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Where can I buy really nice loose leaf tea?

g
glutton Jul 26, 2011 04:58 AM

I'm a big tea drinker and I'm starting to run out. All my tea is loose leaf, not in bags. Typically, I drink Mariage Freres teas from Paris (yeah, I know, I'm fancy-pants -- feel free to snicker because my wife already does). I could mail order tea from Paris, but even for me that feels entirely excessive. Does anyone have a good source for very nice, fresh loose leaf tea in NJ? I live in the Princeton area, but am willing to drive north or south if there's a good source for tea.

  1. Passadumkeg Jul 26, 2011 05:05 AM

    The Hong Kong Supermarket in on Rt. 18 is where I buy my stash to bring back to Maine. Asian teas.

    1. MGZ Jul 26, 2011 05:05 AM

      Holsome on Witherspoon Street in Princeton is the best place I have found in Central NJ. Dr. Shu is quite knowledgeable and has an impressive selection.

      2 Replies
      1. re: MGZ
        g
        glutton Jul 26, 2011 12:38 PM

        This place is right in my backyard and I did not realize it. Ooops. This place has a "new age" feel to it (I don't mean that negatively, mind you), and I am guessing they have a great selection of green and oolong teas. I am a nut for black teas -- early grey, english breakfast, assam, and various iterations of these. Is that something that they carry? Their website was partly under construction, so I couldn't see their tea selection.

        1. re: glutton
          MGZ Jul 26, 2011 01:07 PM

          Although oolong is what I am generally seeking (and drinking), I have bought some very fine Darjeeling teas as well, both 1st and 2nd flush. As to other black teas, I think I recall seeing them, but a call may be warranted. Given the proximity of the place to you and your interest in tea, I'd say you might enjoy stopping in the next time you're in town.

      2. huiray Jul 26, 2011 05:11 AM

        McNulty's Tea & Coffee on Christopher in Manhattan has nice stuff (as well as coffee).
        http://www.mcnultys.com/index.html

        I used to go there (more for coffee, though) all the time when I lived in northern NJ.

        1. c
          cantkick Jul 26, 2011 07:35 AM

          Wegman's carries a nice selection. Whether or not it's top-of-the-line stuff I have no idea, but I've enjoyed what I've bought from them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: cantkick
            MGZ Jul 26, 2011 09:19 AM

            I will get teas from Wegman's when a trip out to Princeton is not practical. It's certainly a decent, albeit limited, selection - far and away the best of any supermarket. They, however, do not carry any of the finer estate leafs available from Holsome. The most obvious example would be that they carry only a single type of oolong. To be fair though, I have not found any other place in the State that carries teas at the level of some of the specialties that Dr. Shu does.

          2. h
            HillJ Jul 26, 2011 12:59 PM

            http://www.teavana.com/tea-wall
            Teavana has an interesting selection of loose teas, tea products, etc.
            Closest location to a Princeton zip code is the Bridgewater Commons.

            -----
            Teavana
            400 Commons Way Ste 256, Bridgewater, NJ 08807

            1. m
              madgreek99 Jul 26, 2011 01:06 PM

              Teaberrys in Flemington, I believe, sells looseleaf teas. Call first, though.

              1. menton1 Jul 26, 2011 03:01 PM

                I find Teavana stores AWFUL. Most of their teas are stale. Stick with Holsome. Worlds apart.

                21 Replies
                1. re: menton1
                  h
                  HillJ Jul 26, 2011 03:32 PM

                  menton1, have you actually had the good fortune to try MOST of Teavana's tea. I haven't but what I have bought and brewed was to my liking. And, the store encourages tasting on premise before buying so you shouldn't have any issue leaving empty handed if their teas are not to your liking. OTOH, I have bought loose teas at dozens of ethnic markets and tea/coffee shops in NJ and wound up returning what clearly was stale tea leaves. I have not shopped at Holsome http://holsome.com/content/ (and here's the site if you need more info, OP) so I cannot comment firsthand but I would not refer to Teavana as awful by any means. I would accept different than Holsome but not awful.

                  1. re: menton1
                    j
                    jrd303 Jul 26, 2011 06:45 PM

                    Is there any method to discern if a tea is stale before purchase?

                    1. re: jrd303
                      h
                      HillJ Jul 26, 2011 07:07 PM

                      Stale tea will taste flat, as if you are sipping liquid cardboard. Taste, even over the smell of a dry batch of tea leaves, is the single best way and often loose tea is sold in a dark packages or closed boxes and seeing/smelling the product is not always possible. At least in a clear bag you can see the quality of the tea, the amount of dry bits and possibly smell the freshness of the tea thru the clear packaging. But tasting it is about the only way to know 100% how in terms of flavor you're going to wind up. International tea merchants spot taste their trade daily for this very reason.

                      1. re: HillJ
                        MGZ Jul 28, 2011 03:52 AM

                        I would think that simply not buying prepackaged teas is advisable. Most fine teas are sold by weight and all but the shadiest purveyors will let you examine the leaves while it is being displayed/weighed. It seems very little to expect when considering teas that are in the $100 an ounce price range.

                        1. re: MGZ
                          h
                          HillJ Jul 28, 2011 04:24 AM

                          True and I stopped buying prepack some time ago for that reason...fwiw, same for coffee beans.

                    2. re: menton1
                      a
                      AfghanFoodie Jul 27, 2011 01:01 AM

                      Teavana tends to have more green and oolong teas. Not much of a selection of black teas.

                      -----
                      Teavana
                      400 Commons Way Ste 256, Bridgewater, NJ 08807

                      1. re: AfghanFoodie
                        h
                        HillJ Jul 27, 2011 04:22 AM

                        http://www.teavana.com/tea-wall
                        The "tea wall" illustration shows the various teas; including black Teavana carries. AfghanFoodie do you have another source you would recommend specifically for loose black teas?

                        -----
                        Teavana
                        400 Commons Way Ste 256, Bridgewater, NJ 08807

                        1. re: HillJ
                          a
                          AfghanFoodie Jul 28, 2011 03:35 PM

                          Presently, no, I don't.

                        2. re: AfghanFoodie
                          MGZ Jul 28, 2011 03:55 AM

                          I only saw two unadulterated oolongs on the wall. There were more black.

                          1. re: MGZ
                            s
                            shesallthat Jul 30, 2011 12:22 PM

                            HillJ I work at Teavana...perhaps you are one of my customers? Currently we have several straight black teas, strongest being Kemum, Black Pearls (Chinese) and assam. We also carry a darjeeling type , Golden Money which has cocoa notes and a Black Needle tea which has honey and cocoa notes. We also have English breakfast and two other straight black teas. I have never been to Holsom...they are always closed when I am there and their website does not list teas they carry but I hear great things about them. I would not adivse Wegman's teas..I don't believe they are fresh and people stick their hands in them. I would not get tea from teaberry's either...the tea they do sell is kept in plastic bags and is not fresh. Tea must be kept in tins. I have used Adagio on line and have never been disappointed.

                            1. re: shesallthat
                              h
                              HillJ Jul 30, 2011 12:26 PM

                              Thank you shesallthat, I really appreciate your comments. I do shop online using Adagio and for gifts too. I love their fresh tin samplers and the small packs they sell to try new teas; especially blends. Never had any trouble w/Adagio at all and funny I completely forgot about them regarding this thread until you mentioned it. Teavana is a nice company. Lucky you!

                              1. re: HillJ
                                s
                                shesallthat Jul 30, 2011 12:34 PM

                                I can only vouch for my store but we (all the employees) enjoy tea and try to educate the consumer when they buy. A lot of the tea we sell is geared to the non tea drinker...some of it is very sweet and the ice tea sample tastes more like Kool Aid then tea. However, there is something for everyone and in every budget. I never push a customer. The economy is bad on everyone. I would love for everyone to buy a pound of Monkey Picked but that's just not reality. I just want them to enjoy what they purchase. I just got my pound of Ceylon from Adagio this morning.

                                1. re: HillJ
                                  Ike Jul 30, 2011 01:42 PM

                                  After hearing a lot of good things about Adagio, I ordered a green tea sampler pack from them. But I found all of them very bland and flavorless.

                                  I normally go to Kam Man supermarket on Canal St. in Manhattan for my loose-leaf jasmine green tea, which is extremely inexpensive at about $6 a POUND. (Not an ounce. A POUND.) It's a little coarse, as you'd expect at that price. The last batch I bought there seems a little stale, but generally, it's excellent for the price, and much more tasty than the Adagio ones I've tried. It's on the basement level. There's also a Kam Man in Edison (at 511 Old Post Rd) and in East Hanover but I've never been to those locations so I don't know if they carry loose-leaf teas in giant glass jars from which you can scoop out the amount you want. But if they do, I recommend trying them. However, their black teas are not as interesting, in my experience.

                                  1. re: Ike
                                    h
                                    HillJ Jul 30, 2011 01:46 PM

                                    Thanks Ike, I travel to Edison quite a bit so I'll keep an eye out. I use green tea more in baking recipes than for drinking.

                                    1. re: HillJ
                                      Ike Aug 11, 2011 11:29 AM

                                      HillJ: Baking? Presumably you are using a lot of green tea POWDER then? I doubt my info is of much use to you, then. Kam Man probably doesn't have a better price for that prepackaged powder than any other average Asian market. I don't like the grassy taste of that Japanese and Japanese-style stuff, personally, and the loose oolongs and black teas I've tried from Kam Man in Manhattan haven't impressed me much -- they're blunt and heavy. Extremely inexpensive, though.

                                      1. re: Ike
                                        h
                                        HillJ Aug 12, 2011 09:11 AM

                                        Oh sure green tea powder works well in certain baking recipes but I also use tea leaves in a variety of shortbread cookies; including green.

                                    2. re: Ike
                                      Ike Sep 15, 2011 10:39 AM

                                      Just to update, now that I've been to the Kam Man location in Edison, I can report their jasmine green loose-leaf tea is not very good, in my opinion. They don't have the same coarse-but-tasty $8/lb stuff as in Manhattan. They have one that's $7 for 4 oz. ($28/lb.) but it tastes salty and a bit fishy to me. I can't speak for their other loose-leaf teas but they might be worth trying if you're looking for a great bargain.

                                      Sad to say, in fact, now also the Manhattan location has stopped supplying the same great "#1100" jasmine that used to be available for $8/lb. They've replaced it with something much uglier, resembling old, stale-looking crumbled leaves -- it's not as bad as it looks but it's not as flavorful as the previous #1100 and has some unfortunate hints of grassiness, like a bad Japanese tea.

                                  2. re: shesallthat
                                    c
                                    cantkick Jul 30, 2011 12:36 PM

                                    re: Wegman's

                                    Maybe it depends on the store. I've bought tea a few times at the Ocean store. The tea seems fresh, the ones I've tried have a nice strong fragrance and taste fine to my uneducated palate. As for hands in the tea, since each tin has its own scoop, I doubt that it happens.

                                    1. re: cantkick
                                      s
                                      shesallthat Jul 30, 2011 01:42 PM

                                      Cant kick - it happens. People put their hands in and "taste it". I've seen it happen in my store, with me wafting the tea towards the customer, and before I even know what's happening, they stick their hand in and grab a handful. We always take (immediately) that section out when it does happen...but unsupervised at Wegman's...I'm also thinking that the teas are not dated...they don't sell as fast and are not as fresh. In our stores our tins (on the wall) sometimes are refilled several times daily.

                                      1. re: shesallthat
                                        wench31 Aug 7, 2011 07:35 AM

                                        Hi shesallthat, we recently bought rooibos peach strawberry kiwi tea leaves from teavana. I've been trying to make it sweet like the samples you get from the store but I can't seem to make it like that. Every time I go to a store to ask , I would always get a different answer as to the amount of sugar per cup of water. Can you help me? Thanks!

                                        1. re: wench31
                                          s
                                          shesallthat Aug 12, 2011 09:18 AM

                                          Wench 31= I'm just seeing this...I'm trying to figure out what tea you have. If it is a roibus you will use 1 and 1/2 teaspooons tea for every 8 ounces of boiling water. If you put it over ice you want to double everything...3 tsp. of tea as well as the brewing time. Normally we put in a tsp of sugar in our teas...but when we ice it that too is doubled. If it is not to your liking try brewing it longer...when we make the iced samples in the store we brew for 15 minutes. If your tea is white or green do not double the brewing time as this will make it bitter. Also if your tea is green or white water should not be boiling...in fact all teas should not be used with boiling water but the greens and whites should be when it becomes hot at 175 degrees. Hope this helps.

                            2. g
                              glutton Jul 30, 2011 03:00 PM

                              I went to Holesome this afternoon and bought some Ceylon tea. We'll see how that is. I had two initial impressions:

                              1. The woman behind the counter was not especially knowledgeable of the black teas they sell. Perhaps she knows the other types of tea.
                              2. The tea I bought seems reasonably fresh, by smell. However, none of their teas were even close to the fragrance I get from Mariage Freres teas. The prices at Holesome were not a whole lot cheaper (or were they more expensive?) than what I've paid at Mariage Freres in Paris, amazingly enough.

                              I make it sound as if I go to Paris all the time. Certainly not the case. That's why I was hoping to find a really good local tea source. Once I've brewed some of this Ceylon tea that I bought, I'll report back. The smell can only tell you so much -- the truth is in the drinking.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: glutton
                                g
                                glutton Aug 6, 2011 02:40 AM

                                Drank some of the tea. It's ok, but I prefer a more floral, fragrant black tea. This is better than some dry, old, stale tea that I'd get at wegmans or some place like that, so it'll have to do for now.

                              2. JustJake Aug 5, 2011 10:53 AM

                                Should you be in the Red Bank area, you may want to stop into Novel Teas on Broad St. in town. Only sell loose leaf tea. http://www.novelteas.org/our-teas/

                                1. s
                                  scarletfan Aug 7, 2011 02:02 PM

                                  I'm not sure if they have a store but I've often bought Ducky Life teas at various fairs and festivals around central NJ. They have a nice selection and I've enjoyed a few different varieties.

                                  1. p
                                    pellegrino31 Aug 12, 2011 02:25 PM

                                    If you want an easier route to Mariage Freres, the Dean & Deluca in SoHo sells some of their varieties. Not all of them but you might find a few options you like. My husband and I love their tea and every so often are lucky enough to go to Paris for work and I make sure to stock up on a few tins. Some of the options at D&D are in sachets but I've enjoyed those as much as the loose leaf.

                                    Anyways - we order our tea from Upton Tea Imports. They have a huge selection. We've always been really pleased with the quality of the tea, that is until we got hooked on Mariage Freres and more recently Fortum & Mason.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: pellegrino31
                                      g
                                      glutton Aug 17, 2011 07:34 AM

                                      this is a great suggestion -- thank you. I also have been hooked on Fortnum & Mason tea in the past -- that's great stuff. I still think Mariage Freres beats them out by a hair, but it's a race among excellents.

                                      1. re: pellegrino31
                                        g
                                        glutton Aug 24, 2011 09:55 AM

                                        This turned out to be exactly what I was looking for -- thank you very much. I ordered three teas and thusfar have tried one of them, which was excellent. The quality here was far, far better than anything I could have bought from the other sources listed. And their customer service is top notch.

                                        1. re: glutton
                                          p
                                          pellegrino31 Aug 29, 2011 05:06 PM

                                          That's great news - you're most welcome. Except for F&M and MF, we've pretty much stopped trying other places because the options at Upton are so fantastic. Enjoy!

                                      2. a
                                        albinoni Aug 18, 2011 07:14 AM

                                        I'm pretty sure AK Market--a wonderful Turkish supermarket/Halal butcher on Crooks Avenue in Paterson sells bulk teas.

                                        1. a
                                          AfghanFoodie Aug 25, 2011 01:27 AM

                                          I found another tea shop/bookstore that sells loose tea [no tea bags!!]
                                          NovelTeas http://www.novelteas.org/
                                          78 Bridge Ave Red Bank, NJ
                                          (732) 747-8800
                                          Owned by Kim Widener
                                          The shop also has hosted some big authors.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: AfghanFoodie
                                            c
                                            cantkick Aug 25, 2011 04:19 AM

                                            Where are they located now? The website says reopening soon, and one poster above said they're on Broad Street (which could have been a Broad/Bridge mixup).

                                            1. re: cantkick
                                              a
                                              AfghanFoodie Aug 25, 2011 07:02 AM

                                              I apologize that I didn't see the post above about the store. I got the website to open. I also found some Patch.com articles about different events that occurred there recently.

                                              1. re: cantkick
                                                c
                                                cantkick Aug 25, 2011 05:38 PM

                                                To answer my own question, according to their Facebook site, they are located on Bridge Street, across from the train station. Unfortunately, they're closed on Sunday, so visiting them at the same time as the Farmer's Market won't work.

                                            2. m
                                              madgreek99 Sep 3, 2011 11:19 AM

                                              I apologize if this is duplicate information, but I haven't read through all the comments on this thread. In the Stockton Farmers Market, there is a tea vendor selling loose leaf teas.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: madgreek99
                                                g
                                                glutton Sep 5, 2011 04:27 AM

                                                Those teas are so-so. I did not think they were terribly fresh.

                                              2. e
                                                Eat dessert First Oct 10, 2011 06:28 PM

                                                If you have a chance to visit the beach...Sweet Tease in Manasquan carries over 50 varieties of loose leaf teas including a large variety of Blacks, Oolongs, Greens and Rooibos.

                                                1. jpr54_1 Oct 11, 2011 05:29 AM

                                                  i buy my teas online

                                                  www.houdeasianart.com
                                                  www.shanshuitea.com
                                                  www.palaisdesthes.com
                                                  www.upton.com
                                                  www.harney.com

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jpr54_1
                                                    c
                                                    cindytong Oct 14, 2011 05:47 AM

                                                    Me too, I buy tea online. Nice list of online vendors here, and I would like to add one more: http://floatingleaves.com/ - they specialize in Taiwanese oolong.

                                                  2. a
                                                    AfghanFoodie Oct 14, 2011 03:04 AM

                                                    Anna Beall's Tea Room in Westfield has loose teas for sale in its gift shop. The tea is sold by the ounce. It is a busy place so I believe the tea should be fresh. It is a tea room but also serves Brunch on weekends and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.
                                                    The website offers a primer on teas, including types and how to buy.
                                                    http://www.anabeallstearoom.com/

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