Mid-Range Tea (Yes, it's come to this)
October 10, 2017 10:33 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend midrange tea - better than cheap teabags, not super-fancy specialty.

I'm boozing a bit less and drinking a bit more tea. I'm a bit bored after going through half a dozen boxes of Tazo tea. Can anyone recommend a good place to order some midrange tea - better than teabags from the grocery store, but not so good that I have to spend hours reading and it feels expensive? Herbal and caff.

I've gotten too particular about coffee, beer and wine and painted myself into an expensive corner with my preferences. I want better tea without turning this last unspoiled area of my palate into a ridiculous wasteland of expensive gadgets and poorly spent money.

Somehow, I imagined my 30s would be different.
posted by windowbr8r to Food & Drink (34 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
if you'd like to jump straight down a rabbit-hole, Adagio Tea is the way to go. You can nerd out as much as you please, but if you don't have the cycles to spare, their sample sets are an easy, low-commitment way to discover what you like. Not the highest high-end, but good quality. I greatly enjoyed the pu erh sampler; that Chorange Pu Erh, iced, in a lowball glass with a big fancy ice cube is my go-to choice when I want something cocktail-esque but alcohol-free.
posted by halation at 10:44 AM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've subscribed to the Amoda Tea monthly box for over a year now and I really like it. It's not too expensive, and while it's loose leaf they send you tea bags along with your tea. (The prices are in CAD!) Good selection too.
posted by capricorn at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I drink Republic of Tea British Breakfast in bulk. (Like 100 oz a day, minimum.) They have a wide variety of flavors available in a couple different amounts, including a sampler pod, that is like 6 tea bags.

Plus, if you order regularly, they have a member's points program that gets you discounts and such.

A++ Do recommend.
posted by RhysPenbras at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

The founder of Tazo (and Stash), went on to found Steven Smith Teamaker. I dunno if that qualifies as High-End mid grade or what, but its good tea and still comes in bags, rather than loose leaf
posted by Dr. Twist at 10:46 AM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Order some Murchie's Number 10. You won't be disappointed. Or you could try Harney & Sons' Paris tea, which is also yummy.
posted by brookeb at 10:52 AM on October 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

David's Tea makes great tea, isn't too expensive and the only equipment loose tea requires is a teapot.

But these days I find pretty good tea at high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods.
posted by GuyZero at 10:55 AM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Loose tea and empty paper tea bags, e.g., Finum's mug-sized ones, is probably the easiest way for you to explore better teas at low cost. Six bucks for 100 bags plus another 5-10 dollars for 250-500g tea.
posted by janell at 10:57 AM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Check out Teavana.

Also, I recently received a box of bagged PG Tips tea from England, and I have to say the quality compared to the American export version and most other bagged tea was startling.
posted by ananci at 10:57 AM on October 10, 2017

Wow, so this is why I love mefi. I got me some Adagio, will order more once I get a minute.

Thanks, hive mind!!!!
posted by windowbr8r at 10:58 AM on October 10, 2017

I also really like Republic of Tea. I buy their decaf ginger peach for making iced tea. I also like the Earl Greyer (Earl Grey with more bergamot).
posted by radioamy at 10:59 AM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure where you live, but Yorkshire and Yorkshire Gold are excellent black teas.
posted by Calzephyr at 11:29 AM on October 10, 2017 [6 favorites]

Yeah, I'm in the UK and I came here to say "Yorkshire." It's the finest of the teabags.
posted by Pallas Athena at 11:33 AM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

My wife loves Harney & Sons' Paris. I am perfectly happy with Costco's Earl Grey.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2017

I am a HUGE tea drinker and I am here to boldly claim that tea taste is 50% tea and 50% water. Once I started using distilled water, all my teas magically got better! You can get a gallon for under a dollar, which should make a week or two worth of tea.

If you have a Tea Source near you, these are some really incredible yet reasonably priced teas I have in my regular rotation: Moon Over Madagascar, Raspberry Beret, Minnesota Nice, Organic African Rooibos. They give out lots of samples, too.
posted by rada at 11:59 AM on October 10, 2017

Harney Tea. Great quality including on the basics, decent prices, and free shipping on any order.

You've probably figured this out already, but using loose tea instead of bags is the best way to get a good price on decent tea. If you don't have one already, I highly recommend a basket-style infuser (example).
posted by veery at 12:27 PM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Teapigs make nice caffeinated and herbals teas, nicer than Tazo but still in a tidy little bag. This is my surprise favorite.
posted by esoterrica at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2017

Ito en green tea, sold at Costco in boxes of 100, is some of the best green tea I've ever had.
posted by a certain Sysoi Pafnut'evich at 12:29 PM on October 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Adagio also has the Create a Blend feature, which should help to alleviate tea boredom. You can then either keep those blends private, or make them public, so others can order them.

I recently made one that's 70% Irish Breakfast, 30% Chai, and a rose petal accent, and it's delicious. (At the risk of running afoul of self-promotion, it's called 'Dwayne vs. Nazis, Morning Blend'.)
posted by spinifex23 at 12:36 PM on October 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

You want loose leaf tea. EVERYTHING we've had from Simpson & Vail tea is fantastic. (I drink herbal, my husband drinks caffeine.) My personal fave from them is the Earl Gray Rooibos and I just got into Green Rooibos.

Get a pack of tea satchels and a tea scoop. (Loose leaf is best in something like a small french press but I find that to be a pain to clean. I also find the mesh balls or plastic steepers let bits of leaf into the tea.)

IF you want walk into the store kind, then look for loose leaf satchel type tea. Harney and Sons is also really good. I truly miss their blueberry green. (I can't do caffeine anymore.) They usually sell it at Starbucks and coffee shops you can get it online.

(I literally have a teacup tattoo, my husband is picky about tea. Harney and Sons and Simpson & Vail tea are favorites around here.)
posted by Crystalinne at 12:38 PM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fortnum and Mason Royal Blend - yum! (Amazon or Williams Sonoma)

I really like Harney & Sons teas also.
posted by ApathyGirl at 12:40 PM on October 10, 2017

tea taste is 50% tea and 50% water.

For truth! I talked to a man who imports tea to the UK from China and Japan, and he says that no matter how fantastic something tastes over there, he never bulk-orders it till he can take a sample home and brew it with London water.

I use a Brita filter jug, which in London is the only way to keep your electric kettle from getting encrusted with limescale. If you live in a US city where the water is chlorinated, then distilled may be the way to go.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:15 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sloan Heavenly Cream Tea (Earl Grey) is divine, especially with cream and sugar. I don't even like the flavour of Earl Grey and I love it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:54 PM on October 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

Another PG Tips fan/addict/victim here. Fucking delicious. And make sure that you are making your tea correctly: pour boiling water over the tea, steep ~4 minutes, remove teabag. I like loose-leaf when I'm not at work but damn if PG Tips isn't the all-around best standard tea.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:55 PM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

Strongly seconding Steven Smith Teamaker, especially their No. 55 Lord Bergamot. A nice, not-too-astringent but flavo[u]rsome Earl Grey. (Price tip: IME less than $10 per box of 15 sachets is a good price; you may have to look around for sales or particular online sellers.)

Mightly Leaf used to make the best chai tea bags--I went slightly nuts over them after having one of the most captivating chai lattes at a Tierra Mia cafe in California. Maybe it's just me but it hasn't tasted the same since they redesigned their package.

Assuming you're in the US: Discount stores like Home Goods or Marshalls or TJ Maxx often have a tea section. I recently found a tin of loose-leaf Hediard teas (frou-frou!) for about $7-8 per 100g, which equates to the price of nice-ish loose leaf brands on Amazon. Glad I went for it, as it has become our current go-to for daily tea.

Also, if you want to add variety to your tea, there are DYI variations you can do with a basic black tea. For chai? Boil some spices (cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom) in water and brew your tea in the same pot. London fog? Add steamed milk and vanilla to Earl Grey.
Lots of mix-in options here--chocolate syrup, turmeric paste, honey...Because of the added flavors, you don't need fancy/quality teas for this.

Some unsolicited reframing, for more enjoyment and better tea: I used to feel that my tea habit was too spendy, but now I feel more that life is too short. On a per-cup basis, tea at home is one of the cheapest but loveliest fixes. Just enjoy the tea, and as long as you don't let it sit at the desk till it goes cold while you read the 4 gazillion tabs open on the browser as I do too often, it'll be worth it and money well spent. Tea isn't a hobby where you need a lab full of gadgets (unless you're going all in on tea ceremony traditions etc); really all you need is a teapot and mug. And you're boozing less? That frees up some funds for your teas, yay! Enjoy the better tea!
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 4:15 PM on October 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

House of Tea - I've only bought in person but they have an online store. Someone needs to try the hairy crab tea.
posted by sepviva at 6:28 PM on October 10, 2017

Lots of good recommendations above.

To supplement them, for a good basic black tea, I'm a fan of Madura (which is Australian). The bagged version is just as good as the loose.

I'm also a fan of the New Mexico Tea Company, and you can do mail order from them. I really love their Black Jasmine Cream tea and their Black Cardamom tea.

For "supermarket" tea, Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Lemon Jasmine decaf green tea is really nice, as is the Sleepytime Classic.
posted by gudrun at 8:52 PM on October 10, 2017

Brown and Bigelow tea is a nice, basic tea that comes in a lot of flavors. My personal favorites are Lemon Lift, Cinnamon Stick, and Constant Comment.

Stash tea is also nice.

I nth the recommendation for both the Republic of Tea and for Murchie's - their Lemon Spice, Maple Chai, and Rose Congou are awesome. Another wonderful place to get tea is Special Tea up in Victoria, BC, even if they do have the most dreadful website ever. You might have better luck calling them. (I like their Lemon Spice even better than Murchie's, which is saying something, and they also have an amazing assortment of green tea - and their Vanilla and Raspberry teas are delicious. But their website is so awful, it defies description).
posted by dancing_angel at 9:22 PM on October 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Steven Smith Teas has sampler boxes I can happily recommend. The sampler contents change from year to year, but they always include some black teas, green teas, and herbals. Each bag is good for a standard pot. Our household has one dedicated tea drinker and one dedicated coffee drinker, but we both really love these teas.

If you find yourself drawn to particular Indian or Chinese varieties, you can usually them in bulk from respective ethnic groceries. Boxes of loose Assam tea are incredibly cheap at Indian groceries (three or four dollars a pound at the low end, not much more for better), and while the incredible variety of Chinese teas range from commodity to curatorial grades, basic Jasmine, Oolong, or Gunpowder teas that are fine for daily drinking are available for a fraction of the cost of Liptons, too; and if you can budget the cost of drinking Tazo daily you can afford the better-grade teas that are sold at Chinese tea shops.
posted by ardgedee at 4:04 AM on October 11, 2017

Seconding Harney & Sons. The quality is good enough to taste the difference, and they come in a variety of loose leaf or tea bags.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:47 AM on October 11, 2017

Zhena's is nice for the mid-range budget. A step up from what you get in the grocery store but won't break the bank. Bonus points that they are organic, fair trade, and sustainable.
posted by donut_princess at 1:53 PM on October 11, 2017

Nthing Harney & Sons as well. I stayed at a friend's house this summer and tried their English breakfast tea and immediately ordered it for home. Just mellow and delicious. I then ordered an assortment of their teas, and my favorites so far are Paris, Chai and Earl Grey Supreme. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them.

I also second PG tips, but only the UK version. I couldn't believe how big the difference was - the US ones are full of dust and actually give me a headache. One of my dearest friends travels to London frequently and brings me back the UK version, which is truly the best "grocery store" tea.

Oh, speaking of grocery store tea - I am a freak who doesn't really enjoy fruit teas and only a few herbals, but I really like Twinings' Lemon and Ginger.
posted by widdershins at 2:41 PM on October 11, 2017

Are you in the U.S.? I'm American and have been drinking Clipper tea for the last six or so years. It's pretty inexpensive stuff in the U.K., and an ever-increasing number of shops in the U.S. are carrying their different teas. I absolutely love their green-box "Big Rich Blend Everyday Tea." I buy huge boxes every time I'm in England for just a few bucks each, but I've also ordered them from Amazon before (although that shipment took a good month to arrive).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 6:29 PM on October 11, 2017

PG Tips.

Also, if you're in a large city, there's a shop somewhere that sells loose leaf, and something in there will be solid.

(I'm in Seattle, and World Spice Merchants has some tasty stuff that's not expensive.)
posted by talldean at 12:59 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Nthing Harney and Sons. Good tea at excellent prices!
posted by cnc at 11:33 AM on October 31, 2017

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