Tea Pantry

My canister of Jasmine tea pearls.

Tea makes me feel safe. It helps me write, it keeps me awake past 8:30 when we have company, it soothes my aches when I feel defeated.

I carry tea in my purse when we travel to alleviate homesickness, and generous friends have brought me so much tea that it fills a chest of drawers in our entryway.

Lately I’ve been reducing my collection to teas I can’t live without. A lot of them are from The Republic of Tea, because I get them in bulk at my local market, but there are a few others as well.

I’ve been collecting vintage tea tins with an eye to building a shelf for the essentials. So here’s what will live there:

Black Teas

Kusmi Prince Vladimir Tea (loose leaf)
This smells as good as it tastes–a bit spicy, with a lot of floral and citrus. One of my top-two favorite teas.

Earl Grey by Mighty Leaf
This is traditional pick to have on hand for guests who just want a familiar cup of black tea.

Green Teas

Jasmine Pearls
Green tea and jasmine blossoms hand-rolled into little pearls. This is my other favorite tea, and I tend to keep a pot of it nearby while I work throughout the day. It makes the house smell great. I get mine from Chinatown, or friends who make business trips to China, but the tea linked above is the one you’re most likely to find at a gourmet foods shop.

Mystery Tea from China
Bryan was working in Urumuchi, China a while back and brought back exceptional teas for me. All the packaging is in Chinese though, so I have no idea what I’m drinking. My favorite isn’t long and grassy like most green tea. It looks like dark, balled leaves when dry, and unfurls into whole leaves with stems when brewed. It has a light, floral flavor. Any ideas?

Herbal Teas

Ginseng Peppermint by Republic of Tea
Strong, spicy mint tea with a sweet aftertaste. Similar to the sensation you get after you’ve eaten an artichoke and take a sip of water. My favorite herbal.

African Nectar by Mighty Leaf
I tend to find herbal teas too weak for my tastes, but this is a nice, strong, fruity herbal that I have when I’m too wired to drink another cup of real tea.

I also like plunking a big bunch of fresh mint or ginger in hot water to make a tisane when I’m avoiding caffeine.

Iced Teas

Good Earth Original
Good Earth makes flavorful bagged teas (I like their sweet Green Tea blend too), but this one is the best. It’s very sweet even without sweeteners, and is a strong cinnamon and spice flavor. Refreshing on ice.

Ginger Peach
by Republic of Tea
Exactly what it sounds like, and great cold (with or without sugar).


Mate Latte by Republic of Tea

For when I need a caffeine boost, or if I’m craving milk in my tea. It smells like cocoa, and has strong, comforting vanilla notes.

So those are the all-stars.

If you’d like to start trying better teas, but don’t want to give up the ease of using tea bags, you can’t go wrong with Mighty Leaf and Tea Forte. I find they’re some of the best whole-leaf teas that come in bags. I used to evangelize Steep Teas because they’re tasty and the matchbox packaging is bangarang, but now I can’t find the matchboxes online anymore. Boo.

If you’re a tea drinker, leave your favorites in comments.

111 thoughts on “Tea Pantry

  1. You mentioned many of my top tea picks in your list. I’m a big fan of Mighty Leaf – African Nectar.

    Have you been to the Imperial Tea Court? That’s where I get my Jasmine Pearls and it is fabulous. They teach you how to brew it just right. I haven’t been to the Ferry Building shop, as I used to go to the older one that recently closed in Chinatown.


  2. can’t read every comment to see if anyone else has suggested a green tea for the mystery one – which they most likely have- but it sounds like gunpowder. good stuff.


  3. Marco Polo tea by Mariage Freres. No question, the best black tea in the world. Sold loose. I try to buy it once a year because I can’t justify spending the money to buy it more often. It’s something like $15+ a tin at shops like The Gardener or Market Hall in the East Bay. But the tin is cute. My husband keeps his loose change in the last one we got.


  4. once i discovered chocolate (black) tea i didn’t want to drink anything else. doesn’t matter what brand!

    mixing the comfort of tea with the comfort of chocolate is unbeatable. put in a splash of whole milk and a whole teaspoon of sugar and you’ve got a party.


  5. I like the ‘honeybush’ variant of rooibos, because DAMN, can you think of a sexier name for a cup of tea?

    There will always be a place in my heart for Constant Comment. My mother used to brew a thermos of it for our family hikes when I was a kid, and it is still the ultimate taste of home. When I was living in the Netherlands, this was the one food product I would ask State-side friends to ship to me. Nothing else cured homesickness like Constant Comment.

    Also, lapsang souchong mixed with Earl Grey is about as close to a tea martini as you can get.


  6. I recently posted about our Teapoet Society with a photo of a big block of pu-erh that looks like chocolate. Tea is my meditation.


  7. Republic of Tea Ginger Peach and their Mango are great iced. Constant Comment is a reliable standby. I live in WA State, close to the border; a great Saturday trip is to Sun Sui Wah for dim sum and then to Lansdowne Centre to taste and buy teas. Last time we dropped over $300 and they gave us many gifts as a result. There were several of the variety you mention, the dark, furled balls of tea. Usual purchases include Jasmine Green Tea and High Mountain Green Tea – so good for you!


  8. The really hard little green balls that unfurl so nicely are indeed “Extra Gunpowder” green tea. Don’t spent a lot of money on it at a fancy tea shop either – you can get Extra Gunpowder for like, five dollars a pound at Ranch 99 or other Asian market. Comes in a green box with Chinese all over it. Yeah…that’s the good stuff.


  9. Ooooo…I too, adore Republic’s Ginseng Pepperment. I keep it at work, at home, and several pouches in a small metal tin in my purse. Their Chamomile Lemon w/Honey is also quite good, and trust me, will knock you right out.

    I’m also lucky in that I live in Madison, WI, so there’s tons of places to find new teas to try. Milwaukee is also a great ‘tea’ city – if you’re ever there, check out Rochambo Coffee and Tea House. Their Madagascar Mint is minty, fresh perfection.


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