ZI’ve always had a mad passion for tea. The path to tasty tea discovery, though, was often blocked by popular teas that were of an inferior quality. I have, howevever, found many teas that I like if not love. Here’s a list of what I’ve tried, whether or not I liked it, and why.
Bigelow: Not really my favorite. In a pinch, it’s better than just hot water, but I can’t recommend it for flavor or originality. It’s certainly more economical than many of the other teas, though. They’re also into sustainability, which is pretty cool.
Celestial Seasonings: Talk about brilliant marketing. If you like tea, bright colors, pretty pictures, and exotic names, CS is a great route to go. It’s tasty, but more expensive than Bigelow. If you’re getting started drinking tea and want to ease into it, you’ll get exactly what they offer on the packaging. Not to mention the clever quotes by equally clever people that they place on the box, and the fact that it’s mostly recyclable and recycled. Also fair trade certified, which is always cool. Ultimately, CS takes the prize in marketing and appeasing the “lightweights” among the tea drinkers.
p.s. You can take a tour!
Twinings: My favorite of all name-brand teas. No frills, no gimmicks, just good tea. You can get pre-packaged tea bags (easier but less flavorful) or you can get loose leaf (more flavorful and better for the environment. Plus they last forever!) As the gentleman in the video points out, loose leaf tea isn’t really practical for an office setting; however, for those that love tea, loose leaf is the only way to go. You can order several different flavors: Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, Lady Grey, Irish Breakfast, Ceylon Orange Pekoe, Jasmine Green, Gunpowder Green, and Prince of Wales. (You used to be able to get one of my favorites, Lapsang Souchong, but it’s since been discontinued. Sad panda.) I’ve only tried Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast, but I’m certainly in love!
Zhena’s Gypsy Tea: A lesser known brand, but very tasty. I’ve tried the Fire Light Chai (rooibos + spices) and the Peppermint Joy. I’m not much for chai without the spices and the milk and sugar, but I still liked it. The peppermint was a kind of peppermint-meets-green tea, and I REALLY liked that one. Similar to Celestial Seasonings, they’re also eco-friendly and fair trade certified. Also good for sometimes tea drinkers.
Anatolian Treasures: Now extinct, this company used to specialize in teas from Turkey. It’s since been converted to essential oils and goes by Appalachian Valley, which I believe was the parent company. I only tried two teas, the linden (tilia europea) and the rose hip. I enjoyed them both and was sad to find out that they stopped making tea.
Carolina Peach Tea: Now I’m getting into specifics. A friend of mine sent me “Charles Towne Carolina Peach Tea” (no typos in that, that’s really how it’s spelled). I was actually quite pleased with the black tea + peach flavoring, and normally I’m not too keen on it. This particular tea came through the Hale Tea Company, located in Georgia, USA. If their other teas are as tasty as this one, I’d certainly be willing to try the others.
Koala Tea: I stumbled upon this tea company thanks to having a strong Jewish community nearby an old neighborhood. The tea was actually called “Gey” something or other. It was a Kosher chamomile tea, and it was pretty good. I did some research into the company, and found out that it was supplied by Koala Tea, an Australian company that specializes in tasty, Australian organic and USDA certified organic tea. They also make sure that the tea bag paper is unbleached, a concept that I never really considered. If you’re looking for exotic, organic tea, try them out.
New Mexico Tea Company: Earl Grey being one of my favorite teas, a kind friend sent me a bag of “Rosie Earl Grey” – a delightful loose leaf. I’ve been enjoying it quite a bit, as the rose included in the blend lends it a sort of floral fragrance (please forgive the winey alliteration). Combined with the necessary begamot, it’s what I would call a “top shelf” sort of tea.
Shahrzad: I picked up this brand while living in a very Persian/Iranian neighborhood. I’ve tried the scented black tea and the cardamon. I’m perfectly happy with them; they’re exactly what I expected them to be, and the flavor is fine. I haven’t had cardamon for a while, so if I wanted to make Indian-style chai, I used the cardamon black tea as a substitute. (It worked well enough.) Not only is it a decent tea, it’s very economical. They almost always have a buy one get one special.
If you’re interested in trying it, I would recommend popping over to your nearest Middle Eastern/Persian/Indian/Armenian/North African grocery store and checking for it there. Online searches came up with some strange results, so you’re best off hunting for it in person.
Olive Nation and Spice Traders and Teas: Following what I consider to be a logical course of action, a lot of tea companies sell spices and a lot of spice companies sell teas. I’ve tried one from Spice Traders and Teas, a special blend called “Bloodberry.” I’m happy enough with it – mostly I got it out of “Halloween spirit.” I plan to try a few other teas from each. If nothing else, I would recommend both these stores for their spices.
p.s. Spice Traders and Teas seems to be reconstructing their site a bit.
Lastly, here’s an interesting idea from a German company – Advent tea!