Rob Taylor: Shock and awe in the herbal tea aisle |

Rob Taylor: Shock and awe in the herbal tea aisle

Rob Taylor
If Guys Could Talk

I am not proud of my checkered past: Wearing mullets, donning parachute pants and “going where no man has gone before” with Dippety Do hair gel.

Sometime after college and before having children, I turned into my father – suddenly oblivious to anything but news, weather and sports. On the plus side: Fads don’t chew me up and spit me out like they used to. However, in my current state of existence, I am clueless about the latest “must haves.”

“I don’t have an iPod. No TiVo or Playstation either,” I recently confessed to a teenager. He indicted me with raised eyebrows. I was not hip, not da’ bomb, not “sick,” not a “freak,” not the “beast.”

I hate not being cool. Out of reflex, I kicked into damage control – desperately trying to justify my existence, trying to ignore his waxed eyebrows.

“Did you catch American Idol last night?” I asked.

He did, though he called it “AI” – the cool way to say it.

But bringing up the show was not a total bust. He agreed with me that AI is no fad. Arguing otherwise would have been difficult.

Seven years since its inception, AI still garners the Nielson Ratings’ number one spot. Furthermore, Neil Diamond – who has released 26 albums and penned lyrics for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash – appeared on the show this season. Neil is no fad.

After allowing contestants to butcher his songbook, he took the stage and sang, “Pretty Amazing Grace” – the first single from his new album. Chills ran down my spine.

I Googled the tune that night, found it online, sang it ad nauseum and ordered it on eBay. It was my first impulse buy since the Chia Pet.

The next morning, I found myself in the grocery store massaging a sore throat – seeking nature’s remedy for OD-ing on Neil. Staring at more than 100 varieties of tea, it took me a while to get my bearings.

Sleepy Time (insomnia tea), PMS tea, EveryDay Detox (liver health tea) and Sense of Peace tea nearly jumped off the shelf at me. Concocted with dandelions, cramp bark, black pepper fruit, rose petals and God knows what else, I felt like I was standing in the “Witch’s Brew” section. After noting the ingredients, I should have bolted right then and there, but my throat was calling the shots, not my brain.

Miraculously, I narrowed the field down to two: Green tea and Organic Throat Coat. The final decision was a no-brainer.

I recalled that Wall Street darling Starbucks introduced Green Tea Frappaccinos about two years ago. Since then, the $40-a-share stock has plummeted to $18. Coincidence? I think not. I remember the taste.

“Let’s get one of those green things,” my friend, Gary Ashby, suggested one day. “My treat.”

“Sure,” I said, since he was buying.

The barista blended green liquid and ice, added a dollop of whip cream and drizzled the creation with blackberry syrup. I felt bold holding it in my hand. It looked like a frozen Van Gogh.

One enthusiastic slurp later, I nearly hurled.

“Tastes like frozen mulch,” I said.

Gary agreed, wondering if Starbucks had literally gone green – recycling lawn clippings to make Frappaccinos.

Two years later, I still see customers (whose taste buds must be shot) sucking down the neon-colored foo foo. Not me. Not Gary. Not anyone with pollen allergies.

After reliving the nightmare, I replaced the box of green tea and forked over $5 for Organic Throat Coat tea – licorice root, slippery elm bark and organic marshmallow root. I probably should have consulted a physician first.

The verdict? Surprisingly good. Two cups later, with a brilliantly coated throat, I was crucifying Neil Diamond’s greatest hits as well as any AI contestant.

Sadly, Neil’s new album doesn’t have a prayer of sending me back to the tea aisle for an encore. Though “Pretty Amazing Grace” is legit, teenagers and relics like me give the album a “thumbs down” … i.e. it ain’t “sick” enough to score the iPod rotation.

” Everyone has a story. What’s yours? Email me at

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