I drink a lot of tea: black tea, oolong tea, green tea, white tea, tisane (herbal tea), and rooibos. I even have some yerba maté, though I have not found one I really like.
After weening myself off an espresso addiction in the late 90s, I was caffeine-free for about five years. For health benefits, I started to drink tea and then, like all of my obsessions, it spiraled out of control. One of my friends was working the tea section at Whole Foods and one night, she loaded me up with samples. I never knew how fabulous it could be until I had her instructions and everything from pu-ehr to Imperial Republic Jasmine Pearls, which is the single most fabulous tea I have ever had, bar none.
At any time, I have at least 20 loose leaf teas on hand, stored in little aluminum boxes, with the paper stickers from the store and my handwritten temperature and time preferences. I have up to 40 little boxes when I am fully stocked.
Although I prefer to drink loose tea, I did buy pyramid bags of jasmine pearls for travel after I realized that I could not fully indulge myself while on business outside the US. Our office only had crappy bagged teas and I did not have the time to search for a tea shop. It’s not the best (or even 3rd best) jasmine pearl tea, but it’s still better than 99.9% of any bagged tea I could possible drink on the road. Plus, bringing loose tea into a foreign country where I do not fluently speak the language . . . not a discussion I would like to have at the border.
Normally, I spend between $5-10 per week on tea. It is a little embarrassing to go through the checkout line and realize I have as many packages of tea as items of food. My true addiction came to light when I bought a water filter for the sink to improve the quality of my tea.
I brew my tea in the 16 oz and 32 oz IngenuiTea pots and then I decant them into my regular tea pots (current favorite — 34 oz tea de chine by bodum, though I broke the glass filter by smashing it into the lip of the pot. Oops.). The IngenuiTea pots are “food-grade plastic.” The leaves float loosely throughout, which seems a more effective brewing technique. Once it steeps for the appropriate time, I place the IngenuiTea atop a normal tea pot, and the excellent filter in the bottom streams the tea in while leaving the leaves above.
I prefer organic, free trade teas. I drink a variety of different brands, but most of my favorites are Rishi.
My current favorite is Keemun Hao Ya, which I refer to as my “magic tea.” I drink it, and it inspires me. Every single time. It’s the most expensive tea I regularly drink, costing about $55/pound. I buy about .05 lb every week or two. Rishi describes the tea as “Its rich flavor is smooth with a deep burgundy infusion with notes of port wine and a tinge of fresh pine smoke.”