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Jul 11, 2007 08:49 PM

Fine black teas

I love the selection and quality of teas at Chado Tea Room with location in SoCal in Pasadena and LA. I would recommend looking at their website and ordering for delivery. But I'm wondering if there are any local places that similarly offer high end, single estate black teas (mostly Assam/Nilgiri/Darjeeling Indian) teas in the Bay Area. I remember a tea shop in Palo Alto some years back. I know about the good number of tea shops that focus more on Chinese or Japanese teas, that have some token black teas. But I haven't found anything to compete with Chado when it comes to focus/selection on Indian/African/Sri Lankan/Tibetan etc. fully fermented teas.

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  1. Lots to choose from. Tea-Time still exists on Ramona in Palo Alto, with a wide range of Darjeeling teas.

    Samovar makes a very good chai; I'm not sure which black tea they use as a base. Peet's top end Assam is good although for the most part they don't know how to steep them properly; you might hit the flagship store (Walnut St in Berkeley, Laurel Village in SF) to see if they have any rare teas this summer from India.

    Teance is mostly Chinese and Japanese teas, but the Madoorie Assam I bought there is delicious.

    Best prices on Indian teas will be at groceries. I buy Ahmad teas for $9 for 500 ml at Semiramis on Mission & 25th (about half what Peet's or Teance charges). The 22nd and Irving Market has good quality blends of Indian teas too, often in paper packages with Arabic labels.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Windy

      Ah yes that's the place in Palo Alto. Thanks. I went to a few of their "tea classes" years ago. Tea-Time looks to have a good selection of the high end single estate black teas...

      I'm mostly interested in buying leaf to take home to brew.

      1. re: osirismiss

        It would be helpful to know where you have looked in the Bay Area and where you are located.

        1. re: osirismiss

          I'm currently enjoying a delicious Organic Golden Monkey from Red Blossom. It's a good place to visit, although I bought mine at Bi-Rite.

          1. re: Windy

            I highly recommend Red Blossom. Their teas are of exceptional quality and they are really friendly, knowledgeable people. They don't just have Chinese teas, either. Last I looked, they had rooibos, chai (black, green, noncaffeinated), moroccan mint, thai, vietnamese lotus, etc.

            1. re: Windy

              Red Blossom is the best tea shop in San Francisco. It is family owned, and has been in Chinatown for over 25 years having been passed down from father to the children. Red Blossom is an importer of tea and has direct relationships with growers in China and Taiwan so you can be sure of the provenance and quality, as Peter (the son) was likely at the tea farm during the harvest. They don't mind spending time answering questions, and they'll prepare a taste of almost anything in the shop.

              1. re: Paul H


                Red Blossom Tea Company
                831 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

        2. I usually order from Looks similar to Chado's web site, but there may be a few things that are different. If you want to taste before you buy, you could try Teavana (Polk and Vallejo or Green). I'm not a regular but they have a good selection that I haven't really delved into.

          1. Upton Tea Imports offers a huge variety of black teas in bulk (e.g., Assams, Ceylons, Darjeelings, etc.) to order online. They also offer quite a few organic teas. The prices are reasonable (a lot less costly than, say, Adagio), as is their shipping. I've been very happy with their quality and service.


            2 Replies
            1. re: sairuh

              Wholly agree with Sairuh. Upton is the premier place to buy tea. I know this is 2009 (2 years after the last post), but I have to warn against buying at Chado in Los Angeles--and hope someone will pass this on to them to improve their operations. We were introduced to Chado on 3rd St on a food tour (Melting Pot Tours--very nice). We were told they are the largest importer of tea in the US, which seemed odd. But we sampled some sweet/mild teas there and thought it was worth trying. So we ordered some via website. The order took a very long to fulfill (10 days). The packaging of our two teas was in the same type of paper bags coffee beans come in--the scent was fuming out of the UPS package and into our car trunk--not a good sign (meaning the tea was losing volatile compounds quickly). One of the paper container bags was soaked with oil spots. The tea was clearly overly scented--I think there was too much flower essence or oil added--and the balance was completely off for the two teas we purchased. It was retched. By contrast, every tea we've purchased via Uptontea has been well reviewed on their website, balanced in taste, and of the best quality. They are experts--so you can't go wrong with anything that sell. The small things that make a big difference are executed perfectly. They seal their teas lovingly in airtight foil bags. The bags (which are personalized with your name) also indicate the proper temperature and steeping time (which can differ from tea to tea). If you don't like websites and want to talk to the experts, call their warehouse and talk to anyone there. I often talk with Frank Sanchez there who always has great recommendations and throws in some samples of various things we've talked about. When I first talked to Frank, I told him I drank black teas with milk/sugar. (He drank them plain to be able to taste them and not be so loaded down throughout the day.) As time has passed, I do find myself tending to use much less milk/sugar. Those little interactions do have a way of rubbing off on me. There are other great things to talk about, but every step from catalog to excellent pricing for the best leaves to drinking the actual tea is unmatched. I think it exceeds Ten Ren, Samovar (I do like them), and everything else I've tried.

              1. re: creuset

                >>> I have to warn against buying at Chado in Los Angeles--and hope someone will pass this on to them to improve their operations

                Why didn't you just contact. Seems a lot more effective than hoping they will catch it on the internet.

            2. I have been happy with the teas I've ordered from Simpson & Vail. While they may not have the Upton selection they do have a nice variety. I made a one , picked at random, comparision and Darjeeling Margarets Hope Estate 2nd Flush - Black Tea appeared to sell for 1# S&V $35 and Upton, 500 gm. for $84.

              1 Reply
              1. re: wolfe

                Thanks for the link to S&V, Wolfe! They have several organic Assams that Upton doesn't carry -- I look forward to trying them out. (Even though the shipping costs a bit more than Upton. Also their website isn't as navigable, and they send passwords in plaintext over email, hrmm.)

              2. Generally speaking, we have been unsatisfied with the quality of black teas from local stores in the SF Bay Area.
                Now we buy all of our black (leaf) tea online, from: