Steepster Select October Giveaway
Thank you, Jason, for offering this up. Great idea.
Right now, Tea Trekker is my favorite tea company.
Although I have only purchased once from them I bought eight teas and I have liked every one of them (and they included a free sample of a green tea which I may want to buy the next time I order from them). Through their books the owners helped bring me into the world of what they call artisan loose-leaf tea. The way they describe tea in their books and on their website creates an expertly crafted lens from which to view the wonderful world of tea through.
For me, I guess the way a tea retailer describes the tea they are selling really matters because I am passionate about the written word. And, unlike many tea retailers, they provide the year and season and location of the harvest of their green teas. And certainly price, quality, freshness, and a diverse selection of teas also matters. The bottom line is that they sell fresh artisan loose-leaf tea at very reasonable prices (they currently offer at least six 2011 spring green teas that are within my budget of roughly $4/oz or less). And their logo with the tree and the Buddhist-like ‘trekker’ looking out from the mountain summit in peaceful contemplation is cool to boot!
My favorite company changes all the time, depending on which, and whose, tea I am obsessed with at the moment. There are times when all I drink is pu erh and times when I’m having lots of light oolongs.
Currently I’m on a rooibos run. My favorite company of the moment is Fusion Tea Room. I am impressed with their rooibos/honeybush teas – each one is spectacular. Also their customer service is great. I too have shipping issues (I imagine all of us non-us residents have this issue), and they are very helpful.
That said, I want to mention that there is a special spot on the “best” list reserved for 52teas, whose consistently amazing teas keep me on my toes.
Oh, Fusion Tea Room. I actually contacted them about the “samples for reviews” and they re-vamped their shipping to Canada for me, just so I could try the samples. So far, they’ve been delish and I see myself making an order at the end of it all. : )
Fave spot: Camillia Sinensis in Montreal
I make it a point to visit tea shops whenever I am in a new city, and this one is my all time favorite, hands down!
The tea is curated in person by one of the four owners of the shop and they are extremely knowledgeable about their products. They talk of the teas as if they are speaking about a good friend.
I love oolong tea, so it is tough to find a good selection at any of the mainstream stores, and I was blown away by the range and quality of their selection. They actually had categories within the oolong family!
The cafe that adjoined the tea shop was the perfect place to enjoy their tea. It was prepared precisely, according to the tea, to bring out the finest in the tea and was served in the proper vessels, no throwing a teabag into a paper cup and adding boiling at this place.
They have a range of kettles, heating water to different temps, and my oolong was served gong Fu style with a draining tray and drinking cup. The place felt warm and inviting, like it was okay if I spent hours there, even though they were packed. And there were no computers allowed, which really warmed the atmosphere.
This place is a step above anywhere else I have ever been, and I continue to order my tea through their on-line store and am consistently delighted with the tea!
Hmm, I have to throw my hat in the ring for Harney & Sons. There’s no other tea company with quite so many teas in my favorites least, so they kind of have to be my favorite company by default, right? I love that they have both great flavored teas and high quality pure teas, they don’t just do one thing. It was their teas that were responsible for getting me really into tea drinking in the first place. Also, I love visiting their tasting room in Soho and always have a great experience there.
I think the other company I would consider for this is Dammann Freres, but the only thing holding me back is that I haven’t gotten to try as many of their teas, and that I don’t have consistent access to them. If I lived in Paris, though, I think they would jump to the top of the list!
Upton Tea Imports. It’s simple. They have a huge selection of wonderful teas.
Another fan of Harney & Son’s…no wait, Upton…..no….Harney & Son’s.
Really for me it just depends on the day. I love them both and am kind of bumed that I have to choose one. And then there are a handful that are right next to these two in line.
Harney has classic packaging (I like the look, even down to the way the tins stack!) They also have great service, and a serious dedication to offering only the best in quality. If I had to choose one vendor, this would probably be the one. The brick and mortar shops are wonderful, and a great way to sample the teas (2 oz. minimum) and refill your tins without having to buy a pound of tea. They do accept orders by email/phone at the shops, too.
Upton has such a vast variety and levels of quality, and offers such reasonable samples of everything. They are incredibly fast for shipping, and their prices are really tough to beat. They offer the tea in a zip pouch, or you can add a few more bucks and get it in a tin. If you are label obsessed (yes, some of us are) you can order a second label for under a quarter. Also labels include packing dates and they can be personalized. Customer service is prompt and friendly.
How to define favorite?
If favorite means “most enjoyed tasting adventures,” I think Verdant Tea is my favorite of what I have been trying lately. I have had more surprising and enjoyable cups from Verdant Tea than any other. The descriptions of the teas and their sources are interesting and informative, which is part of the enjoyment for me. The prices allow me to experience some exquisite tastes. Tasting their offerings has educated me.
If favorite is determined by volume, I have to go with Celestial Seasonings. I have consumed more of their products than any other company’s, probably by two orders of magnitude. They have several products that I have consistently enjoyed over two decades because of their consistent and nice, if not exquisite, flavor. While I enjoy taking time to appreciate the finer things in tea, a lot of my tea comes from a bag. Our refrigerator has a perpetual pitcher of CS herbal tea.
52 Teas would have to be my favorite. The customer service is excellent and very personal. The freshness of the website and the suspense of What tea will he blend next? is exciting and fun! Most importantly, Frank really has a way with honeybush that I have come to appreciate. Because of his fearless approach to tea blending, I have at long last found the tea category that I have been looking for my entire tea drinking career: Honeybush. Perfect in every way…caffeine free…great flavors..a nice replacement for desserts. Yeah, hands down 52 Teas is my all time favorite tea company!
I think I’m going to have to say DAVIDsTEA, as well.
While there are other companies I’m more consistently impressed by, the omnipresence of DT is exciting. They’re everywhere, and there’s always something new. If I’m out and happen upon a DT store, I know I can pop in and find something to lift my spirits. I don’t like everything they do, but you can’t really fault a company for having an approach that’s just pure fun. They have good intentions, they keep things interesting and dynamic, and they know how to appeal to their audience. I can’t help but look forward to their new teas, and even when I don’t like them I appreciate the things that they try and the variety they offer. I think of them mostly as separate from my favourite places for good-quality, straight teas but DT fills a niche and fills it well.
And, like many others, I have a soft spot for them since they brought me into the world of tea obsession. I was really into tea all through high school and beyond but until I found DT, my tea world were those tins of Twinings loose leaf (still good!).
Online it’s probably a tie between Harney and Upton. Harney partially because they’re the first company I ever bought tea from and it’s pretty rare for me to be disappointed by their offerings. Upton because they have good tea, too, and at a reasonable price.
Offline, I like TeaSource. I was so excited when they first opened and have been going there ever since. It’s nice to have a dedicated tea shop where I can have a pot of tea and lose myself in a book.