Teavana is nice and an inviting space to sit in and drink tea. But I dare say that the tea on offer, does not do justice to tea and that leaf's history in its differing manifestations in differing cultures, let alone the most strongly held tradition of China.
First off if one is buying tea for the home, I recommend even the grocers in Chinatown, but more so the small independent tea seller like the first photo for this write up (above). There is a chance that a few exist in Chinatown.
I failed in this way because I have bought my tea from grocers since residing in NYC recently, and having moved from there 2 years ago, I am no longer there daily.
Tea seller shops are called 'chahang' 茶行 (google image that chinese wordand you get idea.
In any event, Teavana is a huge fraud in my opinion. It is for people who are either ignorant of better alternatives in less marketed fashions, or those who gravitate towards very contrived and artificial boutiques that equate with utter commodification in a jazzed up way that divorces the product from its history, its true community of enthusiasts and the like.
If you love Disney.com, you will go for Teavana. Pay a lot to be devoid of the hands on tea trade of China in the US. But you can do that while you drink a Coco Carmel Sea Salt Latte, or My Morning Mate Latte.
They have taken what the English did with tea drinking (milk and lumps of sugar) and brought it into a market that exploits people's desires for choices, yet, so minimal to the choices in a typical Chinese grocer, with or without the added milk and sugar in your home.
The machine for brewing tea using the same manner as boiling water, but does the brewing for you in a very horrible unorthodox way. It costs 250 plus....dollars.... I recommend a electric or fire boiler, for which the water, gets poured into a hand held tea pot.
If you brew your tea in one of these cages that are fashioned for the large pot or cup, imagine swimming in water, in a cage. The tea should be allowed free opening up of leaves in the water, unobstructed.
Furthermore, if one brews smaller amounts of tea, in a proper tea pot, there is the element of more control, and a better brew.
I bought my first tea pot in Taipei 1997, and continued with such, as I brewed tea in my home daily, while study or reading, listening to a piece of music on the audio.
Going to the tea seller, one can learn over time, this art.
It is not really anything so fancy. It is truly ‘hand on’ affair, similar to coffee enthusiasts and their acquiring knowledge, ever deeper, about beans, brew methods, etc.
The tea pots should be used in the manner of one tea pot per one kind of tea. The tea pot clay becomes infused with the particular tea one uses that tea pot for over time.
紫砂 (zi sha) is the purple clay (not always cmoing out as a purple tea pot) that is used from Zhejiang China to make the tea pots: 壶 (hu) is pot. If you google 紫砂壶 you will see them. Some are very cheap, the good ones are distinguished by traits that one learns as you come familiar with the clay and brewing tea, and the way the pots are made.
Here are some simple terms regarding tea in China:
茶藝:茶 (cha: tea) 藝 (yi: art; craft; skill)
茶道:茶 (cha) 道( dao: way; method; road; custom);
功夫茶:功 (gong: success) 夫 (fu male ): 功 夫 (Gong Fu acquired skills); 茶(cha: tea)