Since there are so many teahounds on Chow, I thought I would start a new topic to see which online tea merchants people like and what they are ordering.
Here are the ones I have ordered from recently, or in the past, and my comments:
Teance - www.teance.com. Ordered Competition Grade Baochong Oolong Tea Wen Shan and Honey Dan Chong Water Immortal Oolong Tea. Haven't tried the Honey Dan Chong yet. Hated the Competition Grade Baochong Oolong Tea - I found it very cloying. But I admit there was user error in ordering it - the description, which I didn't read closely enough, clearly said it was sweet and had overtones of gardenias and lilacs. I hate sweet and flowery teas, so I can't say I wasn't given fair warning. . .
I like the way Teance packages their teas in resealable foil bags and I like the way that each bag states the correct amount of tea to measure, the correct water temperature and the correct brewing time.
Red Blossom - www.redblossomtea.com. Recently ordered Dragon Peal Jasmine Supreme and Heirloom Lisham - Spring Formosa Oolong. Haven't tried the Dragon Pearl yet. Liked the Heirloom Lishan - no sweet tones. Not sure if it the ultimate oolong of my dreams, but I did like it. Red Blossom doesn't package in resealable bags, so you have to transfer the tea to an airtight canister. No brewing directions on the bags.
Rishi Tea -- http://www.rishi-tea.com/store/home.p...
Ordered a number of Japanese teas from them recently. In the past, they have been a reliable source for Japanese teas and for darjeerling. All but one of the teas I ordered from Rishi recently have been good, but they are all blending together in my mind at the moment, except for the Ume Shiso green tea, which I hated (I thought the plum and shiso flavors overwhelmed the tea). I also ordered a bunch of teaware from Rishi that I love. I think Rishi has the best selection of Japanese teapots on the Web at an English-language site.
Upton Tea - http://uptontea.com/shopcart/home.asp. I haven't ordered from them recently, but I plan to put in an order soon. I like the fact that they sell samples of tea so you can try a small amount before committing to a pricey tea and I like the fact that they let customers rate tea on their website (a la Amazon), so it gives you a little more information before ordering.
Ito En - http://www.itoen.com/leaf/ I like their website in particular because you can sort teas by flavor characteristic (which allows you to avoid sweet teas - or to find them if that is the kind of tea you like). I get my matcha from Ito En and I like that they have a fairly wide selection of matcha and I have always found it to be good quality.
Todd & Holland - http://www.todd-holland.com/ I just got their catalog in the mail, I think because I probably ordered from them in the distant past. The catalog looks like they have some interesting selections, but almost all of the tea is only sold in a minimum quantity of 4 oz (unlike many other merchants who sell samples or who allow 2 oz orders). Most of the teas that I was interested in were priced from $60 to $90. I am sorry, but I am just not going to spring $60-$90 for a tea that I have never tasted and that I am not sure I am even going to like. You would really think that at those prices, they would allow smaller orders. Has anyone ordered from them recently?
So where are you ordering your tea from?