Here is another one of those BEAUTIFUL Republic of Tea holiday canisters, the kind that is all shiny and alluring with rich stimulating colors, full of promises about the wonder of what’s inside… What’s inside is a wonder, all right.

The first thing any of us does (or should be doing) when we open a container of tea is inhale deeply. And so as soon as I broke the lovely red seal on this lovely gleaming red and gold canister and lifted the top was breathe deep. Well. The last time I smelled anything like this was in the procedure room in an emergency room I used to work in. The aroma was a cross between disinfectant and cast material. No kidding, it was really unpleasant and almost funny. What must this stuff taste like, I asked myself, knowing that only brewing a cup of this tea was going to satisfy my curiosity. I followed brewing instructions as given on the container, and throughout the brew I was assailed by that same medicinal smell. The liquor comes up a lovely amber, though, and crystal clear. But that smell… I fished out the bag, gave it a moment or two to cool down an eence, and took a sip. There was the smell, but I couldn’t taste anything except a very unpleasant foreground bitterness. I didn’t taste vanilla, I didn’t taste cinnamon, I didn’t even taste that smell. All I got from it was bitterness, with no other flavors or even body to back it up. The directions advise adding a “splash” of milk, so I did. The tea held its beautiful color without greying out, but the flavor did not improve. As a last resort, I dropped in about a half spoonful of sugar, but it didn’t do anything to improve it, either. I nursed the tea until the cup was half gone, and by that time it was down to room temperature. By then, I thought maybe I could pick out some cinnamon from the otherwise bitter emptiness of this concoction, but nothing could redeem it by that time and I poured what was left of it down the sink. Now I have to figure out what to do with the rest of the canister (it was a gift from a very good and well-meaning friend). Maybe some hospital wants it?

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