This isn’t a recipe. A friend asked me where was good for ordering tea from, and I realized that I have a lot of opinions about this because I drink tons of tea and have become a big tea nerd.
First and foremost, go to your local Asian grocer and check out what they’ve got. There is a lot of quality tea to be had at Asian grocery stores for relatively cheap, and I get a lot of my teas from my local spots. I also get some from various big box grocers. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s cool to learn about tea, it’s kind of pointless to refuse to try stuff just because it’s cheap or doesn’t come in fancy packaging.
House of Tea in Philadelphia. A small business with a really solid selection. Morning blends, flavored and aromatic teas, assams, oolongs, Chinese greens, keemuns, about 15 distinct estate-grown darjeelings. Their green blends are made with a sencha base, which is a bit of an unusual choice but works out well with the light flavors they favor. They tend to have more teas from India than from China but the selection of keemun teas is quite good. Personal favorite: black tea with blood orange.
High Garden in Nashville. The couple who run this place are super nice and absolutely brilliant at making tea blends. Their unblended teas are all really well-chosen, too. They don’t have everything up on their website, unfortunately, so you’ll have a better selection if you can go in person, but everything I’ve had here had been wonderful. Personal favorites: Roasty mountain morning, french earl grey, orange blossom green.
Souvia in Phoenix, AZ. A small family run business with a very well-chosen selection. Anything you get here will be high quality. Favorites: milk oolong. Wow.
Dobra Tea. Originally a group of Czech tea smugglers, now a legitimate business. This is where I learned to drink and appreciate tea. Their selection is excellent for teas that aren’t blended or flavored, though the few flavors and blends they have are delightful. Favorites: qi hong mao feng, ya bao, pu tuo fo cha.
Zhi Tea in Austin, TX. Do you like high mountain Taiwanese oolongs? Welcome home. The guy who runs it goes by Dr. Oolong online and he really knows what he’s doing. Their non-oolong teas are lovely too, but this is definitely a shop with a specialty. Favorites: any oolong I’ve ever had from here.
Verdant used to have an amazing storefront with food, but sadly closed down to do mail order only. Their focus is Chinese teas, and ordering from them will let you realize just how diverse Chinese teas can be. The website is set up well and good for both new tea drinkers and people who are experienced with good information about what flavors are present in different teas. You can search by tea type or by the growers. Favorites: whatever is fresh.
For slightly larger and chain businesses –
TeaSource has both good blends and good unflavored teas. Solid selection, website is easy to navigate. Favorites: da hong pao.
Adagio has a good online business and has lots of good sampler packs to try things out. This is a much bigger company and I tend to prefer the small businesses, but their selection is quite good and they have good deals on bulk and some very enticing sales. Favorites: apricot black tea.
David’s Tea is a small chain in Canada and the northeastern US. Their selection is a little on the trendy side with some solid teas and good blends, and then some blends that tend toward mildly caffeinated fruit punch. Good, but you have to be able to filter out what you’re going to like. Favorites: three wishes.