Novice Tea Buyer
For the past few years, I have been a steady drinker of Twinings, etc. About a month ago, I received a gift package of loose leaf tea from Teavana, and I am fallen even more in love with tea than I already was.
Here’s my question: Where should I buy loose leaf tea online? There are a few options at my grocery store, but I wanted to know what online retailers I should visit.
Many people seem to have negative feelings towards the major tea retailers, so what do you all recommend? I should add that my tastes are not overly refined and price is a factor.
Thank you all.
I’m a pretty big fan of DAVID’s Tea, though I’m starting to branch out a bit. They got a pretty good variety and a lot of people seem to start out there. If you liked Teavana then you’ll probably like DAVID’s as well.
Try adagio.com or harney.com for their vast array of inexpensive samples. Both have good flavored and unflavored tea and are a good place to branch out before investing more in tea. Also, try checking out the stash sales thread on Steepster. Is there a type of tea you really want to try? I could send you some small samples.
In my opinion, Upton Tea Imports is the best place to start. They have such a huge assortment of teas from almost all tea growing regions, and options in every price range. They offer samples for reasonable prices and have some of the best customer service around. I can’t think of a more well-rounded place to start.
i echo this – especially if you want to try a bunch of straight teas. Samples are generous and relatively inexpensive
I started with Upton and highly recommend them. I’m still in the novice stage myself and happily drinking my way through the world of tea.
I started with Adagio, and felt like their inexpensive samples really helped me get a good sense of what I like.
Keep an you on the stash sales, and swap threads, and keep an eye out for traveling tea boxes (TTB’s) as you build up a bit of a stash. The stash sales are a great place to get tea cheap and/or try a sample of teas from companies that don’t normally sell samples. Swaps are also a great way to sample teas, but you need to have tea to trade. The TTB’s are a great way to try lots of different teas (I usually try at least a couple dozen things from any box I participate in), but you need to replace the same amount of tea you take for most of them, and have consistent activity on steepster,so you should probably wait about six months if you’re interested in that. For swaps and tea boxes it also helps to fill out your profile as you figure out what you like, and write some tasting notes and/or stock your cupboard and wishlist so people see that you are active and get an idea of what you like and have.
Teavana is in my opinion a seller of mixed quality teas. They have some that are really good and some that are not. There are a lot of good online sources of tea. I would recommend Davids, Mandala, Lupica, Yunomi, Yunnan Sourcing, and Berylleb King Tea on EBay. While Yunnan Sourcing is known for puerh they also have an excellent selection of black, white and green tea. Also, do an online search to see if you have any local non chain stores around. They often do a better job than Teavana simply because they aren’t buying in such quantity. Teavana has to buy in such quantity that their quality often suffers.
Agree with what everyone said and adding some info. Adagio is where many people seem to start because they have a large selection and sell samples. I started with Upton, and they are terrific. I got a number of samplers in small tins: Oolongs, Earl Greys, Breakfast Teas, etc. and I still have many of these. Harney & Sons is high quality with a large selection and sells samples of pretty much all their teas in a generous size. American Tea Room is also high quality with a large selection and also sells generous samples. If you want to try some Japanese green teas in sample sizes, Den’s Tea sells an inexpensive sampler of Japanese greens. Lupicia has really interesting flavored Japanese green teas, but that isn’t all they sell. They also have a large selection. There are a ton of options and it can be overwhelming. I’d start with one or two of these options and as you discover what you like you can start to branch out into the more specialized merchants.
I should add one more suggestion that has totally changed the way I buy tea. As you continue your journey into the world of tea, try to find retailers that list the production year and season of the products they sell. This matters more with some teas than others, but once you have tried a Darjeeling or a 1st Flush Sencha that was picked just a few months before it will set a standard for all other teas you buy. Teabox.com for Indian teas and Hibiki-An.com for Japanese are just a couple a couple of coupanies that take freshness very seriously.
My biggest piece of advice is not to buy much initially. Your tastes will change rapidly.