Monday, November 22, 2010

Something Less Peppy Than I'm Used To, Decaf India Spiced Chai Tea Lets Me Down!

The Good: Great aroma, Good taste
The Bad: Somewhat watery taste, Decaffeinated
The Basics: In one of my most mild "recommends," Decaf India Spice passes solely as an alternative to even more bland decaffeinated teas.

What, some might ask, is the true value of caffeine? Well, in the case of the Celestial Seasonings India Spice Chai teas, almost two stars! Allow me to explain: I loved India Spice Chai tea (click here for my review!) enough that when it came to a cointoss, I rated it as perfect on the old site I reviewed for. And when my wife was looking for a good decaffeinated tea and I saw Decaf India Spice Chai on the shelves, I picked up a box for her. Supposedly, the only difference between the two teas is the presence of caffeine in the former and the lack of it in the one I just picked up.

Apparently, though, that is enough. Drinking a few pots of Decaf India Spice Chai left me underwhelmed and the taste was more watery than the original, making it much tougher to recommend, much less enjoy. For those looking for a weaker version of India Spice Chai, Decaf India Spice Chai fits the bill, but it is far more disappointing than satisfactory and much more likely to turn consumers off to the flavor altogether.


Decaf India Spice Chai is a 100% Natural Chai Tea from Celestial Seasonings in their Teahouse Chai line. This Chai tea is 100% natural and is naturally decaffeinated, though I am unsure of the process that allows Celestial Seasonings to make that claim. This is a good tea and whenever I am at home and have a hankering for Chai tea drinks and I also want something decaffeinated, this is the flavor I would reach for, though I would not try to prepare it like the chai drinks in restaurants (lest the milk overwhelm it).

Decaf India Spice comes in Celestial Seasonings's standard stringless tea bags, which are paired together with easy to separate perforations that allow one to separate the tea bags. When I make pots of tea, I tend to use two bags and leave them connected. A box of Decaf India Spice comes with ten pairs (20 individual) of tea bags.

Ease Of Preparation

Decaf India Spice is your standard black tea as far as the preparation goes. A single tea bag will make the standard 8 oz. coffee mug worth of tea and could be reused and make a second cup of India Spice, though it loses a significant amount of flavor. The second cup, naturally, does not come out as strong as the first, but provided the first steeping was not more than the recommended upper recommended steeping time of six minutes, a second use can come out with about 1/2 strength. I tend to make my tea using a 32 oz. steeping tea pot and that works well for both a first and second steeping.

To prepare Decaf India Spice tea, bring a pot of water to a boil and pour it over the tea bags. The directions recommend that the cup be only 3/4 full so that milk may be added later, but that's only necessary if one wishes to make this beverage into a drink like one gets in restaurants. I brew mine at full strength in the pot and decide about alterations when I pour into my mug! This tea takes four to six minutes to steep and when the water is actually boiling, it comes out strong at the four minute point without needing any additional time. After six minutes, though, the flavor does not concentrate any more so there is no benefit to letting it steep longer than that.


Decaf India Spice is a slightly dry chai tea that has a spicy aroma that is almost impossible to define. For a change, the tea does not smell like cloves or cinnamon, but it does have a similarly rich aroma that permeates the room the tea is brewed in. The aroma alone - having checked out the ingredient list, it is probably the nutmeg and Chinese star anise that create the unique bouquet - is enough to wake the consumer up.

As far as taste goes, unadulterated by anything else, Decaf India Spice is a tea-flavored tea with a surprisingly watery taste to it. While the scent is full of body, the taste is slightly spicy but mostly watery, like one took the original India Spice and watered it down some. Despite the array of spices in the tea, it does not taste like the varied spices, like cinnamon, cloves or ginger. It is not woody like coffee and it is not bland like standard black tea. Instead, Decaf India Spice Chai is very much its own flavor, though it is best defined as a watered down version of the original. It tastes like tea and the taste (like that of "Earl Grey") defines itself.

With a teaspoon of sugar, the flavor becomes a little easier to define. Sugar brings out the subtle vanilla flavor and the flavor of the black pepper. The tea becomes sweet, but the aftertaste kicks with a little peppery bite that is delicious and surprising. With milk or cream, Decaf India Spice tastes like a store-bought spiced Chai drink. However, milk tends to overwhelm the flavor of the Decaf India Spice Chai. It tastes more like flavored milk than flavored tea with even a splash of milk in the tea.

Cold, the tea is delightful and in the summer I do enjoy it that way, perhaps better than when it is hot, and cool the flavor of cloves and becomes a little more dominant, which I like. The tea has a strong, mysterious flavor to it any way it is prepared.


This tea has more ingredients than most of Celestial Seasonings's teas, at least under the heading of "spices." The top three ingredients, though, are decaffeinated black tea, spices and roasted chicory, which accounts for much of this tea's flavor. There is nothing unpronouncable in this tea and it is 100% natural. It is noted that this tea is gluten free, so those for whom that is important, please be aware.

In terms of nutrition, like most teas, Decaf India Spice is not something you want to try to live on. Sure, you might have a wonderful tasting end of your life, but, considering that one 8 oz. mug of this tea provides nothing of nutritional value to the drinker, it's unclear how long one could survive on tea alone. There are no calories (save what one adds from sugar or milk), no fat, sodium, or protein, nor caffeine.


Decaf India Spice tea is very easy to clean up after - the tea bags may be disposed in the garbage, or composted if you have a good garden and/or compost pile. The tea itself is a very dark tea and will stain most fabrics, so I tend to recommend not spilling it on important documents, antiques or linens.


Decaf India Spice Chai is a fair tea, but for those who can handle - or enjoy - caffeine, it is one worth passing by. But for those looking for something decaffeinated that is better than Lipton, this will fit the bill.

For other teas by Celestial Seasonings, please check out my reviews of:
Chocolate Raspberry Bliss
Almond Sunset
Saphara Gen Mai Cha


For other food and drink reviews, please be sure to visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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