How do you decide where to buy?
I usually like to get reviews from others. If I see a company name popping up frequently, I tend to take notice. Value and good customer service are extremely important to me. If I see the same bad/marginal reviews over, and over, I tend to skip the place altogether (looking at you, Teavana). I also like companies that are well established (thinking Upton and Harney-for US customers), but I will try a new vendor if there is a reasonable deal on samples or a review of a remarkable tea from those who like similar teas. I do notice that as my tea journey progresses, I am less interested in the flavored varieties, although I still appreciate a well blended flavored tea on a complementary tea base. Sometimes my tastes don’t line up with the general consensus out there, and those teas I just ‘rehome’.
SimplyJenW: Reputation certainly comes into play when I decide which shop to buy from (and this is a great place to find that out, as you pointed out).
btw, I haven’t tired Upton yet, but they are still on my radar. I am currently enjoying a number of teas from Verdant Tea and Den’s Tea. Culinary Tea also has some great flavored teas for very reasonable prices (I ordered a bunch from them recently, and my wife and I are both impressed. I plan to write a review for them as an online shop sometime soon).
It is interesting how tastes change, or evolve, over time. I started out a green tea purist, then branched out into other teas (I am currently exploring blacks, and rooibos/honeybush, along with my unflavored greens). Over time I have seen the value in flavored teas, but I am still pretty much a purist. I think it’s because I enjoy searching for all of the subtle flavors and other nuances in an unflavored tea, which seems more, … challenging to me than trying to discern the the flavors that are more ‘upfront’ in flavored teas. I think it’s also that the flavors in straight teas occur naturally, rather than being manufactured. But whatever the case, they all have their place, and all teas are fun!
Try the vendor guide on teachat
I actually discovered most of my sources through that forum years ago. As for the criterion, obviously, i buy from the vendors who sell tea that i like at decent prices. When trying new vendors, I order small amounts.