I know a *lot* of coffee drinkers, so a question I get fairly often is, "What do you think I'd like?" or "What do you recommend?" Well, it's a little more complicated than that, because we all enjoy and experience things differently.

What is Tea???

First things first - if it's not from the Camellia sinensis. plant, it's not tea. Many, many different herbal blends are labeled "herbal teas" but if they don't actually have any of the white, green, black, or oolong leaves in them, they're not actually tea. The correct term is tisane, "an infusion (as of dried herbs) used as a beverage or for medicinal effects."

But how can one single plant turn into so many different varieties? White, green, black, oolong, or pu'erh, the kind of tea the leaves become depends on where and when it's picked and how it's treated afterwards. Verdant has a wonderful Beginner's Guide to Loose Leaf that you can visit for more information.

How Do I Find The Perfect Tea for Me?

Looking for the perfect tea? Well, it's all trial and error, friends. You need to sample around a lot to dial in your perfect cup. For goodness' sake - I used a sports tournament bracket to figure out my ideal cup of Earl Grey!

There's a lot out there, but it's a ton of fun to sample and experience. So, if you're dedicated to stepping away from grocery store teabags and dipping your toe into the world of loose leaf, these are the websites that get most of my orders:

  • Verdant Tea - Their 5 for $5 Sampler is an excellent way to try some truly fabulous, high-quality teas which are incredibly fresh, direct from small harvests, and Fair Trade.
  • Della Terra Teas - I get most of my dessert teas from Della Terra because of a) the variety of rooibos and caffeine free blends, b) the prices, and c) it's better for my allergies. Apple is a ubiquitous ingredient in so many sweet blends that I tend to stick with places where it's easier to avoid. Della Terra used to offer Try Me Samplers, but I think they've discontinued them. 
  • Simpson & Vail - The home of my beloved Victorian Earl Grey, S&V has a great family feel, Kosher certification on most teas, and a nice selection of samplers to get you started.
  • DAVIDsTEA - They *love* including apple in nearly all their sweet blends, so I have to be very, very careful about which teas I get. In addition to their Starter Kit, they usually carry seasonal samplers as well. 

Any Other Suggestions?

Avoid the Hard Sale: Definitely avoid the high-priced boutiques until you've hit your stride. There are some tea companies out there who have some of great products but can also charge a lot for them. Teavanna especially is known for their hard sales. I'm glad I didn't encounter them until I knew my teas - and average prices - a little better. 

I give myself a cash-only limit any time I want to go into their stores, because that way I don't end up overspending and buying large quantities of tea I'm not going to drink quickly enough.

The Person With the Most Teaware Doesn't Win: It's really, really tempting to go absolutely nuts with your teaware right out of the gate but you don't need a ton of gear to start enjoying loose leaf. Most teaware is designed with staying power in mind, so choose carefully. If you add up the cost of all those kinda cute cup and saucers you found at the second hand store, you could have afforded something fabulous for the long run. Or, on the flip side, you could have avoided the hundreds of dollars you spent on the gorgeous Tetsubin at the mall and actually got a nice tea set... or tea to actually go in your pot!

I would start with a basket infuser so that the leaves can expand. Something like the Perfect Mug at DAVIDsTEA although many other tea companies carry similar items. If you want to go the Tetsubin route to start, World Market carries some adorable pots and warmers, or you can go to and get several sets for the price of one Teavana pot

You can also check out my Teaware page for links to teaware reviews.


Edgar, Julie. "Types of Tea and Their Health Benefits." WebMd. <>

"Tea and Cancer Prevention: Strengths and Limits of the Evidence." National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health" <>

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