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Who is (currently) your favorite tea retalier?

Hi all.

Jason started a thread about this topic over nine months ago (in one of his Steepster Select monthly giveaways http://steepster.com/discuss/1938-steepster-select-october-giveaway ), but the name of the topic did not reveal the question, and so I wanted to see if anyone wants to share something here about their current favorite tea retailer (For some it may have changed since the date of the above-mentioned thread).

Currently, I have bought tea (or received samples) from about 30 different tea retailers over the last year and a half (mostly online, but a few Brick and Mortar stores) , and I have learned much about what’s important to me as to where I decide to buy my Tea. For example, as I am mostly interested in Chinese green teas, I look for a good selection of them; I look for tea that is fresh and of good quality (for example, small farm, whole-leaf, hand-processed); as I am a value shopper I look for teas that are reasonably priced (preferably no more than $5 / OZ). I also look for a tea retailer that is run by someone who seems to have genuine enthusiasm for, what I like to call, all things Tea. A number of tea retailers meet some of these requirements, and a few come very close to meeting them all, but one currently stands above the rest: Life in Teacup. Here is a link to my current review of them: http://steepster.com/places/2861-life-in-teacup-online-easthampton-massachusetts

There are so many tea retailers to choose from (especially on-line), and I have personally found that few of them are actually worth doing business with on an on-going basis. I decided to create this new discussion thread because I want to encourage all of you to call attention to any of the businesses you feel are truly worth doing business with (with the hope that this may help, even in some small way, to keep them in business).

So, please tell me, who is your favorite tea retailer, and why?

137 Replies
Lynne-tea said

I don’t really have the time to get in-depth with my choice, but if I HAD to pick one, I would say Verdant tea.
Their quality is fantastic, and the prices are reasonable (though some are a bit too high for my normal orders… as to be expected with higher end teas). I really do appreciate their attention to detail (such as the hand written note and very generous sample included with every order). The other selling point for me is the free shipping over $25. This makes it extremely easy to buy (usually) 3 types of tea to try without having to break the bank each time to reach a higher limit.

The runner ups are:
1. Teavivre – good quality tea for a great price, followed by excellent customer service, plus the $30 limit for free shipping is excellent
1. Life in Teacup- excellent quality tea, and very good customer service (very good about any accidental mistakes.. definitely strives to keep the customer happy). The only bummer is the shipping, though it is only $5 (much better than the 30plus that it costs to ship from the US to Canada… How does that work.. this is coming all the way from China and it costs only $5. Give me a break.)
2. Davids Tea – Very good with customer service (at least online), decent prices, I like that they have a good organic selection, and I swoon for their milk oolong. Plus, shipping is free over $50 (easy to hit, but annoying when you just want to buy a few teas and not spend $50…. though, the $5 shipping is not worth it as that is the cost of a 50g bag of a new tea basically..). Currently, I have found I am moving away from flavoured teas, which is why DT is no longer my favourite place to get tea…. (though on occasion I do crave some good flavoured teas, which is why this is in second place).

Awesome! Thank you for your feedback!

Verdant Tea and Teavivre are certainly close runners up for me (for many of the reasons you stated).

I’ve never bought tea directly from DavidsTea, but I’ve brewed up a number of their flavor-added teas that I got elsewhere, and I was very impressed with them.

Lynne-tea said

Of course – any time! =)
I also really like that Davids Tea includes 3 free samples with every online order, which you can ask for specific samples I believe (I have not done this yet, but will for my next order). I am not sure what their free sample range is, but I heard Krystaleyn and her roommate had gotten Gyokuro Yamashiro as a sample and I was shocked… therefore their sample supply must be pretty vast I would say (specially as that is one of their most expensive teas). I also really like the 100g limit to get one of their awesome tins. The online labels they provide are also 100x better than the plain jane ones they give you in the store. For those reasons – I will always order 50g plus online…and only buy samples in the store if I happen to be in a city with DT.

WOW! Three ‘tailored’ samples is pretty awesome (I agree, especially awesome if its a Gyokuro). Online labels too? Very cool. I’ll have to check that out.

Donna A said

Unfortunately, I just noticed the free shipping with Verdant now requires a $35 purchase.

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What is your experience so far with the greens from Life in Teacup? Some are out of my price range, but sometimes I am swayed to purchase a pricier tea based on the reviews.

Verdant, which is one of my current favorites, is also pricey but I have loved every tea so far and really trust the quality. Also, I got some of their stuff on sale. Sometime I would like to place an order with Jing Tea Shop – they just added even more greens! Have you (or anyone else) ordered any from them and if so, what did you think of the quality?

Here is a list of online tea company reviews that the community has complied:
http://steepster.com/places?near=&name=online

What is your experience so far with the greens from Life in Teacup? I’ve had three fresh ones so far http://www.lifeinteacup.com/green-tea
1)1500m (4500 ft.) Frosty Spring Yunnan Roast Green, First Day Harvest
Here is my (preliminary) review: http://steepster.com/teas/life-in-teacup/26505-1500m-4500-ft-dot-frosty-spring-yunnan-roast-green-first-day-harvest-2012

Suffice it to say, for the price, it is probably the best fresh green tea I’ve ever had (Admittedly, I haven’t had too many yet, though).

2) 2012 Tong Cheng Small Orchid, semi-wild, 800m (2400 ft.) First Day Harvest
I still need to write the review for this tea, but I really like it. Unfortunately, you can only get a sample of it (by pre-ordering 200 grams of it early this spring, I got it for only $5/OZ). I think its worth it for $5/OZ, but I wouldn’t want to pay too much more for it (still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth more).

3) 2012 Pre-Qingming Da Fo (Great Buddha) Long Jing first day harvest
Here is my review of it: http://steepster.com/teas/life-in-teacup/27810-2012-pre-qingming-da-fo-great-buddha-long-jing-first-day-harvest
I’m glad I tried it, but it’s too expensive for me.

Here are my other reviews for some of their less expensive teas:

http://steepster.com/teas/life-in-teacup/15366-jiang-xi-tribute-tea
http://steepster.com/teas/life-in-teacup/12602-huang-shan-yun-wu-yellow-mountain-cloud

Here’s a review of a pricier one:
http://steepster.com/teas/life-in-teacup/26326-2011-pre-guyu-huang-shan-mao-feng-semi-wild-750m

She’s great about being responsive to individual requests. Why not try sending her an email and ask her for some samples?

I have also ordered from Jing Tea shop, and I really like them too:

Here are a few reviews of teas I have tried:

http://steepster.com/teas/jing-tea-shop/20915-bai-sha-lu
http://steepster.com/teas/jing-tea-shop/17604-huang-shan-mao-feng-a

I’ve tried all of Verdant Tea’s green teas, and they were all good.

Thanks for doing all of the grunt work for me! I could have looked it up for myself, but probably wouldn’t have gotten to it until this weekend. Life in Teacup seems to take great care in finding good teas to sell, so I’m sure it’s hard to go wrong. And I like that Jing Tea Shop has a flat rate for shipping.

At this point I am having trouble determining where to spend my hard-earned paycheck. Luckily, I am not as jealous as I could be while reading the “share your orders” thread because many of the teas are flavored, and I don’t get as excited about those as some (to each their own).

I’m glad you found that information useful.

I hear ya; I prefer the ‘pure’ teas over flavor-added teas, also.

In my experience, you can’t go wrong with the green teas from any one of the three tea retailers you mention above. Good luck on finding a place to spend your hard-earned paycheck!

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Zeks said

I’d say JK Tea Shop that has the best yunnan there is(obviously, Golden Fleece hasn’t come yet),Hibiki-An with their incredible shipping speed(only 2.5 weeks from japan to Russia ? how?! ) and their sencha that is something really special and, obviously, Verdant. While I can’t say that I liked all of Verdant’s teas, ~1/4 of them I dismissed to the “long storage” shelf but 3/4 were absolutely amazing :)

The Golden Fleece was so tempting, but I just couldn’t do it! I think I overstated it a bit above – I probably love 3/4 of their teas like you, but the other 1/4 have all been interesting/unique even though they weren’t necessarily something I would drink every day.

Zeks said

Golden Fleece must be really sonething special to become my number 1 yunnan :) Because atm I have never tried anything better that JK Tea shop’s fengqing 58:) Will see which is better in a week or two I suppose when Fleece finally comes…

Thanks for responding, zeks. As a green tea enthusiast, I do like that JK Tea Shop gives harvest dates for their greens (and it seem that their samples are very reasonably priced, too). I’ve heard of Hibiki-An. glad to hear they have great sencha. I have enjoyed all of Verdant Tea’s Teas with one exception: the blend of flavorings in the Taiquig Temple green didn’t work for me (it’s been awhile since I have brewed it up, but I remember thinking that the mint was overpowering, or didn’t mix well with the other flavors, or something like that). All of their pure green teas that I have tried have been some of the highest quality teas I have ever had.

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Rellybob said

I haven’t tried very many yet, but I really like Silk Road Teas. I love how they personally taste thousands of cups of tea before purchasing it and bringing it back to the US, and their dedication really shows in their tea. Highest quality I’ve found so far! The smallest quantity you can get from them is 1/4 lb though, probably because they sell a lot of wholesale.. I have found many reasonably priced teas from them too. I especially like their Oolongs! They specialize in Chinese teas.

I’ve looked at Silk Road Teas’ website, and I remember being impressed with their selection of greens. I also remember (as you mention here) that they didn’t offer sample sizes. Glad you like their oolongs (I am S L O W L Y getting into oolongs).

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I unfortunately order from very few tea stores… I prefer at to stick with things I know are safe. That being said, Teavivre is probably my favorite in terms of quality (especially their greens and oolongs) while Adagio has the best customer service.

I am on a graduate student budget right now, so while I browse longingly through many many teas, the actual buying part is rare.

I can’t forget to mention Adagio either – the teas can be hit or miss (and they don’t include harvest date), but there is something there for everyone. Prices vary but there are some good deals – especially for basics like gunpowder, assam, etc. And I liked their dancong, formosa pouchong, yunnan noir and the excellent Thai chai.

Also, I love their point system – it keeps me coming back. I just finished some reviews and now I have $16 to spend.

Michelle: Although I have yet to make an actual purchase from Teavivre, Angel is great about sending out samples, and she is great at responding in a timely manner to queries (through PM’s).

I’ve haven’t heard much about Adagio ‘s customer service. I’m glad to hear it’s been good for you, though.

wokeupfuzzy: $16 just from doing reviews? Are you serious? Wow. I knew you were rewarded somehow for participating on their blog, but I didn’t know it was in store credit. You go!

@SimpliciTEA: … I haven’t actually bought anything from Teavivre yet, but I know i will soon – the samples Angel’s sent me have been fantastic.

Adagio’s customer service is incredible. They respond to queries super fast, and sometimes slip surprise samples or thank-you notes in with your orders!

And in regards to the $16 from reviews – they have a thing where you earn a certain amount of points based on how much you order, reviews you write / share, etc… once you get 100, that counts as $10, and every 10 after that is $1 (so 160 points = $16)

Scott B said

Teavivre gives out reward/loyalty points based on the value of your order and also for writing reviews. These points translate into dollars off your orders.

I didn’t know posting reviews on Teavivre translated into points. Do you know exactly how points translate to a discount?

btw, I used Jason’s trick he listed in the FAQ http://steepster.com/discuss/2768-steepster-faq so get a closer look at the bird you are using as your avatar. It is beautiful; is it some kind of goldfinch, or wren, or nuthatch?

Scott B said

SimpliciTea – 100 points at Teavivre gets you $1 off an order. You get 200 points just for registering at their website. You get 5 reward points for every dollar you spend on tea-basically, spend $20, get $1 off. I think you get 50 points per review you do on their web site-I can’t seem to find that info on their site. I need to do some more reviews there to find out for sure.

Thanks, for the compliment on my avatar. The bird is a male Common Yellowthroat Warbler. Took the photo just last weekend.

Scott B: Thanks for your reply.

Than you for the clarification on how points are used. I may be ordering from them this summer, and I have a few points, but I didn;t know how they are used. Now I know! I’ll definitely be looking into posting some reviews on their website.

Great photo! A warbler, eh? He is beautiful, especially for being just a ‘commoner’. : p

Adagio teas has a very large selection of teas with a medium level of quality. I think it is a great place for a beginner to see if they like tea or to try different types of tea on a low budget.

Tea_is_wisdom: Agreed on Adagio’s teas.

Michelle: Thanks for the info on how Adagio’s point system works!

TeaVivre said

When registered on our site, you will get 50 reward points since May 1, 2012. And every 100 reward points can be used as 1 dollar discount when you place the order. We also encourage people who have taste our teas to share the tasting notes on our site, 50 reward points per reviews.

That verifies what I understood about your point system. It’s a great way to encourage us to write and post reviews about your teas.

Now that I think about it, I have a few questions about the point system:
1) Do the points ever expire?
2) Is there a limit to the number of points you can accumulate before using them?

Thanks!

TeaVivre said

@SimpliciTEA, as the questions you concern, here are my answers:
1:The reward points do not expire
2: when you are trying to place order on our site, there is no limitation to the number of points you can accumulate, you can use as much as you like if you have enough points available!

TeaVivre: Love it. Thanks!

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I have a handful of favorites, here they are (in no particular order):

52Teas: Probably my number 1 favorite tea company when it comes to flavored teas. Also, if you consider numbers of teas purchased from one company, then 52Teas wins hands down, as I do subscribe and I even buy the occasional VIT when they’re released. I love 52Teas because the flavors are often quite unusual, something you’re not likely to find with other tea companies. Not all of the teas are winning tea blends, but, I like most of them quite well, and I don’t think I’ve actually found one that I cannot drink because it is bad. PLUS what other tea company would actually make a tea like this, just because I wanted them to?: http://steepster.com/teas/52teas/18870-liberteas-tomato-basil-and-black-pepper or would make a special tea just for my birthday: http://www.52teas.com/2012/06/05/double-chocolate-decadence/

Verdant Tea: There are many reasons to include Verdant in my top five. Fast shipping, excellent customer service … but when it comes right down to it, their teas are exceptional. I haven’t yet tried something I didn’t like from them.

Teavivre: Excellent teas. I haven’t yet tried something I didn’t like. Their love of tea is evident in their attention to how they package their tea – with true love and respect of the product.

Butiki Teas: OK… a few months ago, this company probably would not have made this list, but something happened recently that gave Stacy at Butiki Teas a huge boost. I placed an order for a gift for a friend, and after she had sent me the email saying my order was sent (VERY fast shipping, BTW), I emailed back to thank her, and I identified myself. She didn’t recognize me via the email that was used to place the order, and she wrote back something to the effect of: I wish I had known it was you because I have a lot of teas that I want you to try. And within a week or so she had another box going out to me full of samples to try. And her teas are nothing short of amazing.

For the fifth and final company, instead of listing just one company, I’m going to note a few honorable mentions… that is to say these companies are sort of “tied”:

Tealicious Tea Company: I have to mention this company, if for no other reason than they happen to have my favorite Earl Grey (Earl Grey Excelsior), and that’s important because even though I don’t drink it as often as I should, if I ever came to the point where there wasn’t an Earl Grey in my stash, I think I might have a panic attack.

Kally Teas: I’ve not yet found a tea from them that I didn’t like, and I love their customer service. They’re wonderful, warm people.

KTeas: I mention them because I have a “better than casual” acquaintanceship with Kathryn (the K in KTeas). She is a lovely person, and I have a great respect for how hard she is working for her company, reminding me a bit of myself in my early days as a tea company.

Golden Moon Teas: Exceptional customer service from Marcus. I love his newsletters. Fast shipping and excellent teas too. And he listens to the tea community (Steepster!) and makes changes when changes are needed!

Life in Teacup: I love Gingko’s love for tea. The teas she selects to carry in her shop are of exceptional quality. And… when you do order from them, be sure to order the chocolate matcha “kiss” – these are truly amazing.

There are many others that should be included here, but, these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

egad! I wrote a novel! Sorry about that!

LiberTEAS: As far as I’m concerned, you never have to apologize for writing a novel. I love reading novels. : )

Frank made a tea for your birthday? He is the man! Oh my goodness, that’s this weeks blend … Well then, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Although I have yet to buy from him directly, Frank has my deepest respect for what he does.

Thanks for all of those others, too. The one I want to comment on in your list is Butiki Teas. Although they were somewhat on my radar, I recently exchanged a few e-mails with the owner, and after that they are definitely on my radar, as in, the one new (new for me) online shop I hope to try some teas from sometime this year.

I’’l keep the chocolate matcha “kiss” from Life in Teacup in mind. I vaguely remember seeing those somewhere on her website …

Thanks, my birthday was actually last week, but, I did sort of give him short notice. :) I really am excited to try the double chocolate tea.

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Dinosara said

When I responded to the question initially I said Harney & Sons and Dammann Frerés as my two favorites.

That still stands, especially for flavored teas, but I have to say that Verdant Teas and Teavivre must join them as my favorites. I consistantly love pretty much every tea I try from these two companies and the customer service of both companies is exceptional.

I must say that I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve tasted from Dammann Frerés as well. I can’t recall disliking any of the teas that I tried of theirs a couple of years ago. Very good tea.

One thing that stands out in my mind about Harney & Sons: they don’t sell cheap tea (well, two: I love their tins).

Dammann Frerés? I believe I’ve heard of them … I just glanced at their website (in English). Very stylish-looking website. Maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see any way to convert the prices from Euros (I think that’s what this symbol means: € ) to USD . I just noticed how their name/logo at the top of every page appears as though it is reflecting light! Very cool.

Dinosara said

SimpliciTEA… They’re a French company that I got tea from when I was in Paris, and I have loved every tea I’ve had from them. So much so that eventually I will bite the bullet and make an order from them even though shipping will be expensive.

Glad to hear you found such a great company. And I believe you’ve do lots of traveling (with the associated belief that you have probably visited lots of different tea retailers), so they must be good!

Ian said

@SimpliciTEA: Dammann is European so the prices are in Euros but as far as I’m aware they do ship to America. I’m pretty sure that you pay with Paypal (I went through and did a fake order to see if I could pay with American money) and they do let you use American credit cards, so you can order. I’m saving my money for a pretty large order (http://www.boutique-dammann.fr/front/page.php?action=fiche_produit&id=514&p=515&ls=1, it’s somewhat ridiculous to be honest but everything looks sooo good!)and the shipping is free even to America, so there obviously is a limit to where you can recieve free shipping. The teas all have really high ratings and I’ve heard that they are what help some people have faith in flavored teas, so needless to say I’m excited!

momo said

The shipping on there isn’t too bad. I put in 300g of tea and it’s 10 euros. With 400, it’s 12. Exchange rate isn’t too bad right now (about $1 to 1.26 euros) and I’ve been wanting to get a couple of these for awhile now. I think it could only get more favorable for us over here!

Ian: Oh my, that IS a nice little ‘chest’ of teas! Free shipping from Europe to the US? Woo, hoo! I hope you enjoy those teas!

Amanda: The Euro is stronger than the US dollar right now? Wow, I thought it was the reverse just a few months ago. Now that I think about what’s going on over there, I think I know why. I agree, that’s not a bad price for shipping from Europe to the US. It’s scary how dramatically currency fluctuations can change the ‘price’ of things.

momo said

The Euro’s been stronger for several years but it’s started to fall compared to the dollar. When I was over there last May, it was about $1 to 1.40 euros so I consider 1.26 favorable, though I’m waiting to see if it gets even lower with Spain needing a bailout.

Dinosara said

I can hope it just keeps going down because I am hoping to make a sizeable order from them this fall!

SimplyJenW said

I placed a small order yesterday at Dammann. You know me and my recent bad luck with ordering across that pond….. I went small for a lower risk this time around. I will let you know how it goes, and my order has all ready shipped. The lower price of the tea from them compared to vendors in the States (like Illy or Sur la Table) plus their shipping more than covered the overseas shipping. I have 300 grams of tea coming for about $40 total. Mostly Gout Russe. ;)

Yes, let us know how it goes. That sounds like a great price for 300 grams.

Pond. That cracks me up.

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For me Verdant and Teavivre are tops on my list. I’ve never had anything I didn’t like from either company! I also like Teas, Etc. – great customer service there too. I’ve also found DavidsTeas to be good and with great customer service…they once helped me with an order issue via Twitter! That is some top notch service there. :)

Teas, Etc.? Never heard of them before … Their prices look reasonable. Just watched the About Teas Etc video. I loved seeing all of that tea in their warehouse! And I really like seeing all the staff working behind the scenes. Awesome video! Knowing the history of a company—how they got their start—and why they do what they do makes doing business with them more meaningful (for me, at least). Whoever produced that video clearly knows what they’re doing. I highly recommend watching it! I wish other tea retailer would produce something of the sort.

Here’s the link to the video http://www.teasetc.com/video.asp?id=100&t=About-Teas-Etc

They really only go after the best teas at Teas, Etc. I’ve met Beth, her husband, and her son. All great tea people. You can tell tea is their passion. Sorry I forgot to post a link! Seriously give them a try.

I’m glad you had a chance to meet them. I ‘bookmark’ very few online tea retailers I come across, but I have these guys bookmarked.

Teas, Etc. are really excellent when it comes to customer service.

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Bonnie said

Verdant, Butiki, Teavivre

They do seem to be amongst the favorites!

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Ninavampi said

52teas is by far my most beloved. Shipping to Ecuador (and all over the world), excellent tea, outstanding service… Really, what more could you wish for! Unicorns maybe? But then again, who needs a Unicorn when you can be sipping 52teas Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish tea? :)

52Teas …. One of these days …

Can’t beat a stark-white mythical horse with a unique spiral horn that looks as though its fashioned out of pearl, now can you?

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish tea? Even the name makes me crave something fruity, creamy and buttery …

Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish is a favorite of mine too!

Ninavampi said

Yuuuum… Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish… I ordered a entire pound!

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