My good friend Michael joins us again today as a guest blogger, this time to share his tips on shopping for loose leaf tea:
Grocery stores that have a large bulk foods section, such as Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco or Berkeley Bowl, sell a nice variety of loose teas at great prices. Some Whole Foods locations have bulk tea too. Buying bulk lets you see and smell the leaves. For a few dollars you can buy only a small amount to try. If you end up disliking it you’ll feel better knowing you only bought a small amount.
Another way to try out new kinds of tea is through buying samples online. Many online tea retailers sell sample packs. Everything from these two sources is excellent quality. Don’t dwell too much on the details, just pick something that sounds interesting:
- Silk Road Teas - Focused on Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese teas
- Upton Tea Imports - Teas from every tea growing region in the world
If you're hesitant to make the jump to loose leaf, there are some good tea bags available. Mighty Leaf and Numi fill their bags with real tea leaves of good quality. This is the easiest way to enhance your experience to give you an honest flavor while still maintaining maximum convenience.
Watch out for brands using fancy "silky" tea bags that are actually made of plastic. There are new findings that the plastic may leach into your tea as it brews (see this article for more information).
You can make your own tea bags as well. Many shops with a bulk section will sell packets of blank tea bags, such as these. You can fill these to make your own tea bags for on-the-go.
Thank you Michael! I can't wait to try some new tea!
[All photos by Michael Pieracci]