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Finding a great tea

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I'm currently drinking Twining's Earl Grey Tea. Using the company's tea bag version rather than loose.

Any Chowhound recs available for other teas you might consider superior?

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  1. If you're into blends, try:

    Harney & Sons: www.harney.com
    the traditional stuff, such as Earl Grey, is consistently good, if not the most outstanding or exciting. The organic Super Blue French Lavender is useful for cooking, tea-ing, etc.

    Rishi: www.rishi-tea.com/
    my favorite here is the White Tea Rose Melange, an all-organic blend that contains green and white teas, rose, peppermint, jasmine, and lavender. The color and size of the rosebuds may vary, depending on the growing season and origin of the flowers.

    Palais des Thes: www.palaisdesthes.com
    my favorite here is the Gout russe 7 agrumes, and their best sellers are The des moines, The du hammam, the des sables

    Mariage Freres (they're super picky about distribution, and will not allow ANY other tea lines to be sold in stores that carry even a limited selection of theirs): www.mariagefreres.com
    This is probably the most expensive of the bunch as well...

    There are a few others I've ordered from, but I don't have the links at this computer. Did you want just blends or "straight" teas too?

    3 Replies
    1. re: PseudoNerd

      For a specific recommendation, I think the Marco Polo tea from Marriage Freres is exceptional.

      1. re: Steve

        2nd Marco Polo...I also like the one called Eros...

        1. re: fauchon

          I LOVE the Marco Polo tea. It's a lovely blend of flowers and black tea. Very aromatic, though I do find the tea a bit tannic at times.

    2. Look for a local supplier of loose teas if possible. Many cities have serious tea retailers that you might not be aware of...

      2 Replies
      1. re: stephen

        Really agree with this comment -- people have wide-ranging preferences for teas, and it's best to physically sniff (and if possible, taste) before committing to the initial buy. Once you DO locate something you like, then find it online for cheaper, and maybe use recommendations for similar teas that you may like (or check out online retailers for similar varietals/blends.)

        1. re: AquaW

          To add to what AquaW said, and I agree that it is best to sniff and taste -- if you CAN'T get to the shop, even if you have no idea, or some idea of what you like, you can talk with any of the good online tea purveyors (such as Upton or Red Blossom or many others that are mentioned on Chowhound). Call them, and they will ask you the appropriate questions, or just request a sample selection of various teas that they think you might like to try. They will then put together an assortment of 1 or 2oz. packets (tell them what you want to spend) and each pack will be about $2 - $3 and offer you a couple of cups of each.

          You can do this with different vendors, and eventually you will begin to narrow down to what you love!

      2. Time to graduate from tea bags to the "good stuff." :-)

        I'm a long time tea drinker and my two favorite vendors are:

        www.uptontea.com and www.specialteas.com

        I have ordered from these two tea vendors many many times over many years and never once been disappointed. Both make ordering samples easy & inexpensive, the best way of all to try teas. Both have a very wide selection and both sites are informative and educational. My advice: dive in, sample & have a good time!

        There are many many other excellent sources for tea: some others I like are harney.com, itoen.com, tenren.com...I also agree with the previous poster about the excellence of mariage freres & palais de th├ęs...

        5 Replies
        1. re: fauchon

          in total agreement here. i've been ordering from upton for years. i live in massachusetts, my stuff usually arrives the next day with the standard shipping ($3.80 regardless of how much you order). they also keep a detailed record of what you've ordered that you can access through your online account. another nice touch is their sample policy -- 15 gm samples start at $1 and go up to $2 depending on the tea.

          as for what to order, if you like earl grey, upton has a few types. i'm particularly fond of the blue flower earl gray. recently, i've been liking their yunnan tgfop, which i mix with extra bergamont earl grey (4 part yunnan to 1 part earl grey).

          1. re: wonderwoman

            Have any of you had their roiboos teas? I notice they have a few grades...

            1. re: galleygirl

              i haven't. beyond the earl greys, i've mostly stuck to the fruit-flavored blacks. for those in the boston area who remember the old coffee connection, last year i finally figured out how to make the "royal fruit."

              1. re: galleygirl

                Yes. Upton's green rooibos superior changed my previously low opinion of rooibos. Distinct flavors of lemon and grass. For a tisane, highly recommended.

            2. re: fauchon

              Another vote for Uptons. I've been a satisfied customer of theirs for about 5 years. Delivery is prompt, everything is fresh and they have a good selection of teas on their website.

              However just changing from Twinings tea bags to Twinings loose leaf will make a huge difference.

            3. I love Mariage Freres Jasmine tea. I buy it at very upscale store here and whenever I am in Paris. Another fave. is Fortnum & Masons Royal Blend (for a strong breakfast tea) and their really delicious Darjeeling First Flush (this is for more advanced tea drinkers--very special and very expensive.

              Mariage Freres has several types of Oolong and I have never had a bad one there. Oolong can also flavour some food very nicely. I have been known to brew some and make ice tea.

              Enjoy your new road. If there is a good tea emporium in your area, frequent it and if they are knowledgeable you can learn a lot.

              2 Replies
              1. re: faijay

                Have you ever noticed a quality difference between MF tea purchased abroad and in Paris? There was a rumor, I hope incorrect, that shipments abroad included tea that had gotten old or weakened. This has so far made me hesitant to spend the money in the gourmet shops here. Of course, nothing could compare to the sight of visiting their shop on r. Bourg-Tibourg.

                1. re: Steve

                  Interesting comment, Steve.

                  Just a few years ago I visited a suburb of Niagara Falls, ONT., and spent big cash on Cuban cigars...

                  When I offered a couple to a cigar conausseur(sp)back here in the USA, he flipped me off pretty much, telling me that the Cuban cigars from Ontario are bad seconds. If I wanted a great CC, I must purchase them in Europe or Southeast Asia!

                  Dumping second-rate product may be prevalant all throughout consumer products.

              2. I went to drinking loose leaf teas too and the flavor can't be beat. I use the T-Sacs for filtering. I like Stash Teas a lot, online at stashtea.com

                1. my officemate just clued me in to this website:
                  www.uptontea.com

                  really high quality tea. she has the blue flower earl gray in the office, and it is so aromatic. also, the prices are good and the bags come with your name on them! they have a really large selection. she swears by it, and her family is so in to tea that they buy it in wholesale quantities.

                  1. St Michaels Extra Strong from Marks and Spencer. From an old Colonialite.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: k_d

                      k_d, where do you find that here in the USA? Up until 2 weeks ago a supermarket in NJ carried it and now they don't. I am in NYC...I have been hooked on the tea for 15 years and now can't find it...although I can have it shipped from England for $25US for 240 bags. No thanks! Help!

                      1. re: jonboy

                        jonboy, I'm in exact same situation as you. Out entire family is hooked on St Michaels, and we were totally dependent on King's super market in NJ for replenishments, but I just learned last week that they stopped carrying it. Have you found any alternate source for buying these? Thanks!

                        1. re: jonboy

                          St. Michaels is now Marks & Spencer's tea. Marks & Spencer was the original producer of this tea, as I understand, only they now changed the name and the packaging. From what I've seen, the tea still comes in the tea bags, not loose. So far, the only US store that delivers this tea is: www.britishgoods.com. They ship from Maine. The prices are not much better unfortunately and the shipping and handling is ridiculous. I also was hooked on the St. Michaels brand tea, extra strong. We also would get it from Kings in NJ. Then one day, it completely disappeared. So, I've also been searching for it and even ventured into other brands all of whom failed. I might just pay the price for having great tea again, as a treat. But the price for me is a definite deterrent, especially in this economy. Please let me know if you can find a better deal to get this tea. Thank you! :)

                          1. re: NellaNella

                            Four year old thread here - but regardless, if you're looking for great teas with reasonable shipping charges, look into Upton Tea Imports, they have an amazing selection.

                            http://www.uptontea.com

                      2. I too love Upton Tea Company. Great teas, and they make it quick and easy to try samples at reasonable prices. Do ask for the newsletter to be included in your shipment -- it's always interesting.

                        That's where I learned about decaffeinating tea by "rinsing" it: You pour boiling water on the tea, just enough to cover. Let the tea steep for 30 seconds. Drain the water. Pour boiling water over the leaves and steep for the recommended number of minutes. The tea tastes just as good as if you'd steeped it for the usual time, and has only about 20 percent of the caffeine left in it.

                        1. Check out Murchies.com, an old british tea company in Victoria BC. There's also a good british tea in the markets called PK Tips.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: steinpilz

                            Sorry, that's PG Tips.

                          2. I like the Green Earl Gray Tea from Fortnum & Masons - bought in the US - loose, not bags. Don't know if this was already mentioned or not, but I believe that inferior teas are used for the bags - whereas w/ the loose you get actual tea leaves rather than a dusty looking substance.

                            1. I really like chinese Pai Mu Tan tea. it's made from the outer most sprouts of the teabush and is sometimes referred to as white tea. It's very nice.

                              1. Recently bought apricot tea from the Republic of Tea catalog. Delicious. Excellent catalog.

                                1. I'll say take a look at Murchies' teas in BC, I get my parents Murchies "Empress" tea for Christmas but there are many to choose from at this old British tea company.

                                  1. Please,
                                    I am also looking for a new source of St Michaels Tea. I have been addicted for 12 yrs. I live in Colorado but my mom in NJ would buy it at Kings and ship it to me. I am heartbroken they stopped selling it. If anyone knows of a source in the US please let me know.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jennamah

                                      Jennamah, is it St Michaels tea, or St. James tea? St. James is an english tea company; but, I haven't heard of St. Michaels yet.

                                    2. One of the best ways to find a great tea is to search teaviews.com

                                      My personal favorite is Zhi Tea. The Ginger Peach is great as is the Desert Delight.

                                      I've since strayed from Republic, Rishi, and Mighty Leaf.

                                      1. Mariage Freres Hibiscus and Christmas Blends are beautiful fragrant teas and worth every single penny. All that aside, though, I do like a cup of English b'fast now and again.