Finding a great tea
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?
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.
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?
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.)
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!
Time to graduate from tea bags to the "good stuff." :-)
I'm a long time tea drinker and my two favorite vendors are:
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 thés...
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).
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.
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.
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.
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