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Where to find a selection of loose tea? Real tea, not the fruity ones

g
Green Drake Jun 6, 2010 11:12 AM

I live in East Arlington and can't find anywhere with a decent selection of loose teas. I am looking for stuff from a single garden/plantation in Ceylon/Sri Lanka or India. All I can find in my local WF and other supermarkets is teabags, which I am not keen on.

Does anyone know of a shop in the Boston area or website offering a decent selection of loose teas?

Thanks for your help

  1. h
    hyde Jun 6, 2010 11:26 AM

    upton tea. online only. cheap, helpful and they deliver ridiculously fast. have gotten my tea exclusively from them for years.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hyde
      Allstonian Jun 6, 2010 11:29 AM

      hyde beat me to it - Upton Tea is terrific.

      1. re: hyde
        a
        AGM_Cape_Cod Jun 7, 2010 07:45 AM

        Absolutely Uptons and since they are in Hopkinton they deliver really quickly to Mass.

        1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod
          okra Jun 7, 2010 09:20 AM

          Piling on the praise for Upton Tea

          http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/home...

          I always learn something from them.

      2. k
        karen2006 Jun 6, 2010 12:21 PM

        I love Lupicia tea! All the teas I've had from them have been wonderful. They are a Japanese tea company but have a wide offering of teas from other areas. They have stores here on the west coast, not sure about the Boston area though. They also have free shipping for orders over $35

        1. c
          crispysaltysweet Jun 6, 2010 12:44 PM

          Cardullos in harvard square has a great tea selection.

          1. g
            Green Drake Jun 6, 2010 12:50 PM

            Thanks everyone for prompt responses. I've just ordered some sample packs from Upton and will drop into Cardullos tomorrow.

            Just by the way, I've recently been converted from strong English style tea with milk to drinking weak Ceylon single plantation tea black. A different experience, but really good once I got used to it. And much cheaper if you drink a lot of tea.

            Thanks again

            1. Science Chick Jun 6, 2010 01:02 PM

              I agree about Upton's and have ordered some very nice teas from them. There is also Teavana in several local malls and Virtuous Teas in Auburndale section of Newton:

              http://www.virtuousteas.com/

              2 Replies
              1. re: Science Chick
                lipoff Jun 6, 2010 03:06 PM

                Upton Tea is terrific. Teavana exists in such a different universe of mediocrity that it is incongruous to mention them in the same breath. There are a number of other tea stores in the area, but none of them is worth mentioning. Among stores which also carry loose leaf tea, Cardullo's does carry a variety of tea, including from Mark T. Wendell, a tea importer located in Concord. Mark T. Wendell teas tend to be really excellent. There are many on-line options as well, such as Ito-en and Golden Tea House. Finally, Cynthia Gold, the tea sommelier at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel will also sell you loose leaf tea. If you are really serious about tea it is worthwhile to arrange a tea tasting at the Swans Cafe in the Park Plaza and talk to her about what teas you might enjoy.

                1. re: Science Chick
                  PinchOfSalt Jun 6, 2010 03:49 PM

                  Uptons is wonderful. They are particularly good for black/red teas from India and China.

                  For years I have been ordering online from Specialteas. They do best for green teas from China. Recently, though, I have noticed that their selection has gotten smaller and they appear to be heading in a more mass-markety direction. It is still worth taking a look at their selection.

                  I once went to Virtuous Teas last year and, while they have a wide range of teas, I found myself wondering about quality and freshness.

                  Teavana (and Tealuxe, which used to be a larger chain but still exists at least in Harvard Square) are definitely targeting the mass market; anyone who enjoys flavored teas would be pleased but people who are looking for single estate single harvest artisan tea probably will not find much of what they are seeking.

                2. p
                  Pegmeister Jun 6, 2010 03:07 PM

                  I've been happy with the loose teas from Teavana.

                  1. c
                    chevrelove Jun 6, 2010 03:18 PM

                    Have you tried Tea Zone on Elm Street outside Porter Square? They seemed to have a good selection of reasonably-priced teas, and I only recall seeing loose tea there.

                    -----
                    Tea Zone
                    15 A Elm St, Somerville, MA

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: chevrelove
                      s
                      smtucker Jun 7, 2010 07:34 AM

                      Tea Zone is a very nice shop. You could visit once, note which teas interest you, and they will do mail order for you as well. And for an added bonus, you can have lunch or dinner at Taco Lupita before or after!

                      -----
                      Tea Zone
                      15 A Elm St, Somerville, MA

                      1. re: chevrelove
                        m
                        mightywombat Jun 10, 2010 05:16 AM

                        Tea Zone is wonderful. The guy who runs it is a sweetheart, their teas are excellent, and very cheap for the quality that you get.

                        -----
                        Tea Zone
                        15 A Elm St, Somerville, MA

                        1. re: mightywombat
                          lipoff Jun 10, 2010 01:17 PM

                          I'm sorry, I don't mean to be a buzz kill, but I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea about this place --- it is cute, but not a serious tea shop. I was hopeful when TeaZone opened, since it is very nearby where I live. I've stopped in there many times (whenever I went to Tacos Lupita, I'd stop in next door if they were open). They are very inexpensive, but their teas are just not excellent.

                      2. p
                        pasuga Jun 6, 2010 04:32 PM

                        There is a small shop called Timeless Teas on Newbury St. between Boylston and Clarendon - upstairs over L'Aroma Cage, they mostly sell loose tea. I haven't been in a couple years, so I can't swear they're still there, but their website is still up and running - and says they specialize in tea from Ceylon.

                        http://www.timelessteas.com/

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: pasuga
                          lipoff Jun 6, 2010 06:54 PM

                          Tea Zone, Timeless Teas and Tealuxe aren't nearly as bad as Teavana, but they are still miles away from really good tea. I would love it if we had a really serious tea store locally, where you can smell, look, and taste. But none of those places are it. Still, in Massachusetts, Upton and Mark T. Wendell are world-class tea importers, and the Park Plaza has some very unusual teas. Many on-line places let you order small quantities to try. In addition to the few I mentioned above, I should also add ImperialTea.com

                          1. re: lipoff
                            p
                            Pegmeister Jun 7, 2010 09:31 AM

                            I'm curious what it is about Teavana that you don't like? I've always been happy with my purchases, yet you sound like you know a heck of a lot more about tea that I do. My only disappointment was that they discontinued the Formosa Nut Olong. Fortunately, I found something very similar at Cardulos. I also enjoy the Ginger Twist by Mighty Leaf and most any black or green teas.

                            1. re: Pegmeister
                              t
                              tall sarah Jun 7, 2010 10:08 AM

                              +1 for Teavana- prices are high & beware the upsell, but the quality of the teas is high. They have quick turnover of the leaves, too.

                              My personal favorites right now are Black Dragon Pearl & Golden Monkey (makes an excellent iced tea). The leaves can be re-steeped up to 4 times before composting. The flavor is weaker, but still flavorful. It makes the $15-18/ 2 oz price not sting quite so much.

                              1. re: tall sarah
                                p
                                Pegmeister Jun 7, 2010 12:14 PM

                                I actually love the Golden Monkey and generally reserve it for the weekends when I have time for a 2nd or 3rd cup. I also resteep.

                              2. re: Pegmeister
                                lipoff Jun 7, 2010 04:41 PM

                                I don't want to claim any kind of exclusivity with respect to tea --- of course, everyone has his own tastes. But I find what you can buy at Teavana to be barely recognizable to me as tea. Almost everything I've had there is a blend of a cheap tea with dried fruits and other flavorings and loads of sugar. The few "pure" teas I've tried there have been undrinkably bad --- I understand why they add the flavorings and sugar. Now, tea doesn't have to be something that's bitter, esoteric and inaccessible, and I can understand why some people might prefer flavored fruit syrup with tea essence, but that's not for me.

                                Furthermore, I find their emphasis on health claims laughable (why do they have to fib about antioxidants in order to sell a product that should taste good?), their prices aren't expensive for premium grades of tea but they are outrageous for what they sell, and their selection of tea wares is very poor --- they sell machine made Yixing pots at the price of handmade ones, gaiwans that are too large to be useful, cheap tetsubins, and many of the designs remind me of a kind of 1970s orientalism that's crass and almost comical if it weren't somewhat offensive.

                                From time to time, I like flavored teas as well, but the delicate combination of something like the shiso sencha from Ito-en is just wholly different from what you can get at Teavana.

                                1. re: lipoff
                                  p
                                  Pegmeister Jun 7, 2010 05:57 PM

                                  Okay, now I'm really bummed I have a few of those Yixing pots (one for each flavor of tea) and I love them. Still not sure what I'm missing, I guess because I don't know better but guess I have to explore more.

                                  1. re: lipoff
                                    h
                                    HazelShade Jun 13, 2010 09:42 PM

                                    The one time I stopped it at a Teavana to buy a Christmas gift, I was so turned off by the aggressive sales people I vowed never to go back. Tealuxe might not have the absolute best tea (and they've discontinued several teas I enjoyed recently) but the service at both the Harvard and Newbury Street locations has always been top notch -- at least, once you get to the head of the line..

                                    1. re: HazelShade
                                      p
                                      Pegmeister Jun 14, 2010 04:55 AM

                                      It's funny you say that about aggressive sales staff because I never noticed it when I was at the Copley location, possibly because it was always so busy. The Braintree location, however, has horribly aggressive staff.

                                      1. re: Pegmeister
                                        Science Chick Jun 14, 2010 07:40 AM

                                        Aggressive tea sales? That's hysterical!

                                        1. re: Science Chick
                                          p
                                          Pegmeister Jun 14, 2010 09:37 AM

                                          You are practically held captive while they're ringing up your purchase and pressuring you to buy something else. I finally said to one young sales person "You are an incredibly good salesman, but no thank you means no"!

                                          1. re: Pegmeister
                                            h
                                            HazelShade Jun 15, 2010 02:12 PM

                                            I've never been to the Copley Store, just the one at the Natick Mall. I was just running in to buy a teapot, and then ended up at the counter for ten minutes while the girl attempted to sell me on one upsell after another (a free tin with however many ounces! a new raspberry green tea)! Someone told me it's because they work mostly on commission there...

                            2. greenzebra Jun 6, 2010 05:15 PM

                              Tealuxe has, in my opinion, gotten a lot less interesting over the years (or maybe my tastes in tea have gotten more sophisticated), but I wouldn't write them off completely. Nowhere near the variety of Upton, of course, but they do have a few respectable teas (and if you're at Cardullos, it is worth popping in as they are right across the street).

                              1. w
                                wonderwoman Jun 6, 2010 07:19 PM

                                mark mooradian, mem teas are wonderful -- love the blue flower earl grey . mem is available at christina's spices in inman square -- next to christina's ice cream.

                                1. p
                                  peppah Jun 6, 2010 09:34 PM

                                  I've been a loyal customer at Upton for years, and have never been disappointed!

                                  1. erwocky Jun 7, 2010 06:07 AM

                                    I've gotten some decent loose tea from 1369 Coffee House in Central Square (also in Inman Square). Not a huge selection and probably not single plantation, but worth checking out if you're in the neighborhood.

                                    -----
                                    1369 Coffee House
                                    1369 Cambridge St, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                    1. q
                                      quirkydeb Jun 7, 2010 08:50 AM

                                      I think I remember seeing loose bulk teas at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge.

                                      -----
                                      Formaggio Kitchen
                                      244 Huron Ave, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                      1. v
                                        veggielover Jun 7, 2010 11:58 AM

                                        There is a wonderful tea shop in West Newton that opened last winter. I am not remembering the name, but it is in an alley behind the West Newton Cinema. They serve some of the best tea that I have ever tasted, loose leaves, available for purchase.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: veggielover
                                          v
                                          veggielover Jun 10, 2010 11:27 AM

                                          The name of the tea shop is L'Aroma Cafe. They have a second floor tea shop where they sell loose teas. Address is15 Spencer Street in West Newton.

                                        2. d
                                          drewinmrblhd Jun 7, 2010 12:59 PM

                                          In pickering Wharf in Salem there is a shop that sells tons of different loose teas. Goods eats in that area as well, make a day of it!

                                          1. k
                                            khandha Jun 7, 2010 06:50 PM

                                            Incomparable: Imperial Tea Court (San Francisco)
                                            Excellent & interesting: 1001 Plateaus (LA)
                                            Local: Barismo (bringing in some interesting Taiwanese teas)

                                            I would avoid Ten Ren's, but some people like it. I've had too many stale teas from there.

                                            With tea, you really have to start in China. [The story of how tea "migrated" from China to India is interesting.]

                                            ITC, cited above, always carries excellent Darjeelings, and occasionally has Sri Lankan teas as well. About 12-13 years ago they negotiated with a single farm to produce a whole leaf golden darjeeling that I still think about. Long gone...

                                            Appreciation, even recognition, of fine tea is well behind the same for coffee in this country. Just as people who appreciate Atomic or Barismo roasts locally would find Starbuck's or Peet's hard to recognize as coffee, so also would those who have had the good fortune to sample competition grade teas find most local offerings hard to recognize as tea.

                                            -----
                                            Barismo
                                            169 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02474

                                            1. g
                                              Green Drake Jun 9, 2010 03:28 PM

                                              Thanks everyone for your very knowledgeable and comprehensive responses. I ordered some samples from Uptons, mainly because they offer small 35gram packs of their Darjeelings and Ceylon teas, which means I can experiment a little. My order arrived two days after I placed it and the teas seem fresh and aromatic.

                                              I also had a look in Cardullos, which does have a wide range of loose tea. But whilst looking around I noticed their chocolate section and forgot about tea entirely.

                                              Thanks very much for your hep

                                              1. b
                                                BackBayGirl Jun 10, 2010 08:27 AM

                                                Maybe try Cardullo's in Harvard Square?

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