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jsmeeker

[DFW] Local stores for quality tea

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Where are DFW area members going to buy their tea? I'm looking for actual "brick and mortar" stores/shops. There is the well known and regarded The Cultured Cup in Preston Center. There are also the Teavana locations in the Galleria and Northpark malls. Are there any other dedicated tea stores or small shops that specialize in tea?

For larger stores, the Central Market stores have a better selection that a typical store. More pre-packaged loose teas, bulk loose teas, and of course lots and lots of stuff in tea bags. I haven't checked out the selection at Whole Foods locations just yet. What are they like? If you like the Asian teas, which asian markets do you go to? Are there specialty asian tea shops out there?

Where are you buying your tea locally when you aren't ordering it via mail?


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I think you have found most of the tea sources in Dallas, Jeff. Do not know about Ft. Worth. There are no "Asian tea shops" as such. And 99.9999% of teas sold in Asian markets are not what you are looking for, though they do have a few ingredients you could use to make your own herbal teas.

I have been in Teavana two or three times, but have never bought any of their teas. I think, but am not sure, the minimum is 4 ounces and it is rare for me to buy more than one or two ounces of any tea. I did get one of their Japanese storage containers despite them costing a little more than less-expensive-just-as-good-or-better double-lidded Chinese tea cannisters you can get elsewhere. Just because of a design I liked, even though most Japanese green teas would probably do better in something else.

Asian (ie. Chinese and Japanese) teas are found at The Cultured Cup, Central Market and Teavana. Whole foods has a very small selection of bulk teas. The British Emporium in Grapevine has a variety of bagged and loose leaf British teas similar to, and including, the Twinnings you have tried.

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Richard,

I went to the Galleria location of Teavana this afternoon. I asked about teas for iced tea and the clerk brought down all manner of teas. They happily sold me two ounces of a peach apricot ginger flavored black tea. I paid $4.50 and was on my way. They also have an impressive (to me, at least) selection of tea pots, especially if you like the cast iron ones.

Teavana IS convenient to me even if it's inside a mall and a "hike" from the car since the mall itself is very close to home. Once I settle on a type or two I want to drink regularly, I could see my self buying it from there 4 -6 ounces at a time. (especially if I am buying tea to make iced tea, since I brew it double strength and pour on ice and drink a lot of it at a time)

I'm a *bit* surprised that there isn't at least one or two more specialty shops similar to CC where they sell tea in addition to coffee. I would think that a quality tea service in a casual "hip" urban setting might work someplace in Big D.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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Richard,

I went to the Galleria location of Teavana this afternoon.  I asked about teas for iced tea and the clerk brought down all manner of teas.   They happily sold me two ounces of a peach apricot ginger flavored black tea. I paid $4.50 and was on my way.   They also have an impressive (to me, at least) selection of tea pots, especially if you like the cast iron ones.

Teavana IS convenient to me even if it's inside a mall and  a "hike" from  the car since the mall itself is very close to home. Once I settle on a type or two I want to drink regularly, I could see my self buying it from there 4 -6 ounces at a time. (especially if I am buying tea to make iced tea, since I brew it double strength and pour on ice and drink a lot of it at a time)

I'm a *bit* surprised that there isn't at least one or two more specialty shops similar to CC where they sell tea in addition to coffee. I would think that a quality tea service in a casual "hip" urban setting might work someplace in Big D.

Teavana has a large selection of tea pots. The cast iron ones have become very popular in recent years, but are not that good for brewing tea, especially the Japanese green teas people most often think of when they think of the cast iron pots.

It's mostly a marketing triumph over practicality. These were, for at least a few hundred years, not made as tea pots but as water kettles. As I understand it, they figured out there might a larger market if they coated the interiors with enamel and sold them as tea pots. Great water kettles (uncoated) - and one is on my wish list - but not so much as a tea pot since they hold too much heat too long - a killer for green teas.

Teavana does carry some interesting tea cups and other teapots, though I was not particularly taken with their few Yixing pots.

As far as their tea goes, if you like it, that's what counts.

As far as there not being a number of tea shops like The Cultured Cup in the Dallas area, there aren't a lot in the country. There are a handful of great teashops in the US, and a handful of on-line quality tea purveyors, and TCC was one of the first to bring quality teas into the US many years ago. It's a major effort to source teas from around the world, develope creative ways to market locally, maintain a retail operation with quality service, and run a web retail operation on top of that.

Teavana is a very different operation, a chain that puts an emphasis on selling pots and accessories and has a comparatively small selection of teas. As I recall, about a dozen in the store vs 70 - 100 at The Cultured Cup and many other serious tea shops and on-line vendors. Not that there aren't a few vendors with a small stable of high quality offerings. (While Teavana does have a larger number of teas on-line, it appears that the vast majority of them are flavored teas.)

Fewer choices can be comforting to many people vs the complexity and multitude of fine teas potentially available. Kind of like a fast food place with six major menu items vs a restaurant with many more. It's another option for people.

I think of the teas at places like Teavana and CM as "gateway teas" -- the first teas that many people have had beyond grocery store tea bags. Many people stop there and are more than satisfied. Some go beyond to exploring the huge, wonderfully complex, delicious array of fine teas available from shops and vendors in the US and beyond. Very much like people and wine...except that tea is far, far, far less expensive to explore, with a very few excpetions, mostly in the world of aged Puer tea.

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What struck me most about the teas at Teavana was the large number of flavored teas. I didn't count up the number of teas available at Teavana (there were a lot more than a dozen) and TCC, but if I had to guess, Teavana's percentage of various flavored teas is much higher than TCC. Not that those are bad, per se, but I guess that is what they want to emphasise. Still, I suppose it's nice to see a dedicated tea place. Better than drinking a Liption tea bag, right?

.

Interesting comments about the cast iron pots, Richard. I really don't like 'em cause they are just too darned heavy! But I have seen them recommended by others. But that's a discussion for another topic.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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The Cultured Cup has added a new line of teas in recent months they are calling "A Cup of Value". I have tried a few and they have done a good job of sourcing some very nice, inexpensive teas.

This "Cup of Value" series is in addition to their "Cup Above" line of some truly exquisite classic teas, such as Dan Cong, Great Red Robe and others. More expensive, but very high quality.

And they also continue to carry a large range of Mariage Frères teas. I think they may be the largest retailer of Mariage Frères teas in the US, but one of the largest at any rate.

As I have mentioned in other topics, I have known Kyle Stewart at The Cultured Cup for some time now, having bought tea from his shop for many years, at least 10 years I believe it is. And for the past three years or so Kyle has been instrumental to my tea education through the T-Bar Club at The Cultured Cup.

Kyle attended the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas recently and completed his three years of training with the Speciality Tea Institute to become the first certified tea specialist in Texas. I have had many pleasant times with Kyle and his staff, trading teas and sharing new tea discoveries. More than just a tea merchant I happen to buy tea from, Kyle is a culinary friend as well as a tea friend - the wonderful tea pairings at Sharon Hage's York Street restaurant and a shared interest in Asian food.

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A follow up note related to our discussion of the Teavanna store. I have been in this place probably a half dozen times in the past year, and every time I am accosted by a really pushy sales person. Not the same person, but it's some one every time I have been there. Even when I put out signals that I don't want help, just want to browse, the person persists. First they want to show me the cast iron pots - "best tea pots in the world" - no, attractive, but over-priced and arguably not all that great for any but black teas; you could actually get a very good teapot for what they charge for these things. If I even look at their Yixings (which are better for display than for brewing because cheaper clay is used on Yixings with fancy designs, they go into what is an obviously canned spiel about Yixing pots. The only thing I have found of interest there is tea cups and tea containers, so I have learned to walk in fast, ignore offers to sell me the moon, check out the teacups and tea containers and get out. I find it a little exhausting. I don't know if this is a chain-wide thing or just the management of the local store.

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