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Nitro said

Tea advice for a newbie

I’m new to Steepster, but I love the community here. It’s full of helpful tips, tricks and lively dialog.

I’ve never been an avid coffee drinker; it’s always seemed too overbearing a beverage. In school, I would usually resort to soda and energy drinks to keep me going for those all-night study sessions. It wasn’t until recently (after reading a Lifehacker post by Tony at Chicago Tea Garden) that I’ve become interested in the culture of loose tea drinking.

Now that I’m graduated and have a good job (thank God), I’ve taken to drinking teas exclusively as my beverage of choice. Fortunately, there are quite a few boxes of Twinings and some greens and whites in my office cupboard, so I’ve had a chance get into drinking tea. It’s such a great stress reliever and a comfort when I’m sick, but still want more than the bags can give me.

At this point, I need to make the leap to loose leaf, and I need your advice. I don’t want to make the mistake of getting some pu-erh that tastes like dirt that would ruin the experience. I want get a good idea of what’s out there, so I was thinking about getting a few tea samples from Chicago Tea Garden, Adagio or Samovar. If I was to only make one order, where would be the best to order from, and what 3-4 teas should I get?

From the tasting notes, I’m interested in the Ryokucha from Samovar, the Zealong from CTG and a good Irish Breakfast or Earl Grey. Your help is greatly appreciated!

18 Replies
John said

I’m a fan of the zealongs, especially the pure. CTG doesn’t charge for shipping on their samples, so if you decide to get an order from elsewhere, its probably worth the three dollars to give this one a try too.

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I’d wait to order from Samovar until you have a better idea of what you like — they are on the very pricey end of things, so you don’t want to spend a lot and then end up not liking something.
If you’re wanting to try an equivalent of genmaicha with matcha, there are a lot of companies that offer this one (I’ve only tried the Den’s Tea version, but Maeda-en and Rishi both offer it, I believe).

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I’ll also echo the samovar price issue – I adore the zealongs from CTG and the Golden Bi Luo, and i am not a big pu-erh fan but the “Sticky Rice Pu-erh Tuocha” was fine for me (didn’t love it, but drank it unlike most i trash)

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PS-if you are just getting into tea i’d like to highly reccomend the disposable paper t-sacs, http://steep.it, and a thermometer – that and purchase a bunch of sample sizes and play around and find what you like – i’ve found i am a dark oolong person and i do like hibiscus and rooibos – each person find their favorite tea areas and you can work from there – don’t feel bad if you dont’ like something (black teas, pu-erh, whatever)

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brandy3392 said

I was in your place about a month ago. I really like Adagio, especially since I’m still a “beginner” and they offer a very large selection at reasonable prices. I purchased their IngenuiTEA gift set, which includes 4 packages of loose tea samples.

http://www.adagio.com/gifts/holiday_ingenuiTEA.html?sid=dc9bcf257836928516489d346c2532ce

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Batrachoid said

I’m just getting into pu-erh too and the mini tuocha offered by Tao of Tea are all phenominal to buy a few ounces (or they have a nice $20 intro set). CTG and New Mexico Trading Company have some great pu-erh as well but I’ve only had one from each.

Ducky Life Teas Sells small tins of their teas and they’re all great. But if you want starter sets and samples, I’d say Lupicia or Adagio. You can also sign up to recieve The Republic of Tea’s catalogue in the mail and get some free samples every year. The down side is they tend to only send samples of their bag only teas. /=

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Brian said

I would personally recommend Norbu. Greg is an awesome guy, and will answer any questions you have about any flavors you are looking for. Chicago Tea Garden is GREAT for samples, and most if not all of their tea is good. Adagio is decent to find most teas on, but I would really say go with a big factory name like Menghai for your first puerh (for ripe, 7262 is a good recipe). JAS etea is also excellent.

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You may already know what you like, but if not, I have to mention, Den’s Tea has their well-known $3 sampler. That will give you an idea if you would like Japanese style greens at a very low price.

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I just ordered my first few things from Samovar – their samplers aren’t really ‘that’ unreasonable. Example – I like Pu-Erh, but like any other human being, there are Pu-erh flavor profiles that I like and others that I would toss. $8 got me samples of 3 of their best and spendiest, but I’m finding it’s enough for 3 pots of individual tea per sample packet if you’re measuring and steeping carefully. I got 5+ steeps out of just one mug-size amt of Maiden’s Ecstasy, and there’s still half the sample packet remaining. I.E. – you get enough to really try it out over time and contemplate whether you like it enough to buy more – it’s not simply one mugfull.

I personally haven’t ordered anything from Adagio, but they have a lot of variety of flavors and blends. I can recommend their IngenuiTea tumbler/infuser products – they’re carried at one of the tea chains nearby and they’re fabulous.

I’m a purist – so I tend to not go for so many flavors and blends – so Samovar gets a voucher from me if you’re truly looking to explore taste profiles of tea as tea. I can also recommend Indigo Tea Company as an online vendor. They’re family-owned, they run the only tea cafe in my neck of the woods and they carry all the “favorites” – pu-erhs, blends, greens, exotics, herbals, etc. They send samples of anything you like – it’s how I discovered Bai Mu Dan (white peony).

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The Golden Moon has a sampler that is not too expensive. There is a good variety of teas in this package and you could see what you really like!
http://www.goldenmoontea.com/store/best-sellers/tea-taster-s-sampler.html
I would also recommend a Chatsford tea pot. Upton is the best place to order these pots.

I second the rec of the Golden Moon sampler. It’s a great way to sample a wide variety of teas at a reasonable cost, and the samples come in a reusable basket. Plus, Golden Moon has excellent customer service.

If you like the convenience of teabags but prefer the flavor of whole leaf tea, Mighty Leaf sells whole leaf tea in teabags. You can find it at Whole Foods Market, The Vitamin Shoppe and some grocery stores.

Adagio, TeaGschwendner, Upton and Rishi are some other good suppliers of loose tea.

My favorite way to brew loose tea is in an “Ingenuitea” plastic teapot (see Adagio’s site for this — a version of this is also sold at Teavana). I like watching the leaves unfurl. I have a PINO electric tea kettle that heats water quickly to my desired temperature.

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