The quest for the best tea everr
February 15, 2010 12:00 AM   Subscribe

Help me find the best tea ever! So as a new found lover of tea I am finding that the online tea world has an almost infinite selection. Quickly I am becoming lost in the myriad of options in my quest to find new great tea. So metafites suggest the greatest, the most unique, and the tastiest tea you know of. Bonus points if I can find it online. Double bonus points for direct links.

Looked through the archives and previous tea questions were too specific for what I am looking for. I want any and all teas. Any tea combinations. Tea with additives. Anything at all.
posted by newtux to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Find a "genre" you like- Green? Black? I really love "floral" teas- Jasmine, Darjeeling etc., so I'm always on the hunt for a nice blend or some kind of unique, high quality version of those. I could drink them all day.
posted by GilloD at 12:05 AM on February 15, 2010

Mint tea mixed with hot cocoa taste surprisingly like girl scout thin mints.

In 2002 a friend of mine got into a tea kick that lasted maybe a month but was quite vocal. Still receiving tea as gifts to this day. So just make sure friends and family know.
posted by beardlace at 12:10 AM on February 15, 2010

Everyone likes something different.. So I would advise you to go to a site like and order some small amounts of everything -- you can usually get 2oz tins for not much $.

My personal favorite is Da Hong Pao (oolong tea). If you want something odd try Lapsang Souchong.
posted by jockc at 12:21 AM on February 15, 2010

I'm not terribly knowledgeable, but for slightly sweet and refreshing tea, I like the following Clippers tea: Green tea with mint, White with peppermint, and White with vanilla.

I'm also obsessed with the readily available Lady Grey blend from Twinings. It's Earl Grey plus delicious orange and lemon.
posted by acidic at 12:23 AM on February 15, 2010

My favorite right at this moment is Townshend's vanilla spice chai (and to be honest, it's been my favorite for the past year or so since I tried it). I add a little milk and a spoonful of brown sugar. I really like Townshend's (excellent prices, nice selection, good descriptions on their site)--my best friend lives in Oregon and got me totally hooked on this store.

I agree that you have to just experiment until you find a type of tea that you like (for instance, I know I don't really like herbal teas because I'm allergic to a few of the super common bases for herbal teas, but I loooove black teas, a lot of chai varieties, and some fruit-based teas). (P.S. as a general recommendation, avoid the store Teavana; their prices are ABSURD and they work on a stupid corporate upselling business model, and I had such a terrible experience there that I go out of my way to recommend that people not shop there.)
posted by so_gracefully at 12:34 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you are gonna go with lapsang souchong, I suggest imperial grade (at least that's what it is called at Upton tea imports). The smokiness is less harsh and enhances the base tea flavor, compared to the headache inducing brashness of cheaper lapsang souchong. I believe "imperial grade" is what is usually consumed within china, rather than the harsh export variety. I found imperial grade really delightful, but the cheaper kind undrinkable.

I'm new to Puerh, but I immediately loved the warm earthiness. Pick up some samples if you can. From what I understand, you really want to get a benchmark taste for puerhs before you start buying expensive ones.

If you are more into the lighter side of teas, some high quality darjeeling is good (Upton has tons of single estate darjeelings), and do try japanese green tea- Denstea has a 3 dollar sampler with free shipping, which is refunded after your first order. They also just introduced their seasonal flavor- a sakura green tea which everyone raves about. Another green I've heard great things about is this Kagoshima Sencha Sae Midori from ocha.

Another popular tea is Tie Guan Yin King. I haven't had it yet but I'm waiting for my sample to arrive.

I basically plumbed the depths of teachat to find out what people generally liked, and purchased samples if possible.
posted by maishuno at 1:16 AM on February 15, 2010

Seconding pu-erh, but try to get the "raw" stuff; it's better than the cooked. Be warned: I love pu-erh, but it's not for everyone, the most common complaint is "muddy water".

I loooo-oooove Jin-shuen Oolong tea - it has a beautiful floral flavour (though some argue because of that it's not really a traditional oolong).

I also adore a Darjeeling FGTFOP1 (grading explanation here), good quality first flush is a delight.

Honestly, my best advice is - if you can - go to a good teahouse or tea shop in your city; they will let you taste some teas, teach your amazing levels of knowledge, and make some recommendations based on what you like. Even if you only buy one bag, you will come away equipped with some more more insight into your own taste and inclinations, and knowledge of how tea is made, why, and how much it should cost.

Btw, a proper teahouse/shop is almost guaranteed to be run by Asians, usually Taiwanese or southern Chinese. It will not be part of a chain of more than four/five stores, and will not have some dodgy, cutesy name (e.g in Australia, we have "T2", people who only dabble in tea will shop there. They pay dearly for that decision. The tea is okay - maybe a B to B+, but horrendously overpriced and the staff don't know shit [they sure think they do, though]). Most stores that sell Indian (Darjeeling, Ceylon, etc), Japanese (Sencha, Genmaicha, etc) and Chinese (Oolong, Pu-erh, green tea, white tea) all together will either:

a) not be very good/knowledgeable
b) not be very well stocked
c) not be very good value

Specialist stores for specialist products. In general, of course - there are exceptions to every rule, but I think what you need here is knowledge more than product, and a specialist store is miles ahead.
posted by smoke at 1:41 AM on February 15, 2010

[I'm assuming you're in America.] I recently went to China and discovered that they find the tea we drink in the states laughable. Apparently it is the "leftover crumbs" of serious tea drinking countries thrown in a little tea bag and holds very little health benefits. I'm not sure if by "the best tea ever" you mean good for you or good tasting, but while I was traveling China I drank a lot of jasmine tea, which is a green tea, because it was floral tasting and smelling and was waaaay fresher than what I'm used to. I learned that the tea in Europe and the states is old, stale and of poor quality. Good tea is supposed to cost more than normal and it doesn't come in a tea bag. That's just my two cents. Maybe they took me for a ride but based on their reverence for tea there, I doubt it. I brought some back with me and am happily working my way through it and will probably never drink "regular" tea again. Just my two cents.
posted by smeater44 at 2:02 AM on February 15, 2010

My dad is a serious tea drinker and he orders a lot of tea from Lupicia, the USA online shop of which is here. In particular, they have an excellent range of good Japanese teas. A really nice, pretty much entry-level Japanese green tea that I can vouch for is sencha "matsuri".
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:53 AM on February 15, 2010

My current favorite is Dong Ding Oolong (wikipedia link).
posted by wongcorgi at 3:33 AM on February 15, 2010

Hot Yorkshire Tea is it
posted by evil_esto at 3:47 AM on February 15, 2010

Dont take my word for it
posted by evil_esto at 3:49 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I got some blossoming tea from Pearl River (on this page) for my hubby for Christmas. We've been drinking them for awhile now and they're sort of completely amazing.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:58 AM on February 15, 2010

Enthusiastically seconding Lupicia. Every flavor I've tried is gorgeous and I've never served it to guests without someone commenting on the general amazingness. I love their traditional greens. Their flavored tea is truly unique -- the muscat flavor is heavenly and must be tasted to be believed.
posted by mochapickle at 5:03 AM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It isn't 'proper tea' but Eleven O'Clock Rooibosch is well worth trying.

Also, Mr Scruff makes some nice tea.
posted by BinaryApe at 5:21 AM on February 15, 2010

One of the favorites here at Casa Q is Dragon Eye Oolong, which we discovered at PF Chang's a few years back. No one seemed to sell it though until relatively recently. For decaf evenings, just about any of the rooibos teas from Republic of Tea. If you want something a little more high-octane (and strictly speaking, it's not tea), I find yerba mate is a nice change of pace from coffee.
posted by jquinby at 5:40 AM on February 15, 2010

I have two current favourites:

1. Jasmine Dragon Tears (also known as Dragon Pearls)

This is a really calming tea with subtle, delicate flavours, and the aroma is fantastic. The pellets are also really cool to look at.

2. Gunpowder Tea

This is tea I drink when I want a kick in the pants, it's invigorating, and has a strong smoky flavour I find really interesting. It is likely so named because it looks like gunpowder pellets.

So, as you can see, I have a thing for pellet teas. But it's all about flavour!
posted by SNACKeR at 5:48 AM on February 15, 2010

Tea Pigs' peppermint tea is the freshest, most delicious mint tea I've ever drunk - it somehow actually tastes better than just mint leaves and hot water. I would recommend any of their teas (and they've got a very broad selection), but that's the best one.
posted by featherboa at 6:39 AM on February 15, 2010

Try genmaicha - green tea with kernels of toasted rice. The taste is pleasantly mild, with a uniquely starchy backbone. It's a versatile accompaniment to light meals.
posted by Iridic at 7:37 AM on February 15, 2010

Visit Tea Forte, wander the site, and order a sampler or two (this would be a good start). Try to get as wide a variety as possible. They have an enormous selection, and the infusers are quite elegant (style and substance!).

Another site to try is Tealuxe, where you can grab a Tealuxe Top Ten sampler.

posted by tzikeh at 7:37 AM on February 15, 2010

If you're going for a bunch of teas to try them out, try Porto Rico importing - they seem to have skipped out on the fancy-tea-trend and sell great teas of almost every sort, and in very adjustable quantities, and for very low prices.
posted by tmcw at 7:46 AM on February 15, 2010

Tried this when visiting and now buy it online regularly. Mild but good flavour.
posted by TheRaven at 8:14 AM on February 15, 2010


The only way to find out what tea you like is to try a lot of different kinds—real tea, not tea bags. If you're lucky enough to have a real tea store near you, it may have free samples; online stores offer cheap samples. Also try a Chinese (or other Asian) grocery store; it won't have free samples but it may have real tea, unlike most regular grocery stores.

I asked a question on where to get tea online; there are a number of good suggestions in that thread, but I liked Upton Tea Imports.
posted by k. at 8:22 AM on February 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Another thing that might help you find out about tea is to organize it in your mind by region and style, and try examples of each: Indian (Assam, Darjeeling, Nilgiri, etc.), Ceylon, Chinese black (Yunnan, Keemun...), Chinese oolongs (tieguanyin, dahongpao...), Chinese green, Taiwanese oolongs, Japanese green (sencha, genmaicha, gyokuro...), etc.

It might take a while to figure out what's what, but it tastes good anyway. Here's an outline of tea types that could get you get started.
posted by k. at 8:32 AM on February 15, 2010

Rooibos Provence is amazing. My house has instituted a ban on buying more tea until we put a dent in what we have, and I have doubled my tea intake just so I can get more of this stuff. I don't usually like fruity tea, but goddamn:

"Rooibos blended with rosehip shells, lavender, raisins, dried black currants, dried red currants, dried blueberries, rose leaves and petals & natural flavors."
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:35 AM on February 15, 2010

Some more advice based on what I've read above:

1. Don't try pu-erh unless you're already a tea fiend. It's hard to get, it can be expensive, and the green kind takes years of aging before it tastes good. (I recently tried it for the first time and was unimpressed.)

2. Don't listen to what British people say about tea; they make tea almost as badly as Americans, even if they drink more of it. Tea only needs sugar and milk if it tastes bad to begin with. Chinese people have been making tea for millennia, so they know what they're doing.

3. Flavored tea (vanilla/fruit/mint/jasmine/etc.) is fine, but it won't help you figure out what different kinds of tea actually taste like (and usually the flavor covers up bad tea).

4. Rooibos ("red tea"), yerba mate, etc. are not tea; they come from totally different plants (but they're tasty anyway).

5. Many tea stores sell their tea under made-up names, which are at best loosely based on their real names. (For some reason this seems to apply more to Chinese tea than others, maybe because Chinese tea names sound ridiculous in English.) If you find a tea that you like, try to find out the real name so you can find it at other stores.
posted by k. at 9:03 AM on February 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Something that's nice in the evenings, and is totally different than most other teas is: Kukicha, or twig tea. It's low to zero caffeine. Not my normal go-to tea, but great to have around for chilly nights when I don't want caffeine.
posted by cschneid at 9:45 AM on February 15, 2010

What tea are you currently "loving?" That would help this question be more answerable than survey-like..
posted by rhizome at 9:46 AM on February 15, 2010

Upton Tea Imports is excellent; you can order online but you oughta sign up for their paper catalog too just because it's insane how lovingly devoted they are to tea and it really shows in the catalog. My personal faves are lapsang souchong, rooibos, russian caravan blends (and really most anything heavy on the assams), bond street blends, and white teas. Yum. Decent sugar for your tea also makes a huge difference--I recommend demerara and muscovado.
posted by ifjuly at 1:24 PM on February 15, 2010

Mariage Freres. Pricey but I'd recommend going for the loose tea in a tin, you'll get many cups out of it. You really can't go wrong, but I'm especially fond of the vanilla bourbon red tea. French Breakfast is a good black tea, Marco Polo has some citrus in it.. Basically every kind is top quality. I've tried blended teas from a lot of places and sometimes the blends sound nice, in theory, but when you actually taste them.. it's disappointing. From this place they're all good. I know, I sound like such an evangelist here, but honestly.. visit the shop in Paris if you're ever there, it's wonderful - going to the tea room itself might be costly but you can simply buy loose tea at the counter and they've got many many more varieties than are available in the US.

Friends of mine who like a strong basic cup swear by PG Tips English tea.
posted by citron at 1:39 PM on February 15, 2010

Argo Tea's Earl Grey Crème. ZOMG best tea ever. Earl Grey that's all vanilla creamy tasting without adding any cream. Plus, it's got whole bergamot petals in it that are all pretty and purple-y. I use it for tea, I use it in shortbread cookies, and I use it to flavor vodka (mmm Earl Grey Crème n' Tonic).
posted by IWoudDie4U at 2:16 PM on February 15, 2010

I am of the opinion that Taiwanese Oolong is the rockstar of the Oolong world. I buy mine locally, but you can order from for a very honest, down home supplier-type experience. If you want to try a superior Taiwanese Oolong, try one from Alishan. Perhaps Shi Zuo Oolong Tea.

You might want to do as others have said and go to a local tea store/tea speciality cafe and get down and dirty with all the major different kinds (whites, greens, pu-erhs, oolongs, blacks) and decide which one you like best first. Then look more deeply into that particular type.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 5:44 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Tea Guys, in Hadley, MA, make some most excellent tea, and their online ordering is painless. What I really liked is that I could order a sample size that made a couple cups for $2.25. I ordered a bunch of samples, determined which flavors I wanted more of, and then placed a second order with the larger, more economical sizes of my favorites.
posted by spinturtle at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2010

It's not real high-end or anything, but Good Earth Original Sweet n Spicy tea is amazing. So rich and sweet.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:11 PM on February 15, 2010

Yunnan Gold at makes me happy. They have a pretty good selection of small sample size tins that will let you try a lot of different teas for relatively cheap.
posted by kattyann at 7:36 PM on February 15, 2010

Some good information and choices here in this thread. I find that if you can go to a tea shop that educates and lets you try small pots of tea that this helps immensely. I also like small shops so places like Postcard teas located in London are lovely. Can't stand chains with sub par leaves or ill educated staff.

Helpful thing to have is a temperature adjustable water kettle so you can brew your tea at the right temperature. Also, know the proper method of preparation for the tea being drunk e.g., pouring hot liquid in the pot and draining it or doing an initial pour of green tea to "wash" it.

There is little information on how to pair teas to meals or food which is a real pity. You find scads of information on wine and coffee pairings but very little on tea. Dornenburg's What to Drink with What You Eat was somewhat disappointing in this area.

With the information in this thread, you will have a good time finding out what pleasures are to be had with a handful of dried leaves.
posted by jadepearl at 1:40 AM on February 16, 2010

Go to upton tea and order some sampler packets. I'd also suggest the following as must-tastes to get your bearings:

* White teas (almost any)
* Pu-erh
* Lapsang Suchong
* Earl Grey (I hate it but I'm alone on that)
* Jasmine Pearls

I'd also try a Rooibos tea of some kind as it has a nice flavor even though it's not real tea.

This has been covered before. It's not likely you'll get any new answers.
posted by chairface at 3:16 PM on February 16, 2010

At every restaurant where I've been a chef, by my insistence, we've used Rishi.

They are awesome.

In my opinion, if you want interesting, you should try Pu-erh and Lapsang Souchong.
posted by kaiseki at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2010

« Older What guitar is Charlie Bereal playing?   |   Are the Florida Keys decent for college spring... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.