Help me find the loose tea of my dreams.
March 22, 2004 8:22 PM   Subscribe

What is your cup of tea?
Specifically, does anyone have any recommendations of loose teas.

I'm working my way through the various teas at the adagio and rishi on-line stores, but I'll bet the folks here know some others worth trying. I tend to prefer black over green, but both are interesting. (I've found that the loose stuff has a ton more flavor than tea bags, but perhaps there are exceptions worth trying?)
posted by milovoo to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You might try something that is first flush (first picking of the new leaves) sometime, if you find one priced reasonably. Maybe Darjeeling. Very nice.
/tea snobbery
posted by Shane at 8:37 PM on March 22, 2004

I like Ty-Phoo, and I find the bags about as good as the loose.
posted by nicwolff at 8:42 PM on March 22, 2004

Best answer: I vote for Dilmah. I'd love them even more if their site wasn't a pussy, unnavigable mess. They have a lovely range of teas from Sri Lanka, and a very heartwarming letter from the CEO in each box. Top marks for actual tea flavour, instead of dark bitter water made from the sweepings .
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:47 PM on March 22, 2004

I especially like a good oolong. Oolongs are basically between black and green.
posted by Utilitaritron at 8:49 PM on March 22, 2004

O, and I get nearly all my tea from Teasource, but I do it locally at their shop a few blocks from my house, so I can't vouch for their mail-order. Sorry.
posted by Utilitaritron at 8:51 PM on March 22, 2004

Yorkshire Gold. My absolute favorite. I only have a little left and I'm thinking of hiding it until I can get more.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:35 PM on March 22, 2004

I highly recommend Upton Tea Imports. They've got it all and their staff is frighteningly well informed. It's difficult to recommend one kind since they have so many wonderful teas.
posted by anathema at 9:38 PM on March 22, 2004

There's some good stuff at Murchies, although I suspect you need to pick with great care, as they've become something of a tourist attraction.

I tasted their Silver Tip, raw and dry. It had a stunning, delicate flavour. I'd love to have tried it brewed.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:44 PM on March 22, 2004

If you haven't tried it yet and you like green tea do yourself a favor and go for some white tea. But beware that it is quite an expensive habit - and hard to kick.
posted by FidelDonson at 12:58 AM on March 23, 2004

Best answer: While some might recommend Darjeelings, a tea that is sold as "Darjeeling" tends to be a blend of teas from that area. The world of Darjeeling is a wonderful complex one.

First, there are many, many, plantations or gardens in the area. A decent tea merchant should have some that are not blends but rather site specific.

Margaret's Hope always get a good rep and deservedly so.

If you clicked on the link, you might be a bit confused by the terminology. A quick primer.

Flush: Because of the Darjeeling locating (at the foot of the Himalayas) there is a limited season. There are three (possibly four, depending who you ask) distinct chronological distinctions.

First flush. The first picking and so the tea tends to be brash, arrogant and a bit lippy. But some like it as it is bold in its flavor. Not too complex but like a good drag queen, you can't help but pay attention to it. More of the floral overtones with this one.

In Between. This is a debated time with some maintaining it is not an actual categorization but rather more for marketing purposes. I think it is distinct enough to stand alone. The flavors start to deepen. View it as the tea just go it's heart broken for the first time. Not yet wise, but the innocence is gone. Floral not as strong and the first hints of the fruity body that is evident with the latter two flushes.

Second Flush. Fruity tones start to dominate and the floral aspect is definitely second fiddle at this point. Maturity has arrived and the complexities of Darjeelings start to become apparent. Color deepened with shades of gold showing. Middle age tea.

Autumnal. Golden years. Complex, fruity delightful color. I tend to think this flush is the best stand alone tea. Brew a cuppa, atke it ot the veranda and stare out on the landscape and remember the first time your heart got broken. The tea will save you from melancholy.

I tend to like Badamtam, Namring, Castleton and Jungpana but I believe that is is very hard to have a bad single garden Darjeeling. I also tend to favor the autumnals but a nice first flush is an always welcome change.

Of course, these teas will cost a bit more due to the hand rolling method as opposed to the evil, fiendish CTC method of preparation but not too much.

As you can see, I tend to focus on darjeelings but Ti Kwan Yi is a great oolong and also the best known. Some hate it, some love it but Lapsang souchong cannot be ignored for its distinctive aroma.

Good resources are Tea Table and Duncans. But there ate a ton out there. And this is a good book (but sadly out of print).

The best advice is to find a local tea merchant. Wonderful hands on resource.
posted by Dagobert at 1:42 AM on March 23, 2004

IMHO lapsang souchong is the king of teas. A high grade black tea with a smokey flavour, it is however an acquired taste. Always trying to convert people.
posted by arha at 5:34 AM on March 23, 2004

My everyday tea has become Keemun Fancy, though I've yet to try the Lion Mountain. Keemun has a little tartness, and is sweet though not as sweet as these links make it out to be. It does take well to sugaring, if that's your thing, but I like it as is.

I'm still searching for a green that really works for me. I like green tea, but have been disappointed with most of my selections.

You might enjoy playing with this tea selector [Java applet], which is fun, though limited to Peet's menu.
posted by majick at 6:09 AM on March 23, 2004

Of course, just realized that my Margaret's Hope was not hyperlikned above.

Here is the link.

Majick, how od you feel about oolongs? Might be a nice middle choice for you.
posted by Dagobert at 6:51 AM on March 23, 2004

Best answer: I'll second Adagio teas as a great source for online tea ordering. If you can get there in person, Murchies is great - try the CBC Blend. It's a blend of green and black tea, and has the smoothest, mellowest flavor of any black-based tea I've had. My favorite, by far.

From a store in NYC, Porto Rico Importing Co, I recently picked up some Golden Nepal, which is very tasty.
posted by skwm at 8:08 AM on March 23, 2004

Mayor Curley: If I'd known that a week ago.... Just met some people (FOAF) visiting Yorkshire from the Boston area. I'm sure I could have persuaded them to smuggle and post some your way.
posted by seanyboy at 8:23 AM on March 23, 2004

I like to put green cardamom seeds in Tetley loose tea. My wife, who is from India, like Taj Mahel tea bags, but it's too strong for me.
posted by goethean at 8:37 AM on March 23, 2004

Not really a tea by any definition, but I grew up on homemade Orange Spice Tea -- hot Tang and Cinnamon. Mmm mm, good!
posted by o2b at 9:16 AM on March 23, 2004

seanyboy, thanks for thinking of me. But, luckily, some is on the way in two months and I'll just make it with a little stretching. A friend of mine and I have a cross-Atlantic economy based on tea going west and maple syrup going east.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:59 AM on March 23, 2004

Best answer: Stash tea has a wonderful double bergamot Earl Grey. I used to order from them all the time. They also sell cheap (empty) loose tea bags for using loose tea at the office.

A neat trick my bf's mother recently taught me: Make a cup of green tea, then dip enough Earl Grey loose tea or a teabag in there just a few times. It only takes a little bit to give it the necessary flavor. Thus all the health of green tea with all the enjoyment of a regular cup. Yay.

Recently have also started getting into Dajeelings and oolongs for their mildness, though I also enjoy English/Scottish/Irish Breakfast mixes. Best cup I ever had was some odd blend of Ceylon black tea.
posted by onlyconnect at 10:02 AM on March 23, 2004

To expand on this question: does anyone have any recommendations specifically for organic teas?
posted by kickingtheground at 10:19 AM on March 23, 2004

Response by poster: Wow, what a great bunch of suggestions!

i_am_joe's_spleen - I thought you must be exaggerating about the Dilmah site, but, no, it's really quite bad, does look like good tea though.

arha - I have tried lapsang souchong, I can see the attraction, but it tastes a little too much like an old saddle to me. I like the smell, just not the taste.

Five fresh fish - murchies is quite interesting to explore, too. Tourist attraction? On the web, or in person?

and a great explanation Dagobert, thanks.

Keemun is my current favorite, so I'm going to try a few variants of that from some of these other dealers. Also with such interesting darjeeling links I might have to order a bunch of those too. (I also look for teas that can tolerate a little oversteeping, as I sometimes forget about it for an extra few minutes)

o2b- homemade Orange Spice Tea -- hot Tang and Cinnamon

I grew up on that too, only my mom called it "russian tea" which it certainly isn't.
I always thought it was just a north dakota thing. (are you from the midwest?)
posted by milovoo at 11:52 AM on March 23, 2004

Peet's Coffee & Tea has the second best Russian Caravan and an excellent Earl Grey (try the "real" one with lavender as opposed to the oil of bergamot. You cannot beat Russian Caravan by a campfire! The best Russian Caravan I've had is one I bought in bulk from a little cafe, Bean There, in San Francisco, their supplier spikes it with a little vanilla, very tasty.
posted by Woolcott'sKindredGal at 11:52 AM on March 23, 2004

Genmaicha (green tea with toasted rice) is one of my favorites . . . the smell alone is amazing!
posted by nyoki at 1:48 PM on March 23, 2004

Best answer: There's a local company that blends and packages its own teas for clients such as the Four Seasons, the Ritz Carlton, and many upscale hotels and restaurants around North America, although they do sell to the public online and via their brick-and-mortar shop just outside downtown Vancouver.

There's information on all the tea archetypes (white, green, oolong, black, et al) on the website. My personal favourite is the Vanilla Earl Grey.
posted by antifreez_ at 1:58 PM on March 23, 2004

Best answer: The Highland Tea Company is a newish (only 4 products available so far) online mother-daughter team selling Kenyan tea. I can vouch for their Tangawizi Ginger - wonderful in the winter.
posted by darsh at 2:45 PM on March 23, 2004

Our new addiction, chez stonerose, is Rooibos tea. It's not really tea, but it's a very refreshing, caffeine-free, robust beverage made from a shrub (rooibos=red bush) in South Africa. It has a cedar-y, forest-floor kind of herbal/musky character.
posted by stonerose at 4:35 PM on March 23, 2004

Murchies is a tourist draw in person, in Victoria, BC. Nice enough store, but packed edge to edge with tourists. I immediately suspect them of being more show than go.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:59 PM on March 23, 2004

You absolutely cannot go wrong with a good cup of Oolong.
posted by will at 7:25 AM on March 24, 2004

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