HOME > Chowhound > Greater Boston Area >

Anywhere to get really top notch whole leaf tea?

sharpless Dec 16, 2006 06:01 PM

I mean where you can actually buy bags of tea and take them home. Where's the good stuff? I can't find it and I've been looking.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. finlero RE: sharpless Dec 16, 2006 07:34 PM

    Where have you been looking?

    Tealuxe offends some as a Starbucks wannabe for faux tea snobs, but their roster of tea is extensive and of high quality.

    While we're on the subject of debatable Starbucks wannabes, Peets Coffee and Tea proffers a smaller selection than Tealuxe, but again, it's hard to find fault with the quality. I positively adore their Earl Grey with lavender, although they seldom carry it in-store anymore.

    As far as local places, a place called Tea Zone has opened up in Somerville, next to Tacos Lupita on Elm Street. I've not been yet.

    Dado Tea (2 Cambridge locations) always vaguely annoys me, particularly with their pricing (a large hot tea for over 2 bucks? Come on, it's not *that* good), but they've got the goods.

    I don't recall if Qingping in the South End sells their tea by the bag, but if rare and exotic teas are your thing, it's worth it regardless. The owner imports all the teas directly from China, including hard-to-find white and fermented variants.

    [Full disclosure: I love Peets, and am literally a card-carrying Starbucks fan.]

    1. a
      autopi RE: sharpless Dec 16, 2006 08:25 PM

      i've not been there, and i'm not a tea connoisseur, but i have heard good things about cha fahn in jamaica plain.

      1 Reply
      1. re: autopi
        powella RE: autopi Dec 17, 2006 12:57 AM

        Cha Fahn is great, nice people, expensive but very good whole leaf teas. They also do a nice tea service, and they recently upgraded their kitchen to allow for a fuller menu. I haven't eaten there since the upgrade, but I have always enjoyed my food there.

      2. w
        Wineack RE: sharpless Dec 16, 2006 08:52 PM

        The best place to buy tea is online at Upton Tea in Westborough, MA. They are strictly an online store. I stopped in once to their warehouse in an industrial park and they were not really able to deal with a walk-in very well. Their website is great though. In addition to an amazing selection of teas from around the world, they have special teapots and infusers and other tea paraphernelia. Their website is http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/home...

        4 Replies
        1. re: Wineack
          srgoodman RE: Wineack Dec 17, 2006 01:06 PM

          I am also a big fan of Upton Tea. They have a truly *huge* selection of top quality teas. I began purchasing from them when the Coffee Connection (which had a great tea selection) closed, back in '94.

          Even though they're mail order, they're located just west of Boston, (in Hopkinton, not Westborough, unless they've moved recently) so Ground Shipping should get anyone in the Boston area next day delivery.

          One of the nice things about Upton Tea is that you can buy sample sizes of their teas for a dollar or two, and try a lot of teas for a small amount of money. (Caveat: I think they limit the number of samples you can buy at Christmas time.)

          1. re: srgoodman
            Wineack RE: srgoodman Dec 18, 2006 01:38 PM

            Yeah, you are right, Hopkinton. I just had a brain cramp and picked the wrong 495 town.

          2. re: Wineack
            BobB RE: Wineack Dec 18, 2006 03:49 PM

            Agreed, you cannot do better than Upton Tea. My wife is Russian and VERY particular about tea. They offer unmatched selection and quality, and really care about their products. Every tea is shipped in airtight, resealable packets.

            They get my highest recommendation!

            1. re: Wineack
              cassis RE: Wineack Feb 18, 2008 07:38 AM

              Ditto. I've used Upton Tea for years, turnaround is as fast as Netflix, selection is amazing, website is packed with information but easy to use.

            2. trufflehound RE: sharpless Dec 16, 2006 09:57 PM

              Mark T Wendell in W. Concord has a great selection amd quality too.

              1. enhF94 RE: sharpless Dec 16, 2006 10:34 PM

                I just went to Tea Zone on Thursday night (after my first Lupita visit - where's that pork been all my life?!), and sniffed around. They had several whites, greens, reds and blacks (all the big names - silver needle, darjeeling); they had open jars for smelling and vacuum bags for selling. The guy politely let me browse as I wished but watched my every move, hoping to help (I was the only customer). I sniffed the black tea sample jar and he said, "smells too fruity, right? I had an herbal in that jar a few days ago." And he let me smell the big jar, which smelled as English Breakfast should. So he's paying enough attention to remember the jar mixup (yay), but he hadn't washed the fruity scent out of the jar (huh?).

                I didn't ask, but didn't see any quality identifiers such as "Orange Pekoe," "Tippy," etc. It all looked whole leaf to me.

                I did not buy anything, so can't vouch. The guy said they'd only been open for a month. I can't tell if it's a franchise, a chain or a sister, but the eponymous URL (http://www.teazone.com) points to a store in Portland, OR with the very same logo.

                1 Reply
                1. re: enhF94
                  limster RE: enhF94 Dec 17, 2006 02:38 AM

                  I've sampled a couple of the teas at Teazone and I think it's great value for the quality. While certainly not a place to score century old pu-erh, it's a good place to shop for day to day stuff that's of rather high quality.

                2. k
                  KitchenAid RE: sharpless Dec 17, 2006 12:40 AM

                  Teavana in the Pru. bEst Moroccan Mint I've ever had.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: KitchenAid
                    Alica RE: KitchenAid Feb 18, 2008 01:44 PM

                    Harney & Sons also had a great Moroccan Mint. If you every get to go there, in NY near Ct. They have a "tea tasting room" It's great! I live their citron green tea.

                  2. h
                    HoneyHoneyNY RE: sharpless Dec 17, 2006 01:02 AM

                    I order my tea online from http://harney.com

                    They have great blends, and a tea shop, if you ever happen to be in downstate NY.

                    1. k
                      krazykid RE: sharpless Dec 17, 2006 02:05 AM

                      Cardullo's has a large tea selection including a bunch of loose leaf tea. I don't know what whole leaf tea is though.

                      1. MaineRed RE: sharpless Dec 17, 2006 02:27 AM

                        I really like Virtous Teas in Newton -- the owner is super nice (give free samples too) and it's wall to wall tea: there's probably 6 kinds of earl grey (she also sold us some bergamot for an experimental brew) ... I wanted to create a little gift box for a pregnant friend and the owner was a huge help in chosing the correct teas -- some herbs are a no-no obviously, but you'd be surprised!

                        anyway: www.virtuousteas.com

                        1. h
                          horrible RE: sharpless Dec 17, 2006 10:40 PM

                          I get my tea at Christina's Spice store in Inman Sq. They carry a pretty large variety of MEM teas. Everything is prepackaged in sealed plastic bags though. They have a number of otions in each style.

                          Everything comes in two sizes. I usually pick up a large bag of irish breakfast and a few small bags of some of ones that I've never tried.

                          Looks like Cardullos and Formaggion also carry MEM tea.


                          1. f
                            fauchon RE: sharpless Dec 18, 2006 01:49 PM

                            A massive second (or third) for www.uptontea.com... I also have purchased excellent teas from




                            IME all of these vendors excel in selection, quality & service...shop & buy with confidence...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fauchon
                              fenian RE: fauchon Feb 2, 2007 05:30 AM

                              I agree with the suggestion purchasing through the internet instead of in store. Though I've only done specialteas, their quality is substantially higher than that of all these trendy in-store tea places. As an analogy...
                              Instant coffee:Starbucks:high-end coffee (e.g., Simon's)::Lipton bags:Tealuxe/Peet's/Dado/etc.:SpecialTeas

                            2. g
                              greengage RE: sharpless Dec 18, 2006 01:59 PM

                              Maybe I'm a tea philistine, but I like the MEM teas you can get at Formaggio. The Earl Grey is amazing.

                              1. p
                                pasuga RE: sharpless Dec 18, 2006 05:04 PM

                                There is a very nice tea shop on Newbury Street. Can't remember the name, but it's upstairs over the L'Aroma Cafe, between Berkeley and Clarendon.

                                1. Bob Dobalina RE: sharpless Dec 18, 2006 05:53 PM

                                  I went to the Tea Zone next to Tacos Lupita a couple of weeks ago. It seems like it is an idea and a location that is destined to fail. There is no tea service there I believe - just many many different kinds of tea.

                                  Took home a small bag of raspberry-infused rooibos - it's very mild even after a dark steep, not too sweet, no sweetener needed, although a little lemon seems to perk it up. It's going to take me months to get through this little bag, so I would act quickly to stop in and stock up before it closes for good.

                                  1. u
                                    uman RE: sharpless Dec 18, 2006 06:01 PM

                                    Rishi Tea and In Pursuit of Tea can be purchased at Whole Foods.
                                    Both are high end good quality whole leaf tea companies. Upton tea is also good.

                                    1. SeaSide Tomato RE: sharpless Feb 2, 2007 07:15 AM

                                      Am I crazy to be buying my teas at Super88? They're not expensive, good selection, and how do you judge qualitly, anyway?

                                      Am I missing something in this (fairly newish to me) world of teas?

                                      One of the posters above was looking for Pu Erh--I saw it there yesterday--is that a brand or a type of tea?

                                      When you inquire about whole leaf teas--is that the same as loose leaf? or are there others that are indeae big, whole leaves?

                                      Siince I've exchanged my coffee for green tea, I don't want to miss out on some really great teas as I go along trying different types.


                                      Ehen you ask about

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: SeaSide Tomato
                                        lipoff RE: SeaSide Tomato Feb 2, 2007 08:53 AM

                                        Pu-Erh is a type of tea; a very complex Chinese tea that's post-fermented. Usually Pu-Erh has a very strong taste and a complex set of flavors. Unlike most teas, many Pu-Erh teas are sold aged, with fifty or hundred year old Pu-Erh cakes still available.

                                        1. re: lipoff
                                          SeaSide Tomato RE: lipoff Feb 2, 2007 10:28 AM


                                          How are the teas, generally at Super88-such variety (variatea--well-it is Friday!).

                                          1. re: SeaSide Tomato
                                            Dr.Jimbob RE: SeaSide Tomato Feb 3, 2007 07:00 AM

                                            Most of the teas that I've come across at Super 88 have been dirt cheap -- which more or less also describes the quality of the tea once you brew it. Not my favorite stuff for Chinese sipping.

                                            I've been very happy with Upton's and Harney's in the past, but for Chinese tea, you might want to investigate Ten Ren tea, which is a major Taiwanese brand with a number of branches in the US (closest ones are in New York). There are apparently two web sites -- <http://www.tenren.com/> appears to be the main site, while <http://www.tenrenusa.com/> is for the NY branch specifically. They don't sell tea in bags (going back to the original poster's question) but they do some very lovely (and sometimes very expensive!) whole leaf teas. (I'm a particular fan of long-jing, or dragon-well tea, a Zhejiang green varietal with a beautifully subtle flavor.


                                            And the branches also make an absolutely heavenly cup of bubble tea to boot.


                                            1. re: Dr.Jimbob
                                              SeaSide Tomato RE: Dr.Jimbob Feb 4, 2007 03:25 PM

                                              Thank you!

                                              1. re: Dr.Jimbob
                                                nasilemak RE: Dr.Jimbob Feb 18, 2008 09:16 AM

                                                I second Ten Ren tea for their quality.

                                        2. littlelady RE: sharpless Feb 2, 2007 09:49 AM

                                          wanted to second christina's in inman square-- they have a really great selection though everything is already packaged

                                          1. steinpilz RE: sharpless Feb 4, 2007 04:26 AM

                                            If you want to buy over the web Murchie's in Vancouver BC has a great selection:


                                            1. e
                                              eatandrun RE: sharpless Feb 4, 2007 10:36 AM

                                              What particular tea were you looking for?

                                              1. sequins RE: sharpless Aug 9, 2007 03:31 PM

                                                Arriving a bit late to this thread... but I need to put in a resolutely good word for Tea Zone on Somerville Ave. Now that they've been open for almost a year, there IS brewed hot / iced tea service -- and priced more reasonably than at, say, Dado or Tealuxe. Although there's no seating, the staff and space are so mellow / welcoming that you'd feel encouraged to linger around while sipping. You can also go crazy sniffing all the tea leaves -- there must be eighty varieties or so in the store -- and prices are very affordable (usually $4 or so for 25 cups worth of leaves). I agree with the earlier poster that its location on that underdeveloped stretch of Somerville Ave. doesn't help its chances of survival, but think it'd be a great loss if they're forced to close shop. Go and check it out!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: sequins
                                                  jonthekingdon RE: sequins Feb 17, 2008 02:52 PM

                                                  Teazone is a great spot to pick up tea I just went there today after reading this article their website is http://www.teazonline.com I highly recommend anyone going to check this place out!

                                                2. s
                                                  sushibox RE: sharpless Feb 18, 2008 06:18 AM

                                                  another fan of tea zone here! we love the cream earl grey, the mango black, the vanilla rooibos and the lovely delicate greens. about the location -- maybe not so great but my understanding from talking with the owner is that they do a bustling online business. we love smelling all the beautiful teas and love supporting an independent tea shop.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: sushibox
                                                    admiralackbar RE: sushibox Feb 18, 2008 12:09 PM

                                                    big fan of christinas and the MEM tea.

                                                  2. m
                                                    mitsumame RE: sharpless Feb 18, 2008 12:20 PM

                                                    Have you tried www. teality.com?

                                                    1. m
                                                      mr mangia RE: sharpless Feb 18, 2008 12:25 PM

                                                      One day while walking down Highland Ave in Somerville I saw a tea company and I knocked on the door and was surprised to find a whole tea warehouse. I can not remember if they sell retail but I could not believe the selection. It looks like those guys sell tea all of the country. Anyone know the deal on this place ?

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: mr mangia
                                                        02139 RE: mr mangia Feb 19, 2008 04:56 AM

                                                        I think that's teazone. nice place. you should check it out.

                                                        1. re: 02139
                                                          Bob Dobalina RE: 02139 Feb 19, 2008 06:28 AM

                                                          I don't think that's teazone. The Teazone retail shop is next to Tacos Lupita at the end of Elm St., not on Highland.

                                                          1. re: Bob Dobalina
                                                            mr mangia RE: Bob Dobalina Feb 19, 2008 06:37 AM

                                                            yes, the place i am talking about is a distributor of teas and doesnt have much of a sign. it is on highland right before pigs fly & the kick ass cupcakes.

                                                            1. re: mr mangia
                                                              professor_r RE: mr mangia May 16, 2009 06:34 PM

                                                              The place you found was undoubtedly MEM Tea Importers.

                                                      2. r
                                                        Ralphie_in_Boston RE: sharpless Feb 19, 2008 05:04 AM

                                                        One more vote here for both Teavana at the Pru and VirtousTeas in Newton.

                                                        Teavana moves more product (being in the mall and all) so they're less likely to have stale inventory. They also are big on the redbush bandwagon, rotating in many rooibos-based varieties, but I'm a big supporter of small shops so I go to Virtuous whenever I can.

                                                        1. d
                                                          daikon RE: sharpless May 18, 2009 10:55 AM

                                                          There's also a Whittard of Chelsea on Newbury Street. Nice selection of high end loose teas.


                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: daikon
                                                            Alica RE: daikon May 18, 2009 06:33 PM

                                                            Bar Harbor Tea in Maine has grea tea and they really know their tea! They have website.

                                                          2. m
                                                            MangiaMuse RE: sharpless Jun 10, 2014 08:15 AM

                                                            I detest Teavana. I was ripped off by them once, and will never go back. Plus the chai mix I bought had fake crap in it.
                                                            I love Mem Tea in Watertown. Really high quality. Cardullos sells it, as does Formaggio Kitchen.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: MangiaMuse
                                                              catsmeow RE: MangiaMuse Jun 10, 2014 08:38 AM

                                                              It's been a while, but I remember getting MEM tea at Christina's spice shop next to the ice cream shop in Cambridge.

                                                              1. re: catsmeow
                                                                professor_r RE: catsmeow Jul 9, 2014 04:01 AM

                                                                Christina's is my source for MEM tea also. I've also found a very limited selection at Panzano Proviste e Vino in Southborough. And Taza Chocolate in Somerville stocks the chocolate-tea blends that MEM makes in collaboration with them (e.g., http://www.tazachocolate.com/store/Pr...).

                                                                1. re: professor_r
                                                                  bear RE: professor_r Jul 9, 2014 04:34 AM

                                                                  I just picked up some MEM herbal tea at Simon's on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. They said they'd sell it in 4 oz. quantities if their inventory was good, and I assume they'll sell whole leaf tea supply-permitting. I'm pretty sure Sofra sells it as well.

                                                            Show Hidden Posts