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

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. Went wedding dress shopping with a girlfriend last weekend, and happened across this place in Seattle that was doing a tea tasting…stopped by and loved every moment! They are located by the Pike Place Market in Seattle, and they also have shops in Chinatown in SF! http://www.vitaltleaf.com/ One of my favorites was a handful of the Siberian Rose with a pinch of the Osmanthus. So pretty and floral!

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  2. Adiago – Fruit Medley
    Celestial Seasonings – Sweet Thai Chai
    Trader Joes – Peppermint, Orange Rooibos
    Repubilc of Tea – Acai Green

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  3. Finally a world of tea drinkers! I always carry tea in my purse because at every conference I attend it seems like everytime they bring out the coffee pots and I have to beg for a pot of hot water.

    Because I travel quite a bit for work I have to stick to the bagged teas. I must second the recommedation for Tea Forte. A bit pricey but excellent teas.

    After reading the comments I think I might have to try the Mighty Leaf teas too.

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  4. There is a wonderful tea distributor in Minneapolis called “Mrs. Kelly’s Tea”. (www.mrskellytea)

    I prefer yerba mate to tea, and they offer their many of their blends in either a mate, tea, or rooibos base. My favorites from them are: Spicy chai mate (with or without milk); Mango Tango mate; Market Mint (herbal); and Earl Grey Mate. Also, their packaging is visually pleasing – classic loose tea in small silver tins.

    My other favorite Lemon Mate by Tazo. Wonderful blend of lemon and ginger with cardamom and licorice.

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  5. I adore tea. Life is boring without it. I love a good Earl Grey, or Kusmi’s Natasha blend as a more English tea. Otherwise it’s Jasmine Pearls and Oolong for me too. A couple of years ago my mom went to China and brought back this heavenly black tea, it was Lychee scented. We found a local tea shop in Chinatown that sold a similar blend, just not as expensive about $20 per pound. I go through a pound in the summer making ice tea with it. It has a nice fruity flavor, almost like apricots. I will make a gallon and sweeten it with 1/2c sugar for the family. I usually end up making two gallons a day in the middle of the summer.

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  6. Oh I’m such a tea snob! So much that I won’t even buy Republic and try not to drink it. Seriously. That being said, I’m in love love love with earl grey. I know it’s so basic, but it’s so delicious too! My boyfriend has a bunch of tea he brought back from Morroco and these are so delicious!

    As for your mystery tea: I think almost any tea leave can be balled up like that. As long as you have a full leaf. But yours sounds like a nice silver leaf tea.

    Have you ever tried the blooming flower teas?? SO AMAZING! The leaves are hand sewn together and as they steep they bloom. AND they’re yummy. Absolutely MUST be sipped from a clear glass mug, to get the full effect.

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  7. My current favorite is Meditative Mind by The TeaSpot. It’s a white tea base with actual rosebuds & jasmine pearls in it. And since it’s loose leaf tea, they’ve got great cups & mugs to steep the tea in, with ceramic infusers that match. Much more fun & tasty than tea bags!

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  8. I love just about everything from Mighty Leaf & Teavana. My absolute favorites are both from Teavana (loose leaf):
    – “Snow Geisha” a white tea
    – “Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls” a green tea
    – “Assam Golden Rain” a black tea

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  9. My favorite is a loose tea that you can get at Teavana, called Biscotti Almondina. SO yummy, really an indulgent tea. I also like Republic of Tea’s Vanilla Almond, Tazo Awake, and anything flavored with peach.

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  10. I’m a huge chai tea fan. My favorites are a masala chai from Steap in Philadelphia (their coconut chai is also nice) and Tazo’s chai when I don’t feel like messing with loose leaves.

    Thanks to Gwen in comment 27 – a fellow Philadelphian & Steap fan – I think my husband bought me some Heaven Roobios for Christmas but I haven’t yet tried it. I think I will right now!

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  11. Good Earth Original
    (do you remember when there was a GE restaurant in Larkspur Landing – just steps from the ferry?)
    Earl Grey with honey
    Jasmine Silver tips & Jasmine Green combos
    Peppermint when I need a pick me up

    I like the ritual of tea making and coffee making almost as much as the product itself.

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  12. When I lived in St. Paul, MN, I bought my tea in bulk from TeaSource (www.teasource.com). The owner travels all over the world to the tea plantations to make sure that the product is of the highest quality and the workers are being treated fairly. This is where I truly developed a passion for tea. My favorites are China Black Special (a Guangxi), Monk’s Blend (a black tea with flowers), and Green Melange (Sencha with berries and rhubarb). They ship their tea, but if you’re in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I strongly advise a trip to TeaSource–they will let you sample and smell all those glorious teas, and they will take the time to teach you something, to deepen your appreciation for tea.

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  13. I love Republic Teas as well as Tea Forte. Their winter collection was AMAZING! I also like to visit the cute little Teavana store and taste all of their samples, look at the cute little pots that they have on display and buy the loose leaf tea. LOVE their selection of white teas and their steeper that you sit RIGHT on your cup to brew your tea. LOVE IT! http://www.teavana.com

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  14. ooh – what a great post. Two things I am never out of: tea and pasta. And I am always looking for new teas to try, so I will have to make note of some of these. My current favorite is Tazo organic chai (chai masala), which is pretty close to the stuff you get in Indian restaurants around here. Excellent with half & half.

    I was going to guess that your unknown chinese tea was jasmine, but it seems you know well enough what that tastes like so maybe that’s not it? OR maybe it’s a jasmine *black* tea instead of green (which is what I usually keep).

    I recommend having some of your peeps over for a tea party. It’s a good way to use some of that tea you horde. I did that last weekend, myself, and it was wonderful… And you could go shop for some nice antique teacups for the party, so… win/win.

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  15. Double Earl Grey (double the amount of bergamot) with lavendar flowers. (leaves)

    Mighty Leaf Chamomile citrus – puts me to sleep quickly!

    Jasmine green tea (leaves NOT in a tea bag)- my everyday tea.

    Favorite iced tea is orange rooibos. So summery and fresh.

    For guests who think the double Earl Grey is too strong, a good Darjeeling leaf tea is a safe bet.

    And for when I feel sick or nostalgic, Constant Comment tea.

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  16. In no particular order:
    1. Teavana Ginger Peach Apricot mixed with Teavana Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea
    2. Teavana Raspberry Herbal Tea mixed with Teavana Rooibos Lemon Twist (Great iced tea)
    3. Tea Gschwender Black Christmas Tea mixed with Tea Gschwender Blood Orange Fruit Tea
    4. Revolution Citrus Spice Herbal Tea

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  17. I love a variety of teas, most recently a good hibiscus mint on a hot day. Did you pass around the mate with the locals in Argentina? That’s the only way I’ve experienced mate, but I need to try the ones I’ve seen here.

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  18. I’m by no means a tea connisseur (sp? Typing on my sidekick sucks), but my mom says that Red Rose tea (available at supermarkets) is somehow the best – by far – for making chai, the Indian way. Making it has always made me feel at home, no matter where I am.

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  19. I just posted a pic of my tea drawer in my 2/22 blog posting. For Valentine’s Day I had Mighty Leaf send my husband 100 of their Organic Breakfast tea bags. I have a sorry white trash Brit streak that runs right through me and can’t live with PG Tips. I like the Mighty Leaf green with citrus overtones, as well.

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  20. Rose Petal tea from Silk Road in Victoria, BC. I’ve ordered many, many a tin from them for delivery to Vancouver. It’s almost time for the next one – http://www.silkroadtea.com/black_teas.htm. For me it’s the ~only~ rose petal tea to drink. All the others I’ve tried don’t even come close.

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  21. my daily morning routine starts with a large cup of tazo earl grey with milk and honey. and regarding comment #12, the teahouse in boulder to which she is referring is the dushanbe teahouse. it is wonderful. their boulder black tea is my favorite. we have another teahouse here in boulder called the pekoe sip house which is also wonderful. so if you ever make it to boulder there is plenty of tea to be had…you can even take a tour of the celestial seasonings plant. your sinuses will be infinitely clearer after a walk through their peppermint room.

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  22. I drink so much Tetley’s British Blend that I order it directly from them. The don’t distribute in Arizona because their research shows that the “south” prefers iced tea, and I guess AZ = The South.

    I prefer the blacks to herbals, but have taken to drinking green at work. I haven’t found one I like, so I am appreciative of this post because now I have some ideas.

    I also carry tea in my purse – the British Blend in a small Republic of Tea container.

    I will drink Tazo Awake (and also like their Joy) when I’m travelling. Sometimes I laugh at myself because I’ll be relieved to see a Starbucks at an airport, and I’ve never had a cup of their coffee.

    One of my biggest frustrations is how difficult it is to get tea at restaurants. I won’t drink Lipton, and I am astounded when I am brought a mug of “hot” water and the tea bag on the side.

    My favorite, though, is a well brewed cup of real Indian Chai.

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  23. BANGARANG! Sorry, that just hit my funny bone.

    Also, I love the taste after you eat artichoke and drink water! Yum!

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  24. Oh, and I also forgot to mention Sterrenmix.

    It’s a dutch tea with a hint of annis and fennel and some other interesting stuff, and a really unique flavor. The longer it steeps the sweeter it gets!

    I’m not sure if you can buy it outside of the Netherlands. If anyone knows a way to get it, please let me know!

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  25. For my favorite Asian-style tea, I really like oolong tea, but don’t know that much about the different kinds of oolong. My favorite green teas are Long Jing and the Dragon Phoenx Jasmine Pearls.

    If you ever go across the Bay to Berkeley, check out this awesome tea shop:
    http://www.farleaves.com. They have a good selection of high-quality Asian-style teas.

    I don’t really care for European-style green teas, but for European-style black teas, I like (love) a good cup of Earl Grey, Yorkshire Gold or the smokey goodness of Irish breakfast.

    My favorite herbal infusion is hibiscus and rose hips. It’s best in bulk, but Teekanne has an acceptable tea-bag form of it.

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  26. I’m a tea addict and family know it so Christmas/Birthdays I keep getting tea. Unfortunately it’s the cheap discounted stuff from discount stores, however one cousin buys me tea from T Salon in NYC. I just love everything they sell. I also like Harney & Sons as well as,Mighty Leaf, Tea Forte Republic of Tea and Revolution.

    AM
    Black tea: Earl Gray w/ Lavender(Revolution)
    Before getting pregnant/nursing, I used to drink chinese black teas(ti kun yun,aka emperor’s tea which has has this bitter taste that turns into sweet honey when it reaches the back of the tongue) I also used to drink purah/bolee with my dim sum. I still have a big stash from when I lived in Hong Kong and went on a tea shopping spree(including tea ceremony etiquette classes) before returning to CA.

    Noon
    Green tea, Republic of Tea

    Afternoon
    Honey Bush, Trader Joe’s
    Any floral teas like Chrysanthemum or Rose hips

    Evening
    Chamomile, any from the above brands.

    This post is encouraging me to get rid of tea by maybe hosting a tea party.

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  27. I’m not a big fan of the herbals, but I couldn’t agree more about the Jasmine Pearl tea. We had a small tea shop near us in Mountain View, California and they introduced us to all manner of teas, but after it was all said and done the Jasmine Pearl was the clear winner.

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  28. I live in a little town in upstate New York. A woman opened a tea shop http://sensibiliteasonline.com and carries a tea called “Create World Peace,” a caffeine free blend of mint, ginger, licorice and clove. I am not usually partial to licorice and my husband doesn’t like mint, somehow this allowed us to drink from the same pot.

    Very tasty!

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  29. Great post Maggie! I too always carry tea n my purse or carry-on bag. Long flights are so much easier to bare when one has a nice warm cup of Tazo Calm or peppermint tea to sip throughout the flight. For special occasions, or whenever we need a pick-me-up, my husband and I love the flowering display teas that other people have mentioned. They absolutely must be brewed in a tall clear glass in order to fully appreciate the multisensory experience. There are many varieties, from jasmine to white teas, with all sorts of flowers that gracefully unfurl as the tea brews. They make a fabulous addition to any dinner party and the perfect hostess gift (just be sure to supply a little note explaining how to properly brew and perhaps a wee history). Also, although the display teas can seem a bit expensive, they are actually a bargain when you consider that each individually hand-sewn ball of tea will easily produce three tall cups of tea. I was first introduced to display teas in Hong Kong, by friends who were from mainland China. They explained that one should first rinse the tea ball with boiling water, then brew in a tall clear glass mug. (I’m not sure if all require rinsing) Most importantly, the mug could, and should, be refilled with hot water at least twice – otherwise you are wasting the tea. Beware though – some display teas pack one heck of a caffeine jolt – especially after three tall cups! When it’s just the two of us, my husband and I brew one or two tea balls in a clear glass tea pot, but when serving guests we always make sure each person has their own glass and their own tea ball – the aroma is sublime! Whenever we’re in China we stock up. Here in the States, we’ve purchased them at various shops in Chicago’s Chinatown. Prices vary, but any shop on a side street will generally be much less expensive. Dream About Tea up in Evanston, IL is a nice little shop that also sells them, along with a huge variety of other teas. If you’re ever in the Midwest, be sure to check it out. Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor also has a fabulous tea selection. Peet’s also sells the display teas online. Muji in Hong Kong (Shatin) is a fantastic place to pick up packages of display tea – much more affordable than Peet’s! Makes great gifts!

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  30. My very very favorite tea is Licorice Spice (by stash premium – you can find it in just about any health food store). I also like Oolong, Lapsang Souchong, and any variation of mint/peppermint/spearmint.

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  31. Couldn’t help but notice that you said, “when I’m avoiding caffeine.”…
    Should we be reading anything into that seemingly innocent little comment?

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  32. I second Sara’s post above about Zhena’s Gypsy Tea. I tasted some of their Red Lavender in a cafe in Missoula, MT, but it was unavailable for purchase. Despondent for days in the northern wilderness, I ordered 6 varieties as soon as I was back in civilization.

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  33. I LOVE TEA, I’M SUCH A TEA DRINKER. its the ritual behind making and drinking th tea. best tea house in Denver: House of Commons, so amazing. THE SCONES ARE OUT OF THIS WORRRRRLD.

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  34. Wu Wei tea blend is very yummy! And so is Kukicha Twig tea with brown rice syrup and half & half.

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  35. Barry’s Gold Label. With a little sugar and milk, it’s the tea equivalent of curling up in bed with your favorite blanket and listening to the rain on the roof. I got hooked on it while living among many Irish immigrants in the Sunset. It goes well with Kimberley’s (sp?) chocolate-covered biscuits and gossip over the kitchen table.

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  36. Have you ever tried ito en tea? They are my favorite brand and I can buy their iced tea in bottles here (Virginia), but have to order loose tea online: http://www.itoen.com/

    It’s expensive, but worth it. And the packaging is well designed!

    I also love Harney & Sons.

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  37. Teaopia.ca’s wellness blends. “Rise n Shine” is my favourite, hands down, but who can’t love a tea called “Elixir of life”… And, their “sleep well” tea has no chamomile, which thrills me. (I can’t stand the stuff.)

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