Special Teas

I am cleaning and organizing my tea cupboard because SHUT UP I DON’T HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE YOU HAVE A NOVEL TO WRITE that’s why. Also, it had gotten to be quite a disorganized mess and I wasn’t sure what I still had. (Yes, the cats are up next, just gotta remember where I stowed the dust buster.)

Anyway. I came across a sad reminder of Specialteas.com. They were an online tea seller, and they had an East Frisian Broken Blend that was my go-to super nice and chewy for putting milk in tea, and they had a lovely, very grapefruity earl grey.

And they had something called Thé Blanc de Cassis. The ingredients label says “Organic white tea, flavoring, cranberries, mallow flowers.” It was the best. Very subtle–slightly flowery, slightly fruity. So one day, when my supply was low, I went to the website to order more.

And discovered that Teavana had bought them. And shut them down. And, of course, not picked up any of the stuff they’d sold. I did look into Teavana’s offerings, and the folks at the nearest one did try to help me, but with very few exceptions Teavana’s flavored teas are all so freaking sweet and fruity that I wonder sometimes if anyone who buys their stuff actually likes, you know, tea. Maybe they’d be happier with some juice or flavored bottled water? I don’t know, whatever makes them happy I guess, and perhaps the answer lies in the way, when they ring up your Teavana purchase, instead of saying, “That will be [outrageous sum],” they say, “Your investment in your health and wellness comes to…” Um, no. Please, just don’t.

Of course, I might be more tolerant of such foolishness if they would sell me some more Thé Blanc de Cassis. I just came across the last little bit of it, that’s been in a cannister since I discovered I couldn’t get more. Maybe three or four cups worth. It’s been ages since Specialteas closed, and every time I would look at it I would think “but I can’t get more so if I drink it it’ll be gone for good.” I suspect it’s completely flavorless by now, and not drinking it isn’t changing the fact that I can’t get more. So I guess I’ll have a cup now and drink the rest up soonish and free that space on the shelf. And nurse my continuing resentment against Teavana.

Any folks who blend and sell tea, though–if you’ve got a white tea/cranberries/mallow flower blend that’s not super sweet and fruity, or might offer one in the future, well, I might just be your target customer.

*And yes, if Adagio offered mallow flowers as a possible custom blend ingredient I’d have done that and bought the hell out of it.

28 thoughts on “Special Teas

  1. A
    Adam says:

    At what point does it become worth blending your own teas? (I have no idea if it requires decades of experience to do well)

    I feel your pain over the prevalence of oversweetened, overfruited teas.

    1. Ann says:

      I’m not sure! Adagio makes it pretty easy, if you’re content to work with the ingredients they allow you to use in custom blends, and I’ve had a fun time doing that and they package it up and send it when I (or someone else) order one I’ve put together.

      For things that aren’t within the parameters Adagio offers? I’d probably have to invest money in ingredients and time in experimenting. I’ve not found a good source for mallow flowers–leaves yes, flowers seem harder to get. i might need to look again.

  2. mantelli says:

    I’m sure you already know my two favorite tea sources, Holy Mountain and Simpson & Vail. The former is a great all around source of teas, especially Chinese ones, and I love their 2 ounce “samples”. The latter seems to be the only source of rose-scented China black tea, which is my favorite snowy day sip.

    1. Ann says:

      I’ve actually never bought from either of those places! I’ll have to check them out!

      My first experience with roses and china black was Republic of Tea, and I have a bunch of that, but I’ll have to check out Simpson & Vail!

    2. C
      Christina says:

      @Mantelli: There are a lot of online stores that sell black tea with rose. Here’s one from Teavivre, which is a really good online store for Chinese teas: http://www.teavivre.com/rose-black-tea/

      There’s this one from an American vendor as well: http://www.capitalteas.com/Rose_Congou_Tea_of_the_Emperor_p/745.htm

      1. C
        Christina says:

        And, speaking of cleaning up/organizing your tea cabinet, I just wrote about that a few days ago: http://booksandtea.ca/2016/01/state-tea-cabinet-2016/

        1. Elusis says:

          Anyone have recommendations for what to do with tea that has gotten aged and stale? I purchased a bunch of Adagio over eight years ago, and though their tins are good, they’re not magic. How do you decide when tea is past use? Is there anything it’s good for other than compost once it’s ex-tea?

          1. Ann says:

            I would say, make a cup and if all the flavor is gone, or whatever flavor has developed doesn’t please you, well, compost it.

          2. C
            Christina says:

            One thing you can do is brew the old leaf and then use it to water your houseplants. Tea can provide a bit of a nutritional boost, so it makes sense to me that even if the flavour is gone, your plants still might like it. And then you can compost the wet leaves, so you can get a 2-for-1 thing going on for your plants.

          3. Lenora Rose says:

            How long it takes for a tea to go stale is a really weird question. People have tried hundred year old green tea (And black, I think) that had been sealed well and found that while it steeped weak it worked and tasted fine. I know one store was selling a tea that’s almost impossible to get in loose leaf form for about 4 years after it’s official best before date and it was fine because it was still sealed. But once opened, even once or twice and then sealed again, it seems to accelerate, but at different rates (And not always based on quality, at least not in the order you’d expect based on quality). I’ve lucked into teas that last years.

  3. Ellen says:

    I remember specialteas.com, they sold my dad’s favorite oolong. He was upset when they were bought out, too.

    Teavana does have one or two herbal/fruit teas that I like a lot (they do some nice stuff with lavender), but as far as actual tea goes, I stay far away. Plus they’re not honest about caffeine content, which seems like it could be actually dangerous to some people.

    1. Ann says:

      They look wonderful! I’ll have to give them a go.

  4. B
    Bret Grandrath says:


    I figured if anyplace would have fancy read it would be Napa…and sure enough

  5. B
    Bret Grandrath says:

    Or fancy tea even, damn autocorrect

  6. K
    Katherine V says:

    Have you checked Harney & Sons? They’re my go-to for top-notch green tea. Not sure what blends they have though.

    1. Ann says:

      I quite like Harney and Sons! They don’t have anything like the The Blanc, but they have some very nice teas. I’m partial to their blackcurrant, myself.

  7. Lenora Rose says:

    I mostly agree re: Teavana. I’vehad sampler boxes twice from them and really liked far fewer even than I expected. For actual teas, there are basically two I buy: one oolong that I freely grant is sweet and fruity and doesn’t taste much of tea (strawberry blush rose or some such, they’ve changed the name twice and I can never remember it), and their Creme Earl Grey, which does the creme flavour via flowers. Otherwise, if I’m looking for weird flavoured teas I go elsewhere.

    Upton is amazing. I also recommend Murchie’s, which might have an added cheapness advantage with the Canadian dollar so low). I’ve found even their flavoured teas do focus on having as strong tea base and more flavour, less sweet. Alas, no white teas at all so it won’t help in this specific search.

    1. K
      Kathy Stice says:

      I also drink Murchie’s tea exclusively (I’m strictly a black tea drinker). I’ve looked at other sellers and still find Murchie’s prices better and shipping often more reasonable, even though it’s coming from Canada.

  8. Y
    Yelena says:

    I’m somewhat confused that something called “Thé Blanc de Cassis” would contain cranberries and mallow. I’d expect blackcurrant.

    My tea supplier of choice is Upton, which has already been mentioned. I once got a cranberry-flavored tea from them that I didn’t like at all, but I very much enjoy their blackcurrant-flavored one: http://uptontea.com/store/item.asp?itemID=TF21

    I absolutely love their Extra Bergamot Earl Grey, too:

    1. Ann says:

      Hah, yes, to be honest, I first ordered it because I enjoy blackcurrant a lot and that “cassis” sounded like that’s what it ought to be. It wasn’t, but I liked it very much. I have no idea how they named it, honestly.

      I’m definitely going to have to order some stuff from Upton. Because I don’t already have enough tea.

      1. Y
        Yelena says:

        “Enough” is such a fuzzy concept, especially when applied to tea….

        1. T
          Tuppenny says:

          Upton Tea is fabulous. And they do nice sample packets so one can indulge in an expensive tea without breaking the bank.

          The sample size is nice to buy and tuck into Christmas Cards too.

  9. Jo Miles says:

    I feel your pain! I think I still have the dregs of a couple bags of Specialteas, and I still miss their Earl Grey. My new go-to is theteatable.com, and they have a couple of flavored white teas that look nice, though I haven’t tried them yet.

  10. K
    Kat Terrell says:

    Todd & Holland (http://www.todd-holland.com/teacart/pc/White-Teas-c150.htm) has a variety of white teas, including a champagne raspberry white tea with safflowers. I haven’t had it so don’t know if it’s sweet, but the folks there are very knowledgeable and helpful.

  11. Discover Teas (our favorite local tea shop) has a Kyoto Cherry Rose Festival house blend green that is beautiful – & such good quality tea you can get three steeps, all lovely! It’s available online @ DiscoverTEAS.com. Another (absolute FAV!)ordered for years from Stash Tea is their Wedding Green Tea. Ditto high quality & multiple steeps. It sounds like the tea you are missing – and I would be sorely bereft with this go-to tea!

    For tea bags – Harney & Son’s “Jane’s Garden Tea” blends green tea and roses. Sometimes hard to find (in shops) so I usually stockpile it when found.

    After finishing your 1st book last nite, my brother said it’s “unique, thought-provoking & GREAT.” He passed in on to me so i looked you up & found a kindred tea appreciator. Can’t wait to start your book (with a cuppa!)

  12. M
    MattinPDX says:

    Steven Smith Teamaker in Portland, OR is amazing. Check them out!


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