We did a tour of the plantation this fall and the tea is very nice. It is also the only tea plantation in Europe. You can sign up for an account and they will ship to you.

Just something for variety.

To say the Azores are in Europe is stretching the definition a bit, though may be technically true AFAIK, but it does not have the only tea plantation in Europe because it is also grown in Cornwall, see http://www.tealaden.com/teaweb/articles/britain_grows_tea.htm

I enjoyed this post, and have a very similar kettle for the same purpose. I wanted to call your attention to one more tea source, the Grace Tea Company at gracetea dot com. It's not green, but I was given a tin of their Winey Keemun English Breakfast years ago and it's become my regular morning cup ever since. They also offer a selection of clay teapots from China, which you might find interesting (from any source) if you continue to cultivate the practice.

In the last ~20 years, I seldom have caffeine, at least by intention.

Repeating some earlier comments - good decaf coffee certainly exists - though it is seldom found by accident.

Reliably finding good, freshly roasted decaf was a challenge for me, so I took to roasting my own about 2 years ago. Roasting decaf (as well as grinding and brewing) is a different game from regular, but it has allowed me to arrive at a very good decaf coffee experience.

Using the Swiss or Mountain Water process (similar concept, but different enough to keep lawyers happy, I'm guessing) to decaffeinate is not near as violent to the coffee bean (or its taste) as traditional chemical methods.

That said, the best decaf bean in the world will always fall short of the best regular bean in the world - but the gap doesn't have to be gargantuan - as it typically is at Charbucks or the typical grocery store.

Roasting my own decaf has largely spoiled me for consuming anybody else's - unless it is a specialty place that is very serious about its pour overs.

Allegro Coffee Roasters sells a few types of decaf beans at Whole Foods here in Colorado. A couple of them are consistently better than what I can roast myself - but at about 3X the price of roasting for myself.

If you are not yet really sure about green tea, there are two very healthy alternatives I can strongly recommend:

1. Oolong tea. I think the best is Formosa (from Taiwan), though the Chinese Oolong is also very good. It is a semi-fermented tea, less bitter, or sharp than green tea, has a more complex, rounded flavour, often with very feint hints of peach in the background. I've been drinking it, brewed fairly weak for a subtle impact, for 30 years now, and I have never grown bored with it.

2. Roasted southern lupin coffee, from a German brand called Café Pino. It is not coffee, of course, but it comes as a coarse-ground product that can be used in an espresso machine or a cafetière. I am an odd fellow that prefers weak nutty coffee (I don't like the bitterness of many strong-brewed coffees) and this fits the bill better than any coffee I've tasted ( though I am still a fan and drinker of the finer arabica beans from India). This Café Pino is not like any other coffee substitutes I've tasted and seems a far superior product. I am a recent convert, so cannot claim a long acquaintance, but so far it is looking good.

I don't know about the tea grown in the Azores or in Cornwall, but there is some excellent black tea grown in the black sea region of Turkey, which is a European country even if the tea growing region of the country is actually in Asia Minor (and that area is geographically still closer to "Europe" than are the Azores). And I recall reading a few years ago that Turks have overtaken the British for drinking the most tea (per capita) in the world.

Some excellent Oolong tea comes from Fujian province, worth a try if you want something else than green tea for a change.

Portland based vendor the Tao of Tea is also worth checking out; they'll sell tiny amounts of their teas so one can experiment with the myriad varieties.

When you decide to pick up another teapot I recommend looking at Beehouse. The metal bits of their pots can be removed so the ceramic can go in the dishwasher, they're available in many pleasant colors, the stainless baskets get along with loose tea, and they're not very expensive.

When I have my wits about me, I switch back to tea from coffee. For years I've purchased tea from Adagio (www.adagio.com). My favorites are Irish Breakfast, Earl Gray Bravo, Ceylon Sonata, Assam Melody and an Oolong called Fujian Rain. I could never really warm up to most green teas.

For a setup I use a $17 Bodum Bistro kettle, which boils water quickly, and I brew it in a Zojirushi "travel mug" that has a filter. After the necessary steep time I pour the tea out and the leaves stay behind.

I see they've already been mentioned, but if you haven't, you should give Japanese green teas a try. Distinctly different from Chinese green. Probably not worth wasting your time with bancha but sencha and gyokuro are, IMNSHO, worth a try. There's more to Japanese tea than these three kinds but that should give you a good taste for what Japan has to offer that you can't find in China. And no, Chinese sencha doesn't cut it. Not the ones I've tried, at least.
Oh and speaking of other experiences, have you tried oolong teas? Low in caffeine and very, VERY diverse.

Sorry to be late with this comment. I have two stories. In the late 70s I had been working at a high-pressure job for a couple of years and started to have stomach aches that I thought might be from an ulcer. I went to a doctor, who very fortunately was one of the good ones. He told me that he could run several very unpleasant and expensive tests, but instead he started by asking what my usual diet was each day. I told him that I started off each morning with cereal and toast and a mug or two of Chemex drip, high-end, fresh ground coffee. After that I drank a cup our two of office coffee during the day and usually none at night.
He suggested an experiment: stop the coffee and drink hot tea of any kind. So I bought some Irish Breakfast Tea, brewed it, added milk and sugar, and drank that for breakfast. In just two or three days, my stomach ache was gone. I have been drinking black tea with milk and now Splenda Naturals (great stuff, even healthy) every morning since, except when traveling and good tea is hard to find.
Story two: My wife and I were in London several years ago and visited the Science Museum. We happened on a tea lecture by a person billed as the world's foremost tea expert, a Ph.D. in Chemistry. She made a few basic points that I recall, saying that the internet and the popular tea fact sources often repeat a handful of myths and untruths about tea that have become "conventional wisdom," even repeated by tea reputable vendors online.
The facts as she told them: All true teas -- white, green, and black -- are essentially the same, coming from the same plant, but picked and handled in different ways. Second, her studies show that white and green teas usually have the most caffeine per unit. They are often wrongly described as lower in caffeine than black tea. That would be true only if brewed lightly or drunk in smaller quantities, which they often are. Black tea is simply green tea bruised and allowed to age and ferment a bit for flavor. The aging tends to reduce the caffeine per unit, but people often drink black tea in larger quantities, like coffee. The fermentation might also trigger allergies in a few drinkers.
Coffee has a lot of oils and components that tend to be unhealthy and yield gastric problems (as with me), and is a kind of one-trick pony--its stimulant, caffeine, provides a strong jolt and then a crash. If requires repeated doses to reverse the crash, eventually causing jangly nerves. Tea, on the other hand, has a number of stimulants, including caffeine, and has chemicals that yield a kind of time-release of the stimulants. The net effect is a gentle lift and no discernible crash. Of course, if drunk in very high quantities, the tea's caffeine could produce jangly nerves, too.
I occasionally brew green and white teas for a little variety or for guests, but I don't much like them. I still start each day with two mugs of Irish breakfast tea, often mixed with other black teas for a change. I usually have one or two cups later in the day. For many years all my tea has come from Upton Tea in Boston, whom I highly recommend. Their knowledge, selection and prices are excellent, and they ship ship fast. You can choose how your tea is packed, both in quantity and container style, and it will come labelled with your name and brewing instructions for each container. As with coffee, brewing temperature is important, but most black teas just require boiling water and 3-4 minutes brewing time, so they are easy.

Bon apetea,


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