Tea Me
January 29, 2018 9:33 AM   Subscribe

A/V cables : Monoprice.com :: Tea : ___________

Over the last five or six months, I've gotten to the point where hot tea is my principle beverage. I drink 8-10 cups a day. I've learned to love loose leaf tea from brands like Tea Forte and found some bagged brands that are pretty good, too (like Tea of Life). To this point, I've been buying tea from discount stores like TJ Maxx and HomeGoods, as they usually have some decent stuff around that has been heavily marked down.

But lately I've been striking out. It occurs to me that there must be somewhere online that in-the-know people find nice teas for low prices, kind of like how people who need A/V cables can get what would be $15-20 cables for $2-6 on Monoprice. What is that site?

I'll also take recs for lower priced but tasty brands. I'm not a very sophisticated drinker at this point. I like stuff with dark berry or stone fruit flavors. Spiced teas are good. I seem to have a kind of meh reaction to rooibos teas.
posted by DirtyOldTown to Food & Drink (32 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Rule 1: tea taste is hugely dependent on the water. If you are looking to improve the taste and save money, water is your biggest upgrade. I buy distilled water for about 80 cents per gallon and it lasts me a week (I drink 4-5 cups of tea per day).

Rule 2: most teas are much cheaper in bulk than in tins or tea bags. I buy 1 lbs bags from Tea Source and my favorites are Moon Over Madagascar, Minnesota Nice, Raspberry Beret.

Rule 3: "exotic" teas are better if you buy them as bulk herb rather than tea. I buy nettle and hibiscus that way (the former is super rich in iron and the latter is super high in antioxidants) for less than half what it would cost in a tea format, for exact same product.

Remember that tea is dried or cured herbs, TJ Max and Home Goods will always have tea that is safe for consumption but so dried out that it's really not drinkable to a tea lover.
posted by rada at 9:49 AM on January 29, 2018 [8 favorites]

I couldn't tell you if it's cheap compared to others, but David's Tea seems to have a lot to choose from.
posted by briank at 10:14 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've found Adagio Tea to be solidly tasty and affordable.

But -- and I don't know if this fits your definition of "affordable" -- my all-time favorite tea shop is one that I recommend whenever I see a tea-related question on AskMe: McNulty's in NYC. You can order online, though of course it's not the same thing as walking into the wonderful, 125-year-old store with its giant glass jars and incredible aromas. But I can vouch for their excellent loose-leaf teas.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:16 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I buy my everyday tea in bulk from Republic of Tea. I've been contemplating signing up for their subscription tea service just so I never run out.
posted by RhysPenbras at 10:21 AM on January 29, 2018

Perhaps not to the Monoprice level, but Upton Teas are inexpensive (in general -- you can spend quite a bit on the rarer teas there if you want) and pretty good. The English Tea Store has a house line that's pretty good, and a nice assortment of English and American blends. The more frou-frou places (like David's or Harney&Son or Stash or Adagio), while good and having good selections, tend to be more expensive.

FWIW, distilled water is a bit overkill. The chlorine in city water is what kills/weirds tea flavor, so using 'spring water' (even cheaper than distilled water), is just fine. (I use tap water, but we have a well.)
posted by jlkr at 10:22 AM on January 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

If you want cheap, decent tea bags, I'd go with Stash. They have plenty of berry flavors, and you can order in bulk or samplers (for instance, for instance) for an end price of 15-20 cents per bag.

If you don't mind investing in the equipment to brew looseleaf tea, that's definitely the best way to get higher quality for a lower price. I've personally found this tea infuser to be simple and convenient for one-cup brewing, but any teapot will do you.
posted by ourobouros at 10:25 AM on January 29, 2018

The best discount places for no-nonsense loose tea that you can drink all day and not feel precious about about are brick-and-mortar "international" groceries. You'll find fruit-infused varieties at a Russian or eastern European grocery at around $10 for 250g.

Otherwise, Upton or Simpson & Vail.
posted by holgate at 10:28 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Seconding Upton tea. I browse their slightly funky site looking for popular lower cost teas, pretty much can't go wrong with any. As for volume, a sparkly clean thermos filled with tea steeped quickly in a pan works quite well for the day.
posted by sammyo at 10:29 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jewel Staite, in addition to being an actress still, is also one of the co-founders of Tearunners, a tea subscription service. It's like $25 per month for 4 specially-selected teas.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been loving Vahdam Tea lately, myself. Their pitch is that they do direct producer-to-consumer vacuum-packed sourcing, so in theory they're able to provide top-notch Indian tea for a much better price than routes involving intermediaries.

I can't speak to all that myself, but I can say they're excellent teas (start with the sampler, I'd suggest) and at a better price than I'd expect for them.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:42 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure how it compares to your pricing needs, but I do mail order of teas from New Mexico Tea Company and I have been very happy with a number of their flavored black teas; their cardamom black tea is wonderful.

Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company carries a number of teas. I'm partial to the Ahmad brand flavored bagged teas (their regular black teas are kind of meh but I love their teas like strawberry, mango, and apricot) and also the Eastern Shore Tea Company flavored teas. Twinings Mixed Berry Black Tea bags are tasty, and if you can't find it locally them Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company has it.

I use this tea infuser/filter for one cup brewing of loose tea.
posted by gudrun at 10:48 AM on January 29, 2018

Your local co-op will probably have bulk tea. That way you can try and sample until you get exactly what you like. A lot of bigger grocery stores do this too now. When you see the prices on the containers they will be exorbitant, but those are for a pound of tea. You'll be getting like a half ounce at a time. You want to get a FINE MESH strainer that sits in the mug like so. Personally I like ones that have something that go in the strainer in afterward for mess purposes. A lot of the time you can find them at TJ Maxx or the grocery store.
posted by Bistyfrass at 10:52 AM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've sampled tea from almost every source mentioned in this thread so far, but when it comes to quality tea at a decent price, I have yet to find anything superior to Harney & Sons. I also have a thing for berry-flavored black teas, and their Passion Fruit rendition is the best I've ever tried, it's my desert-island brew, no question. I buy it by the pound, and here again H&S is pretty much on the inexpensive end of the price scale, but you'd never know it by the sheer quality of their product.
posted by dbiedny at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

Nthing Upton Tea. I've really liked everything I've gotten there.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 11:13 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I find tea table to be a reasonable intersection of price and quality (though I am primarily an oolong drinker, so YMMV):

posted by sazerac at 11:14 AM on January 29, 2018

I don’t know what you think is “lower price” but I’ve always had success with Mariage Freres teas. They’re about $20 a tin, or were when I was last buying them. The teas are always intense, so a little goes a long way. Marco Polo, Eros, and Darjeeling Master were favorites.

You get what you pay for.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Starwest Botanicals has a somewhat small selection, but their price cannot be beat. I usually stick with black teas, but I love the moroccan mint green tea as well.
posted by Dmenet at 11:57 AM on January 29, 2018

Came in here to say Harney & Sons, as noted by a few above. They're not cheap, but the teas are so good. I've also honestly never been disappointed by Pickwick, which is just a ubiquitous grocery store brand but I've loved their orange-flavored black tea since I was a wee sldownard in the college dorms.

And if you're meh on rooiboos -- have you tried putting just a little sweetener in? I feel like plain rooiboos tastes like funky water, but with just a little splenda in it turns it into a delicious drink I could down by the gallon. Same for most Celestial Seasonings teas, honestly. It's like the flavor just doesn't really exist until there's a bit of sweet to make it pop. (Celestial Seasonings' blueberry tea is fab, by the way.)
posted by sldownard at 12:26 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm also a big Upton fan. They also send other samples along with an order, which can be a delightful surprise at times.

Here's also a story that I like to tell about Upton that feeds into their quality. Back in the 80s, in Massachusetts, there was a guy named George Howell who ran a successful chain of coffee shops called The Coffee Connection. Before Third Wave, single-estate coffee was a thing, Howell had developed a reputation for really good sourcing of coffee beans and teas and he also pioneered the notion of doing lighter roasts at a time when it was all Peet's and Starbucks dark roasts. Anyway, when Starbucks wanted to move into New England, rather than compete directly against Howell, they just wrote him a really huge check and asked him to step out of the game for 10 years.

Howell took the check and he sold his tea business to Upton. So Upton is basically the connoisseur continuation of Coffee Connection, unencumbered with the retail expenses of maintaining brick and mortar stores and just running a thriving mail order business. They've inherited all of these painstakingly cultivated supplier relationships and built on that over the last 15 years. They're awesome.
posted by bl1nk at 12:33 PM on January 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I asked pretty much this same question a few months ago, and I am happy to see some different answers here, so you will see several more sources in my older question.

Although honestly, the best advice from that question was to buy in bulk from one of Seattle's many Indian or Chinese grocery stores. Which is what I have been doing.
posted by seasparrow at 1:13 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Nthing Harney & Son's. Excellent tea, at prices that are way more reasonable than Teavana, for instance.
posted by onecircleaday at 1:23 PM on January 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another big Upton fan here!
posted by peacheater at 1:38 PM on January 29, 2018

I know you said online, but you really should go to your local Asian grocery store.
posted by gregr at 1:46 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

seconding any local asian or international markets. I generally find lots of bulk options under $10 there.
posted by zsh2v1 at 2:13 PM on January 29, 2018

I order almost all my tea through Simpson and Vail. I only drink herbal as I can't do caffeine but my husband drinks lots of black teas. We haven't had a bad tea yet, there have been a couple that I personally haven't liked but not because they were bad quality. I get a pound of my favorite teas which makes them about $1.40 an ounce. I put mine in some hinge top jars and use tea satchels. Harney and Sons is also good.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:00 PM on January 29, 2018

I find that buying from bulk international stores can be disappointing. YMMV but you get what you pay for and I'm used to finding teas with large quantities of non-tea leaf vegetable matter mixed in (stems and sticks usually)
posted by Dmenet at 3:11 PM on January 29, 2018

Seconding TeaSource and Adagio, but my very favorite is Uptown (Not Upton) Tea. Newly online, great tea. I especially like the French Breakfast and Heavenly Hazelnut.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:15 PM on January 29, 2018

Thanks to a comment in another thread, I went to an Indian grocer and spent $8 on a bag of loose black CTC tea. (thank you soren_lorensen). The bag is the size of my head, I have enough to give away jam jars of it as samples to my friends, and it was instantly and obviously better than other teas I've had. Possibly a bit high in caffeine, but if you're drinking 8-10 cups a day you're already playing the caffeine game. It is plain black tea, not flavored. Worth a look, for sure.
posted by Vatnesine at 7:32 PM on January 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

My default cheap tea source is Prestogeorge. They're local to me, but they do ship, and their teas are both tasty and almost unbelievably cheap. I've spent a lot of money at Adagio, David's Teas, and T2, but Prestogeorge is less expensive than any of them, and, in my experience, is as good if not better than anything from Adagio and David's. (I'd rank T2 as better than any of them, but also the most expensive, so it's a rare treat.)

Their website is hilariously dated, but it does work, and most of their black teas are less than $5/4 oz. I love them.
posted by mishafletch at 7:36 PM on January 29, 2018

I'd second those above who say that tea at international groceries (particularly east-Asian; I haven't tried the teas from my local Indian or European groceries) can be very hit-or-miss, both on initial quality and age. In my experience, most of the Asian market black tea is cheap and harsh, and the stuff they label as Dragon Well isn't, but that they tend to have decent quality comparison to mid-range greens and that I've been happy with the jasmine and gunpowder teas I've gotten there (a particular workhorse green tea is Temple of Heaven gunpowder, which comes in dirt-cheap iconic green boxes).
posted by jackbishop at 6:05 AM on January 30, 2018

Nthing Harney and Sons. Their prices and teas are excellent. I love their Paris, Caribe and Midsummer's Peach black teas.
posted by cnc at 11:13 AM on January 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

I came to recommend TeaSource, too! Sounds like you would love red berries.
posted by MrBobinski at 5:29 PM on February 1, 2018

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