Does Good Decaf Tea Exist?

I Love Decaf Tea Mug From

Until recently, it never occurred to me to try decaffeinated tea. I mostly kept my tea consumption confined to daylight hours, never going much beyond mid afternoon.

As my love of tea has grown, so has the urge for a post-dinner cuppa. Naturally caffeine-free herbal varieties are okay, but they are no substitute for my beloved black tea.

What I didn’t realize initially was how difficult it would be to find a good decaf tea. While doing research, I quickly learned about the four most commonly used methods used to extract the caffeine from the leaf. The CO₂ process seemed superior to the rest because it (supposedly) best retains the flavor of the original tea leaf without the use of a known carcinogen.

English Tea Store — an online tea merchant whose products and service have never disappointed me in the past — sells a decaf Irish Breakfast tea from which (according to their website) the caffeine is removed early, at the green leaf stage, using CO₂. The leaves are then left to mature. It sounded promising.

A funky chemical-like odor was the first thing I noticed when I smelled the dry tea leaves — very unusual, I thought, considering what I read about CO₂ caffeine removal. Unfortunately, that smell translated directly into a funky flavor when brewed.

The body of this decaffeinated tea was as full as English Tea Store’s regular Irish breakfast blend; however, the aroma and taste were way off. Because this was my first attempt at decaf tea, I can’t judge this tea too harshly. I have to assume that a good decaf cuppa is unattainable. Or, maybe the carcinogenic method of caffeine removal (a Methylene chloride solvent) is worth considering.

Boppin’ with Upton Tea’s Mangalam Estate GBOP Assam

Upton Tea's Mangalam Estate GBOP Cl. Spl Assam

I finally tried my first pure Assam tea with Mangalam Estate GBOP Cl. Spl (TA46) from Upton Tea. That crazy “GBOP” part of the the name has nothing to do with any music genre or dance style; it merely refers to the grade of the tea leaf. Not quite clear to me is the the meaning of “Cl. Spl”.

GBOP stands for Golden Broken Orange Pekoe. Orange Pekoe designates the size of the tea leaf. When you put the word “Broken” in front of it, you get an even finer (smaller) leaf because it has been torn or broken. If you go even smaller in leaf size than BOP, you get fannings and dust (which you find in many tea bags). At the time of this writing, I cannot explain to you with any certainty what meaning “Golden” adds to the equation.

I brewed a 4-cup teapot, letting it steep about 3.5 minutes. The final product was amber in color.

Immediately noticeable was a malty characteristic, which I recognize from the many Assam-rich, name-brand teas I drink on a regular basis. On the back end was a mild fruity flavor. A little honey was required to temper the bitterness, but overall, this tea was quite enjoyable.

TaxACT vs TurboTax®: Federal Tax Preparation Software Review

TaxACT vs TurboTAX

The deadline for filing your 2011 federal tax return is fast approaching, and many people will rely on online tax preparation software to complete the task. Choosing a online tax software is easy because, in most cases, you can complete your return for free and pay only when you file.

TurboTax®, still the dominator of the tax preparation software market, faces increasing competition from H&R Block At Home™, TaxACT, and other lesser-known programs. For my 2011 tax return, I decided to compare/contrast the online versions TurboTax® and TaxACT.

My wife and I have a slightly more complex tax situation than we had the previous year. In addition to the regular year-end statements, I have a K-1 form (prepared with a TaxACT business product) for a partnership I started in 2011. Happily, I don’t have any 1099-MISC statements (from contract work) to contend with this season.


It’s hard to find a better price than free, and that’s exactly what you get with TaxACT. Any form you need to complete your personal taxes is available in TaxACT’s free edition. It’s what I’ve used the past couple of years.

For this comparison, I looked at TaxACT Deluxe Federal Edition ($9.95) and TurboTax® ($34.95) Basic because I thought they were comparable editions. Both offer the ability to import tax statements from certain employers and financial institutions, and both offer free phone support. When it came to entering the information from my K-1 statement, however, TurboTax prompted me to upgrade to the Deluxe version ($49.95).


TaxACT’s interface was comfortable enough for me. Like TurboTax®, TaxACT will either guide you with questions or allow you to fill in information without much prompting — the choice is yours. Though I chose the guided approach, I somehow missed the option for importing statements. Poor design or operator error? Probably the latter.

I felt like TurboTax® prompted me more thoroughly than TaxACT during the interview process. It also allowed me to enter more information from my K-1 statement than TaxACT did; however, the end result — a welcomed refund — was exactly the same with both, which is how it should be.


If two tax softwares provide the same results, I say go with the less expensive one. TaxACT Deluxe Federal Edition is the winner here. Ten bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to, but it will allow you to file an accurate tax return. And if the import and phone support features of TaxACT Deluxe don’t seem worth it to you, there is always TaxACT Free.