Random obsession of the moment: tea

I am possibly a little bit obsessive.  Ok… possibly more than a little!  Maybe you’ve noticed, if you’ve been reading for awhile.  I can’t just try to learn something, I have to set out to know everything possible (see: knitting, sewing, cooking, fitness etc).  I don’t suppose it’s a problem, as I do function quite well in everyday life.  I basically have two types of friends: geeks (mostly of the computer type) and classical musicians.  I myself am a musician married to a computer guy.  I think those two groups have more in common than you would think – namely, high intelligence combined with a level of obsessive focus that is not always socially acceptable, but which leads to being really good at something.

Not all of my interests are all life changing the way sewing was for me, but every few months I do develop an interest in something new.  This month?  Tea.  Real tea, the kind that doesn’t come in a bag.  When I was growing up we always had a few boxes of Celestial Seasonings tea in the house.  Sleepytime tea has a lot of fond memories and good associations for me, and I still drink it.  I don’t recall ever having black tea.  When I went away to college I developed quite a coffee habit (still with me, sadly) and was looking for a way to replace some of that with another hot beverage.  I happened to be rewatching Star Trek: the Next Generation at that time, and Jean-Luc Picard’s constant order of “Earl Grey, hot!” led me to buy a box of Twinings at the supermarket.  Earl Grey tastes rather like perfume, but as it turns out I love bitter or perfumey tastes!  I’ve been drinking the Earl (as I like to call it) ever since (and it’s possible that I may own a set of glass mugs like the ones on the Enterprise… not saying).  I really like Earl Greyer from The Republic of Teas.  It has rather a lot of bergmot, and thus I like it.  In time I branched out to chai (mostly Tazo, because I like the peppery burn) and English Breakfast teas.  I was still using bags, as early experiences with a tea ball had not been good to me.

For the past few years I’ve been attempting to eat very clean – I eat very little meat, lots of fruits, vegetables and grains, and very little processed food.  At this point, I pretty much prefer to eat this way.  Processed food doesn’t taste right to me, although I am never giving up coffee, chocolate, or wine.  I’ve been trying to cut back my coffee a little though – I don’t think too much makes me feel great.  So I turned back to my old friend the Earl of Grey.  I got online and started reading about teas, and found a whole community of people who are really into tea.  I decided I was interested in trying out loose teas, and even some types of tea (like green tea) that I did not care for in the past.  I placed an order for samples and an infuser from Upton Tea, and it arrived today!

The teas come packaged in individual containers with labels and steeping instructions for each tea.  I wish they could be closed – the samples are large enough for quite a few servings!  I also got their current catalog, which is old fashioned and full of awesomeness.  I’m pretty impressed with the way it manages to make drinking tea into a lifestyle!

I also got a permanent filter basket.  I love this thing – it holds all the leaves in, and it’s easy to clean.  Best of all, it fits in my Star Trek mugs!  I’ve already made myself a cup of their Bond Street English Breakfast and it was lovely.

If anyone has any suggestions for teas I’m all ears – I especially love spicy or perfumey blends (I ordered a chai that has pieces of chili peppers in it… I am looking forward to that!)  I want to like green teas, but they always taste like grass to me (I do like green jasmine, again with the perfume.)

So there you go… my obsession of the month.  My husband says that life with me is never boring!

51 thoughts on “Random obsession of the moment: tea

  1. Check out The woman who runs this is the youngest certified tea sommelier in the world and she knows her products very well. Her teas are all loose, and come in re-sealable bags that are clearly labeled. She also likes to send out small samples of other tears for your try with the order. Do check her out. 🙂 You can also find her on Facebook as The Tea Chick (

  2. Whenever it gets chilly outside, I totally get obsessed with tea! I live in the Bay Area, so I have a ton of Peet’s tea just by default, but I also love going to tea shops like Teavana and others where you can sniff at the loose leaf tea and then buy however much you want. My newest tea obsession is just using a tea pot. I LOVE IT. I put in a couple of teaspoons or so of loose tea, poor in the boiling water, and then distribute into my mug as the afternoon/evening proceeds. I will admit, this is totally not following any kind of precise instructions, so that may not be appealing to you, but I love having a whole pot of warm liquid to sip on.

  3. I LOVE tea and ever other hot drink out there (coffee, hot chocolate … I can not start my day without a warm drink). My husband bought me an infuser for Christmas last year, and I have since been obsessed with trying all kinds of loose teas. The ones that I’ve tried from The Republic of Tea and liked are: Get Lost (from their Be Well line), Cinnamon Vanilla Fireside (possibly only available at Christmas), Lucky Irish Breakfast (my absolute favorite so far), Republic Chai (a close second), and their Organic Earl Greyer. I’m like you — I want to like green teas, but they mostly taste like grass to me. I’ve tried their Raspberry Green Tea, and it’s okay, but I also don’t drink it very often.

    I’d love to hear if you find anymore teas you like!

  4. I know you’re a Louisvillian like me, so I would highly recommend Heine Brother’s! They sell all kinds of loose leaf teas. I particularly love the Citrus Green, and I am not much of a green tea drinker either. 🙂

    1. My favorite at Heine Bros is the Cinnamon Cardamon. I think it tastes like Christmas! I also like their jasmine green (only iced though – I think I like green better iced.) Thanks for reminding me – I’ve been meaning to pick some up!

  5. Hi: You will love the little basket, but I agree with Elizabeth, tea is best made in a pot. One cup of tea is never enough! Even the very small pots can handle the little basket. You can store the loose tea in tins in a cool dark place, like your average cupboard. We have a wonderful tea shop in our town, so some of our blends would not be in your supermarket.
    I am currently drinking a blend named “Paris”- whenever I open the tin, I smell rich ripe apricots. Yum! It is a China black tea, blended with Assam, Ceylon and Oolong teas – Bergamot, black currant, vanilla, and caramel. Peg

  6. Hi – I was brought up drinking tea — my dad came from Scotland, so we were allowed to have “children’s tea”, which was mostly milk with a little tea (usually Lipton’s) poured into it. Very sweet because of the milk, but I still love milk with my tea — not the way I used to have it as a child though! I also love Earl Grey, and always in a pot! but an English friend got me into the habit of using 1 bag (sorry, it’s easier) of Earl Grey, and 1 bag of Irish tea — the blend is really nice, of course, a little milk in the bottom of the cup, and always let the hot tea steep the full five minutes before you pour — nothing quite like a proper cuppa in the morning!!

  7. I came across your wonderful blog after becoming totally obsessed with sewing again, your sewing is terrific and very inspiring. Earl Grey tea was another of my obsessions and I really think Twinings is the best. Years ago I found a site that compared about 20 brands. Now I’m more into Chai’s and have recently been make a late with stronger organic Cinnamon Chai tea from DavidsTea and hot soya milk. I think obsessions are the way to go….you can really learn so much about everything in life that way.

  8. I went through a long Chai phase in college, and now I’m trying to drink more tea to cut back on my coffee a bit. Earl Grey is definitely not my thing, though. 🙂 I’ve been trying some fruity varieties lately.

  9. Have you tried any white teas? I’ve only had the bagged kind (the Trader Joe’s White tea with ginger is my favorite). I’m not a fan of green tea either, and white tea is a great alternative.

  10. Rishi Tea – The local tea gurus around where I live have some amazing teas and equally amazing tea accessories at . Definitely check out their selection of teapots if you do decide to go that route.

    Isn’t it fun to find a new obsession? I’m a former musician turned scientist and I do love my way of diving in at the deep end of a new passion. I’m glad you enjoy it too!

  11. I could never ever get into green, but I managed to discover a love for Oolongs which are between green and black. If you’re trying to transition, you might want to start there.

  12. I buy my looseleaf tea locally from a variety of shops, but I love Twinnings — the UK twinnings is actually stronger than the ones sold in North America — I asked at the Twinnings shop (UK during a visit) why, and she said they make it weaker for the North American Market — I just use two tea bags, or more/less loose leaf tea when I buy them at home (Canada)

    My current favorite tea is by Murchie’s and is apricot — a black tea with a delicate apricot flavour. I also like English Breakfast, and Ceylon. Funny you mentioned Celestial Seasonings — I used to drink the herb teas all through university, but switched to caffinated black tea because the herb teas caused heeadaches, while the caffeine helped! I am going to refill my cup now!

  13. I’ve found myself developing a tea obsession as well over the past year — and it’s an obsession with very fancy tea at that! I find that there is a huge difference between loose leaf and teabags, though I also enjoy a good cup of PG Tips from a teabag when I’m pressed for time. And then you can get persnickety about water temperature, boiling water only once, the type of vessel you brew in…

    Anyway! One of my favorite tea companies is Kusmi (, a Russian tea company based in Paris — and they have US shipping as well. Very high quality, beautiful packaging and lots of interesting blends. I’m a big fan of their Bourbon Vanilla Tea (as in vanilla bean) and any of their bergamot-y takes on Earl Grey. Enjoy!!

  14. A few years back I switched from coffee to tea. My current favorites include Earl Grey Cream tea I find Earl Grey Cream to be a much more delicate flavor than regular Earl Grey. There are other sources online, but this is the one I’ve tried. I also love violet tea from France. This company has lots of interesting tea blends some of which they also sell from their American subsidiary, but this one is only available in France

    I am not affiliated with either of these companies, I just love these 2 varieties.

  15. I love it. I feel as if you’re maturing before my very eyes. (I think I’m your mother’s age).
    I love tea, too, & had my closest brush w/ a tea fanatic at Nature walks, here in Berkeley. We’d have a walk, followed by a discussion on tea. It was wonderful. Especially ‘white’ tea. So intense, yet so light.
    It was a fun several sessions. I had the Upton catalog for a while, but mostly bought locally. Now I have sewing, knitting & tea in common w/ you. (Am I obsessive? My friend asks me that about herself & I say, no, ‘organized!’)
    I drink decaf in the morning for the wonderful flavor and tea all day until dinner, after which it’s a beer or a glass of wine. I need to be able to sleep!
    Thanks for sharing your latest interest.

  16. Ooh, tea, my favourite beverage, my personal favourite is Earl Grey with a dash of milk, but I also like English breakfast tea and peppermint tea. Have you tried Rooibos? There’s a company in the UK (called Teapigs) who do a rooibos tea with caramel pieces in, (they do lots of other flavours too) and the tea bags are like little silk purses! I have four tea pots all with removable brewing baskets – one benefit of those is that you can remove the basket when your tea has reached it’s optimum strength so that it doesn’t stew. Stewed tea is an abomination! Tea isn’t an obsession for me, it’s just an integral part of my life! Embrace the tea!

  17. I too like Twinings Earl Grey tea. It’s always in my cupboard. I also always have some Rooiboos on hand. It’s an herbal tea, caffeine free, with a caramelly taste. In addition to being tasty, it is supposed to have many health benefits. It comes from South Africa.
    Lately I have been drinking white tea. More antioxidants than green tea and soooo much tastier.

  18. I am a classical musicial who prefers tea over coffee most of the time. I like chai, too. I used to like Earl Grey until a friend told me it smells like soap… which stuck and I began to avoid Earl Grey… But Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka and “BOH” black tea ( from Cameron Highlands in Malaysia are my ‘comfort’ tea. They aren’t spicy but they have a dark and thick flavour.

  19. I love me some teas too! I rarely, if ever, add milk to my tea. Most of the time I drink it black, but every once in a while I add honey or a bit of sugar. I love black tea. I love making my own herbal/black tea mixes. Orange tea has to be my favorite. When I buy an orange, I always remove the zest and dry it to be used later when brewing tea. I recently made my own vanilla sugar by simply placing a vanilla bean in a pint mason jar of sugar and let it sit for a couple of weeks. So my daily tea has been a brew of orange/vanilla/black tea. If you have a french press you can get creative with making your own concoctions. When I am feeling yucky and need a low caffeine brew, I throw a couple of granny smith apple slices, a 1/4” slice of fresh ginger, a slice of orange, a pod of cardamom, and white tea in the bottom of the french press and add hot water. You’d probably like that with the perfume of the fruit and the spice of cardamom. Adding a few lavender buds to tea is quite wonderful too. AND, I recently purchased a mint chocolate tea. It was just a mixture of mint, black tea, and mini chocolate chips. It’s an interesting wintery drink!

  20. I’ve always loved black tea…the green tea tastes like brewed cut grass to me! is a wonderful brand of tea…in addition to the Earl Grey, I love their Paris, which is very similar to Twinings’ Lady Grey. My husband likes the Cranberry Autumn, which is a flavored black tea.

    You can buy open ended tea bags, so if you need a cup in a pinch and don’t want to go the tea ball/filter route, you can put the loose tea in the tea bag and not have to strain out the little leaves.

  21. I love floral, perfumey teas too, and I love Lady Grey even more than Earl Grey. Mmm bergamot! I also really like hibiscus tea especially loose, so I think it would brew great in that loose filter. I used to make tea in a French press with can be great for loose teas, especially herbal teas. Since you like spicy I adore simple ginger root tea, it makes the Minnesota winter spicy warm.

  22. I too am interested in switching some of my coffee consumption to tea but I’m woefully addicted to caffiene. I love chai and am interested in tasting other types. I work at a gourmet grocery store and we sell loose teas in bulk so you can buy just a little to taste. You might try a health food or gourmet store.

  23. My favourites (after my beloved Tetley tea!) are Yogi Licorice tea, which you might like as it has a hot licorice and black pepper taste, and Twinings Cherry and Cinnamon tea, which I like to drink in the summer. Lovely!

  24. Check out They are located in Missoula, MT and have some truly excellent teas and spices. My all time favorite non-caffinated tea is called “Evening in Missoula”. Perfect for the evenings- it is lightly sweet and very fragrant. I have found, however, that I prefer the taste of it in prepared tea bags rather than loose.

    One of my other all time favorites is ginger honey tea, which is easy to make yourself. Just peel and shred one large ginger rhizome, pour 4c. boiling water over it and let steep until tepid. Strain and add honey to taste. If it’s too strong add water to taste. This mix will knock early cold symptoms out and aids in digestion. Keeps well in the fridge for a few days. If you make a really strong mix, you can always mix with club soda for home made ginger ale!

  25. I’ve been reading your blog for more than a year, but I don’t think I’ve ever commented before. Unlurk!

    Having grown up in eastern Canada, there was always a pot of tea kept warm on the back of the stove for visitors (black as tar, made from many, many orange pekoe bags). Kids got it with lots of milk and sugar, men drank it by the mouthful, and the older ladies would cut it with hot water. Memories.

    I use one of those baskets in the top of my teapot; it’s especially good for genmai cha because it catches all the little popped rice and twigs. Rooibos is a favourite too, as is a very strong bergamot tea called “arctic fire”, but I haven’t been able to find that one for a while.

  26. I second Kate’s vote for Kusmi teas. I love their Anastasia tea. It is Earl Grey with lemon and orange blossom. I buy mine online at They have a lot of other teas also and their shipping is very fast.

    I am not sure if most people know that green tea is made differently. You do not let the water come to a full boil and you only let is steep for 2-3 minutes. If the water is too hot or it is steeped to long it will taste much more bitter than it should.

    I found a recipe for chai tea spice mix in an Indian cookbook I have. I have never found a premade chai tea that I like. Making it from scratch takes a little longer but is very much worth it. Since it is currently only 6 degrees outside with a windchill of -12 in my beautiful state of Wisconsin, I think a pot of chai might be in order today.

    Love your blog.

  27. My cousin used to be a professional ‘tea taster’, whatever that is, and always recommended a stronger tasting tea for the morning leading to lighter teas as the day wears on. I love Russian Caravan tea for its bold smoky flavour in the morning, and finish the day with green tea.But, a warning. Steer clear of ‘orrible tea bags. The nicest green tea is available loose leaf at Asian grocery stores. If possible, buy a Japanese brand that includes puffed rice. This gives it a delicate nutty flavour. Oh, and don’t let it steep; pour in the hot water and drink right away.

  28. Hi Jessica – I am a scientist/artist (and a burgeoning seamstress – you helped me with a knits question in the past, thank you) with the same obsessive tendencies, although I prefer to think of myself as a thorough researcher who is “detail oriented.” Sounds better, right?

    My current favorite tea is Marco Polo by Mariage Freres. Since I do not live in Paris, sadly, I buy it from Dean and Deluca. It is a highly scented tea, very floral. Also pricey, but seriously delicious.

  29. Try White Monkey. It’s a green tea. It doesn’t taste grassy
    Another suggestion: Lapsang. It’s a black tea with a heavy smokey flavor – think barbeque. I love it blended with dried fruit.
    But my favorite tea right now is Silver Needle, a white tea with a light perfume finish.
    Enjoy trying teas and finding what you like. There are so many wonderful options. I gave up coffee years ago and switched to tea. Irish breakfast helped me make the transition, since it’s a tea that’s “strong enough for a mouse to walk on”.

  30. – this is the website for the company that makes my FAVORITE Earl Grey, names The Original Ceylon Tea Company. They are currently stocking in HEB grocery stores, to my delight. I don’t know if you have those where you are. The company website is very open about where their tea is from and how they decide the quality, etc., that is necessary for their tea brought to the States.

    They had to stop stocking in my local store a few years back. I wrote an email to the president to ask why. He responded within half an hour to my message and was very pleasant and detailed in his response. I’ve never forgotten that!

  31. As a classical musician who became a computer programmer, I about fell out of my chair laughing when I read this one, “..high intelligence combined with a level of obsessive focus that is not always socially acceptable, but which leads to being really good at something.”

    That doesn’t describe me of course, just a lot of my friends. 😉

  32. Gee, you must have hit a nerve with all those who follow you. The crafters, musicians and the geeks alike. Wow, I was surprised at the response to the topic of tea.

    The last few years I’ve gotten away from coffee (still drink a cuppa every now and then) and started drinking tea. I found that tea has a variety of flavors and levels of caffeine hits that are harder to duplicate with coffee (I know, latte, espresso, etc.). That is, they do not have to be made. Being Japanese, I cannot help but drink green tea. By far the best I have tasted is The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Genmaicha Green. Though it is pricey (comes in a tin) it adds roasted rice and comes in little sachets. I also like the Earl but find it is too strong so I prefer the English Breakfast. One tea I tried recently is the Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Gold – a black tea from the UK you can find usually at big chain grocery stores (I think). I found mine at Whole Foods but Ralphs also carries it. To round out my list, my other favorite brand is Tazo. I like the China Green Tips (green) and Calm (herbal that’s caffeine free when I need something calming at night). And there you have it! This list is not all inclusive but it highlights what I currently drink the most of.

    As for the loose teas, I’ve tried the Republic of Tea and though I can’t complain about the flavor it’s just you get so much or little of it. I usually like to buy only small quantities of several and bags are more convenient. These teas usually have to be ordered and with the price you pay you have to savior it. With grocery store and coffee shop teas, it’s readily available so I favor convenience for a little less flavor.

  33. I didn’t have time to read all the comments, but if anyone hasn’t recommended Adagio Teas, you should check it out (online). I drink about 6 cups of tea a day, and have probably 20 different types on hand (including bags – they’re just easier sometimes). For Adagio, all the teas have a review section, which is really useful in deciding if you might like it before buying. And they have so many flavors!! AND you can buy them in different sizes including samples, which make several cups. I can’t stand Early Grey personally, but the fruity green blends are good.

  34. I am a big tea drinker and have been buying my bulk teas through the internet, Special Teas which is now Teavana, ever since a Bahrainian coworker showed me there was a world beyond the Lipton teabag. I love black tea, Kenya FBOPI and Ceylon Orange Pekoe ( Kenilworth Estates) I am not much of a flowery tea fan, but every once in a while Rose Congou, a china black tea containing rose petal, hits the spot with its delecate rose flavoring. I make my own teabags of loose tea, to use at work, using paper tea filters that come 100/box just for this purpose.

  35. I love teas, especially chai. I think that the best chai I have ever had is from a tea shop in Washington, DC. They sell their teas online and I highly recommend them: If you are ever in DC it is also very much worth a visit. They have excellent food, mostly locally sourced.

  36. I keep about 4 different varieties of loose leaf (black) tea in my cabinet and making a small pot of tea in now part of my morning routine. I’ve also blended together my own whole spice mixture for chai. Some favorites – vanilla black, rose petal black, apricot-peach black, earl grey lavender, bombay breakfast (very chai-like with cardamom and rose petals), black lychee. And then I keep a few herbal and rooibois teas for the evening. If you like perfume flavors definitely try a tea with rose petals or lavender. I buy from a couple different local tea shops (I believe both do online orders if you are interested in something I’ve mentioned). At the end of the year Trader Joe’s sells a decent vanilla cinnamon black tea as well as a nice peppermint-green tea blend.

  37. I just read your post regarding the terrible troll comment which I am so sorry you had to read. I think you need to keep on keeping on with the great blog you share with us all. It is YOUR blog and you are entitled to write about whatever you darn well please! Anyways,your response alerted me to your tea posts which I must have missed. So, I back tracked and found this one. I, too, love tea and love the ritual of it all. My most recent tea obsession comes from Teavana. My fiance and I stopped in last Friday and purchased a jaw dropping amount of tea. Though it is pricey, and I was a little sticker shocked walking out of the store, I must admit that each time I brew myself a cup of tea I am so happy to have the blends that we purchased. I highly recommend the following:
    Jasmine Dragon Phoenix Pearls Green Tea
    Rooibos Tropica Rooibos Tea
    -I’ve been doing a 40/60 blend of the Jasmine and Rooibos and quite frankly, it’s amazing. The Rooibos has a slight sweet taste to it on its own, but with a tiny bit of sugar it’s a little treasure in your mug.
    We also picked up Silver Yin Zhen Pearls White tea upon the sales associate’s recommendation. I told her that I had been drinking only bagged tea lately because I was all out of loose tea. She recommended adding a few pearls of the Silver Yin Zhen to my bagged tea for added nutritional benefits. The Silver Zhen and the Jasmine Dragon Phoenix can also be rebrewed multiple times which is nice. ALSO: I also recommend their iphone app not only for blend recommendations but it also has a brew timer with a fun little Indian melody alert when the brew is done. 🙂

    I’m looking to more tea posts! 🙂

    1. Ooh, we just got a Teavana here recently! I had the Cocoa Praline Tart rooibos the last time I went. I have yet to actually buy any of their teas, but now I will have a recommendation to try. Thank you!

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