Perfectly good Chinese tea for less-than-"gourmet" prices
December 8, 2021 8:05 AM   Subscribe

Looking for loose-leaf tea in Chinese styles, but for less money than "gourmet" tea shops like Adagio.

For Japanese tea, my go-to is Maeda-en, who have a perfectly nice sencha for about $1.20 an ounce—nothing fancy, no exotic tasting notes or anything, but it has a good rich taste and aroma and is definitely a sencha. And by comparison, the cheapest sencha at MeFi Favorite Adagio Tea is $4 an ounce, so the Maeda-en is a good bargain too.

Well, now I'm looking for an everyday oolong, and sure enough Adagio sells a bunch of fancy ones but nothing cheap. And Maeda-en doesn't do oolong—they're a Japanese brand.

So who occupies the Maeda-en niche for China?

(I have access to anything you can retail mail-order from the US, to a local pan-Asian grocery, and to an H-Mart a few hours away that I sometimes do a big trip to.)
posted by nebulawindphone to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I mail order all of my loose leaf tea from The Tea Smith out of Omaha. They are cheaper than my local tea purveyor, Tea Source, but Tea Source has much more selection and unique varieties to try. It’s worth surfing both websites to see if they have what you’re looking for!
posted by Maarika at 8:16 AM on December 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm drinking this oolong as I type this.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 8:25 AM on December 8, 2021

Best answer: This thread from the Reddit Tea Community might give you some answers: Affordable loose leaf oolong?
posted by spinifex23 at 9:01 AM on December 8, 2021

Best answer: Upton Tea, which I found here, may be worth exploring: Link to Oolong teas from Upton.

They have a wide range of price points. In other styles of tea, I've found the second or third cheapest one pretty solid for my needs.
posted by bruinfan at 9:14 AM on December 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ten Ren oolong doesn’t go quite as low as $1.20, but I find it good.
posted by clew at 9:29 AM on December 8, 2021

I buy from Harney & Sons for most on my teas. Their Formosa Oolong is my "everyday" Oolong (though I mainly drink black tea). It's pretty roasted though if you're looking for a "green" Oolong. They have those too, but they're generally way more expensive.
posted by sevenless at 9:30 AM on December 8, 2021

I haven't had their Sencha specifically, but I like Mountain Rose Herbs' teas, especially the Assam. Their teas are inexpensive, but they do charge for shipping, so take that into account.
posted by cardamom at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2021

Personally, for a nice, every day inexpensive tea? I really like the Tao of Tea line. I consider it one of the better brands of tea that you can find in some grocery stores.

Here is a selection if their oolong, which you can order directly from them: Tao of Teas Oolong Tea. The prices may initially looks expensive, but their tins are 2 oz - which is a decent amount of tea.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:47 AM on December 8, 2021

My go-to tea place is Simpson and Vail is
They also have a rewards program so sign up for a free account because every time you order or write a review you get points for discounts on future orders. They have a great variety - I drink mostly herbal, my husband does mostly black tea - and their prices are fantastic and shipping is fast.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:48 AM on December 8, 2021

I like Chinese greens and tieguanyin-style oolongs, and I pretty much only shop at Upton (linked upthread). They have a variety of price points. I really like the fairly affordable se chung:
posted by liet at 12:53 PM on December 8, 2021

(realize I wasn’t clear in my post and don’t want to abuse the edit window — I meant I like Chinese green teas in addition to oolongs, eg lung ching. Upton’s selection is fine for those teas too. I don’t like Japanese green teas like sencha so I can’t speak to Upton’s selection there.)
posted by liet at 12:57 PM on December 8, 2021

My friend owns Little Red Cup. They only work with organic, Fair Trade cooperatively owned farms in China. Good stuff!
posted by Text TK at 5:47 PM on December 8, 2021

Hit up your local Chinese grocer, they'll have good oolong for cheap.
posted by bile and syntax at 9:18 AM on December 9, 2021

Are there no Chinese groceries in western Mass? There are dozens in Boston.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:26 PM on December 9, 2021

Response by poster: There absolutely are! (Well, pan-Asian rather than specifically Chinese.) But the tea offerings are many and confusing. I'm looking for a brand recommendation or tips on picking one, and I'm happy to pick it up at my local Asian grocery or mail-order it if they don't carry it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:59 AM on December 10, 2021

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