Random Wednesday – Tea

(Today please welcome Guest Poster and frequent commenter Ann!  In response to Posse requests, we’re doing a tea post.  Since everything I know about tea could be inscribed on a Lipton tag, I invited Ann to do a post.   All you tea freaks, please come out and comment. Any weird pasting errors are mine.  – March)

By Ann

Fair warning to all you Posse fans: No perfume post on tap today (lost some of you right there), and also a newbie poster (there go the rest of you).    All kidding aside, I’m hoping that one or two of you will stick around, bear with me and not throw things  — unless it’s tea bags and perfume.

No doubt about it, those two are a natural match; lovely aromas are wonderful, no matter their origin. The more I think back on it, my love affair with perfume and tea caught fire right around the same time several years ago.

Now I’m telling you guys up front, I am in no way, shape or form an expert, just a fragrance addict like all of you,who happens to love tea; I wouldn’t know a second harvest from a third if it bumped into me on the street. There may be some of you out there who are tea experts, and I welcome your thoughts as I’m always glad to learn more.

I’m pretty much a democratic consumer: I drink it all, from higher-end (Mariage Freres) to supermarket brands such as Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings, etc.  I’ll try anything once and I happily sip most varieties. I adore testing new blends but I do wish there were a more economical way to do so without having to buy a whole package, tin, etc. Perhaps a tea decanting site is in my future, eh?

Like many of you, I enjoy sharing my passion. At my previous job, I kept a selection of teas handy for co-workers to sample. And I did much the same thing with fragrance.  I guess I’m an enabler, in my own small way. One variety that  I drank daily back then, a blend of red, white and green teas, prompted an officemate to ask me in a running joke if I’d flown my Italian flag that day.

I drink anywhere from 3 to 6 cups a day and skip caffeine after about 5 p.m.I tend to like my black teas and chais with a splash of milk and a spoonful of sugar (channeling Mary Poppins here). Having said that, in an effort to cut down on sugar consumption, I’ve been experimenting with stevia. When trying a new tea, I’ll sip it unsweetened first, then with sugar a time or two, just to establish a baseline for its flavor. And later I’ll give it a go with the stevia, for comparison’s sake.

One of the fringe benefits I enjoy most about my habit is the wonderful ritual of afternoon tea, especially when traveling. What a treat to have a relaxing hour or two in the middle of an otherwise-hectic day of sightseeing and shopping, to catch my breath and reflect on what I’ve just seen  (and sniffed, of course). I try to enjoy it wherever I am, be it San Francisco or Chicago, London or L.A., or even in my hometown. It’s especially soothing now in the heart of the hectic holiday season.

When it comes to fragrance with tea notes / influences, I’ve tried a few (the Bulgari red, white and green series, Annick Goutal’s Duel, Cartier’s L’Heure XIII ) but have been remiss about L’Artisan and several others. I need to remedy that, so your suggestions are welcome.

OK, I hear some of you saying, let’s wind this thing up.

Here are my favorite teas and a few corresponding perfume thoughts:

Teavana’s To Life blend (loose-leaf). This golden-amber brew contains red, green and white teas (hence the Italian flag). Its red comes from a lightly fruity rooibos, the green from jasmine pearls and the white from silver needle leaves. A subtle but delicious brew, and one you feel good about drinking, knowing you’re getting lots of antioxidants. It also can be re-infused several times. One caveat: Even using the most fine tea ball or sieve, tiny bits can leak through into the tea. If that bothers you, the best option I’ve found is disposable paper tea bags.  This tea reminds me, character-wise, of Barbara Bui perfume. It’s not loud or showy, just soft, lovely, and easily enjoyed throughout the day.

Tea Forte’s Orchid Vanilla (bags and loose leaf). This brand’s tea comes in tall pyramid-shaped mesh infusers with cute little leaves atop each and sits on little square ceramic pedestals (sold separately). But that’s the fancy (and priciest) presentation.  For everyday drinking, I’ve purchased a container of the Orchid Vanilla in  loose leaf, which comes in a pretty lavender tin. This lovely black tea contains Madagascar vanilla and the tiniest hint of coconut. Maybe it’s the name and the tin’s color, but it makes me think of scents like Van Cleef & Arpels’ Orchidee Vanille or Frederic Malle’s Iris Poudre.

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea Coconut Chai (bagged). This lightly spiced black tea is delicious, with or without a spot of milk. And the subtle hint of coconut is not enough to be a deal-breaker, in my opinion. If I’m feeling particularly decadent, I add a drop of coconut extract and vanilla-flavored coffee creamer.  This one may be a bit of Laura Mercier’s L’heure Magique tarted up with the tiniest dab of coconut.

Republic of Tea‘s Good Hope Vanilla (bagged). A good basic rooibos with a hint of vanilla. (It seems I’m a vanilla ‘ho in tea, too.)  Even though it’s a red tea, something about it reminds me of cream soda, and makes me think of smooth, comforting scents along the lines of Diptyque’s Eau Duelle or Indult’s Tihota, in the softest of their drydowns. This is one even my picky son likes, and on the weekends often asks, “Mommy, can we have some ‘cupcake tea’?”

Celestial Seasonings Decaf Mint (bagged). This is my evening go-to workhorse, a mix of green and white tea. It won’t keep you awake, and the hint of mint soothes any tummy woes from an evening meal that’s too heavy or rich. No perfume thoughts on this one; it’s just a nice, comfy cup.

Marco Polo from Mariage Freres (loose leaf or muslin tea bags). Although pricey, this lovely black tea makes for a smooth, well-refined brew,with delicate flowery-fruity undertones and aroma. It’s elegant but not aloof. Although when I drink it in an everyday mug, it does seem to gaze longingly at the good china cups, but it’s far too polite to say anything.  If it were a perfume, it would probably be one of my favorite scents, the discontinued and hard-to-find Cartier Must II EDT.

That’s enough about me. I would love to hear about your favorite teas, tea scents, places to have tea, etc.

image: wikimedia commons, some rights reserved.

  • ggs says:

    Of course perfumistas often love tea (and wine, and I’m a coffee drinker too). I have a teapot collection because I love the shapes and the colors, but I tend to brew in the cup more than in the teapot. But your post has inspired me to brew more tea over the holidays ;)

    Thanks so much for the information and suggestions Ann!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, and so glad you enjoyed it. I tend to brew more in the cup as well. Most of my teapots are decorative ones, many from places I love (London, Paris, etc.). I wish you a lovely, fragrant holiday and happy brewing!!

  • Stephen says:

    Hi there, lovely post about a subject close to my heart. I’m in China learning Mandarin, and trying to increase my knowledge of the tea available in all its forms in China. I am piecing together a tea service, tray and utensils for preparing the Gong Fu Cha or Chinese Tea Ceremony. It is much looser and ‘freer’ than the Japanese Chado ceremony, and that is according to my Japanese classmates who are also taking lessons in tea preparation! There are some beautiful teas to be had. A particular favourite is a naturally sweet and almost aniseed like in taste from Hainan Island, called, in translation, ‘The Beauty moves through the people’. Isn’t that wonderful? Also, the osmanthus bushes are in full bloom and perfume here in Guangzhou, which is my idea of heaven, and I managed to track down an Oolong flavoured with osmanthus which gives a beautiful apricot scent. A real stunner!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Stephen. It sounds like such a wonderful experience. Those teas sound absolutely divine, and the bushes, too. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing China tea experience.

  • Ann says:

    Hey everyone, just wanted to give a big “thank you” to all of you who took part in tea time today. It’s been great fun — I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed chatting with each of you so much. Sending out a big thanks also to March, who suggested this and kindly guided me through it all. You guys are simply the BEST!!!

    • Ann says:

      I’m still here; just wanted to make sure I got that out in case I forgot later this evening. Thanks …

  • Ann says:

    Hi Rose, good to know and thanks. I’m thinking that our pals in Europe and elsewhere won’t have too much trouble finding it.

  • Rose says:

    Ann and Obagi,
    You should try an Irish import store if you have any in your area. In Boston where the Irish abound, even the large grocery stores carry it. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Mystic River” which is set in a tough Boston neighborhood, the young men go to the corner store to get the “tea that Ma likes” – Barry’s. The other Irish brand, Lyon’s, is good as well. Good luck.

  • (Ms.)Christian says:


    I buy Barry’s tea at my local grocer in the “import” section, where they carry British groceries like Bird’s Custard and other things like that. I’m in a large metropolitan area, so I can only speak for myself.

  • Obagi says:

    @Rose: I’d also like to know where you found that. Thanks in advance.

  • Ann says:

    Rose, we were just commenting earlier about discovering good black teas that packed a wallop. Barry’s sounds like one; where do you find it?

  • Rose says:

    I love all the comments about my favorite beverage. I need to start my day with a strong cup of Barry’s (an Irish brand). I’ve tried more refined Assams and fancy blends but nothing gets me going like Barry’s.

  • Anna in Edinburgh says:

    Wow! Lots of love for teas of all kinds here.

    I enjoy herbal, green and white teas and even hundred-year-old Chinese tea. However, I don’t seem to find “mate” (can’t find the accent for “mat-ay”!) stimulating: no pick-me-up effect for me in the morning. Any ideas what I should do differently? (I don’t have the special gourd cup but is it essential?)

    Loose osmanthus tea looks like yellow pipe tobacco and is eminently sniffable, and makes a good afternoon brew as well. The cheerful yellow flowers make for an unfortunately-coloured tea (looks like a medical sample, frankly) but it tastes good.

    During a visit to China we found that the airports even had properly hot water on tap as well as cold water, so you can brew your own tea (or make instant noodles!) whilst you’re waiting – a kindly soul assisted me when I observed this happening and went to investigate! A nice touch for the home of tea.

    cheerio, it’s time for a bedtime brew!

    Anna in Edinburgh

    • Ann says:

      Hi Anna, thanks for sharing about the neat teas — and I love that the airport in China was so “tea-friendly.” As for the mate, I’ve only had it a few times, so I’m not terribly familiar with it, but I didn’t get that much of a buzz from it either. Maybe, like perfume, it all depends on your body chemistry? BTW, would love to know what’s your bedtime brew tonight?

      • Anna in Edinburgh says:

        Hello Ann,

        Sorry to be so tardy in answering your question. I had a big mug of Camomile tea. Cosy and comforting.

        There’s definitely a lot of love for tea amongst lovers of perfume.

        Ooh, I bought a new tea/brew today, which I’ve yet to try: Whittard of Chelsea’S “Chocolate Chai”. No idea whether it’ll taste as good as it smells but I thought it would be fun to find out.

        cheerio, and have a happy holiday time,

        Anna in Edinburgh

        • Ann says:

          Hi, Anna, thanks for replying. I like chamomile before bed as well.
          Mmmm … that chocolate chai does sound tasty. Let me know how you like it. Hope you and your family have a lovely holiday as well!

  • Ann says:

    Wow! What a lovely batch of teas you have there. I think I need to take a few months off and just travel the world, trying perfume and all the various teas from country to country (alas, only in my dreams).
    And thanks for the reminder that green and white teas require cooler water for steeping. I found that out the hard way in my novice tea days and wondered why my cup tasted bitter and sort of “scorched.”
    So glad you posted — I never knew there were so many devoted tea fans out there.

    • Ann says:

      Not sure what’s going on, but I still can’t see the lovely teapots — the link just leads me to a blank Posse page. :(
      Is there another link to them?

      • Austenfan says:

        I am sorry, I just realised that this comment was meant for me. The link is my failed attempt to post an emoticon. I don’t have a picture of my teapots, sorry.

  • Austenfan says:

    I think I love tea more than I love perfume. So I am very grateful for this post!
    As I live in Europe the teas I drink may have different names to the ones used in the USA.
    Thinking about this subject while at work I have come to realise that where tea is concerned, I am a purist. At home I only drink loose leaf tea.The quality tends to be so much better. Also the biggest tea brand in Holland that is available in supermarkets just tastes so bad.
    I drink black, green, yellow and white tea. I even have different pots ( 7 in total for different kinds of tea.
    My favourite black tea is Yunnan, Yunnan Celeste, from Betjeman & Barton, another Paris-based tea seller. It is stunning. I love Earl Grey, Lady Grey. Love Assam, some Ceylons; especially Nuwara Eliya. I am slightly less fond of Darjeeling.
    My favourite Jasmine tea is called Jasmine White Sickle, and is a white tea. The smell is gorgeous. The thing with both green and white tea is that you shouldn’t make it using boiling water. Ideally water temperature should be between 70- 80 ºC.
    Oolongs can be good. A favourite is called Fancy Oolong Black Dragon, which I would love just for the name.
    The Genmaicha Victoria mentioned is very nice, very easy going. The only other Japanese tea I drink is called Bancha Hojicha. It’s green tea that is roasted. Lovely, very soothing and very good as an evening tea.
    I am glad my mother “weaned” me off sugar in my hot beverages when I was young. Sugar can easily overpower the taste of tea, same goes for milk. I only use milk in very strong teas like Indian Chai, Lapsang Souchong etc.
    I will stop now, have gone on long enough! Thanks for doing this post. I have had great fun reading your post and all the comments.

    • Shelley says:

      Do not blush at the teapot array. While a firm number is tough to come by, anyone who sits in my kitchen can’t help but notice the bountiful selection of brewing / steeping options. DH is a coffee geek; I am a tea enthusiast. One silver-plate setting, deal from an auction, just for fun. :)

      (previous comments on the benefits &/or joys of ceremony all received nods from me)

    • Mellisu says:

      Austenfan – is your yellow tea osmanthus (as Anna in Edinburgh mentions below?

      • Austenfan says:

        No it is not Osmanthus. It is a Chinese tea called Huang da Cha. I have drunk Osmanthus tea, which was black tea flavoured with Osmanthus flowers. I think they also use the bark/root to create a “herbal” Osmanthus. I have never tried that. The Huang da Cha is quite close in taste and feel to green tea.

  • Ann says:

    Hi Tiara, so glad you’re enjoying the comments. There’s so much out there (yep, just like perfume, as you said), that we may never get to sample it all, but we’ll have fun trying. And I think your cup of Earl Grey by the tree, watching the snow fall, is a grand idea. Enjoy, and thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Tiara says:

    Ann: It is 3:00pm EDT and there were about 88 comments when I began reading…and you probably were worried no one would hang around!

    I am amazed at all of the varieties of tea out there and and how many I haven’t tried (kinda like perfume). Next time I’m in one of the local specialty stores, I need to check out the tea section and venture beyond the bags we use for idea tea and hot tea in a pinch.

    I have some Earl Grey on hand and have decided to turn on the Christmas tree, put my feet up and watch the snow flurries for a bit. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • March says:

    Ann, thanks again for doing this post — big success! I too like the Trader Joe’s agave syrup and use it in lieu of sugar in beverages, it tastes less sweet and doesn’t have the distinctive taste of honey, which sometimes I want and sometimes I don’t. It’s pretty cheap at TJs.

  • marina says:

    Gulped this post in one go, more please! The Gypsy Tea sounds great right now.

    • Ann says:

      So glad you’re enjoying it. Zhena’s Gypsy tea is at several stores in my area (Kroger, Cost-Plus World Market) and they have a nice Web site. Wish I could send some out to everyone!

  • (Ms.)Christian says:

    Hey-thanks to March for inviting Ann to do a tea column and just for being March.

  • Valentine says:

    Wonderful post. I grew up on black tea, but right now I’m absolutely LOVING Celestial Vanilla, Honey, and Chamomile caffeine-free herbal tea. I go through two cups a day, put the used tea bags in the fridge overnight, and in the mornings use them as a wonderful eye treatment for about 15 min.

    • Ann says:

      Hi Valentine. What a good idea — now that’s using your head (and getting the most from your teabags)! The herbal tea sounds lovely, too, BTW. Thanks …

  • Ann says:

    Thanks, Teri, for the great tea memory. I like to do the same thing, too — sit a bit and just enjoy the lovely aroma. Your favorites remind me that I need to go back and spend more time with the classics.

  • Teri says:

    I do think there is an olfactory link between perfumistas and tea drinkers. My grandfather’s second wife was a lovely Englishwoman who introduced me to high tea as a child. I was a rambunctious, athletic youngster and getting me to sit still for any length of time was an effort. But since I adored Grandma Millicent, I was willing to sip tea and nibble at tea cookies for half an hour in the afternoon. I love the scent of tea and like a fine brandy will often just hold the cup and inhale for a while before I drink it. Millicent introduced me to Earl Grey and English Breakfast, both of which I still enjoy. I found the lovely pink-tinged Keemun and the smooth Assam on my own. I take my tea neat – no sweetener, no milk, cream, lemon or any other adulteration.

    • Mellisu says:

      Hi Terri. I really got into ‘smelling’ perfumes after my escapades tasting wines. ummmmm I’ve convinced myself wines are unnecessary and costly, and my money is better spent on frags. There are lots of comparisons!

  • aelily says:

    Love Tea! Like Ann, my tea and perfume obsessions seemed to develop at the same time. I’m currently drinking Teavana’s Golden Monkey black tea.

    Mellisu: While on vacation I stayed at a B&B and used a Hamilton Beach electric teapot. It worked well, and quickly. I have since purchased one for my MIL, and she is very happy with it. We got her the Hamilton Beach stainless steel 10 cup. I remember spending A LOT of time reading Amazon.com reviews, since some electric teapots have plastic parts that make the water taste/smell funky. The one we bought supposedly did not have that issue. Hope this helps!

    • Ann says:

      Hi Aelily, thanks for shout-out for Teavana’s Golden Monkey — nice!
      And thanks for the electric teapot recommendation, too.

    • Shelley says:

      I don’t use an electric teapot, though I see Kelly (above a few) has commented that she happily does. I do, however, use an electric water pot…you can get ones that heat the water to a preset temperature, though I’ve learned pretty well how to gauge when it’s right for white/green/black by the sound(s) approaching boil. Agree with Aelily on the stainless; plastic pots have often given a funky aroma to the water, and haven’t been as speedy/reliable.

      I am one who does NOT like to make tea with microwaved water. It just doesn’t steep/taste right. Only in a pinch, and even then, half the time I regret it. (I’m not a persnickety person in general…really!… :) )

  • jenh says:

    Im the peasant here; I love Irish breakfast-heavy on caffeine with lots of half and half and spenda. The best.

    • Ann says:

      Nope, Jen, nothing peasant about it — your Irish breakfast with all the trimmings rocks! And on a cold winter morning, nothing sounds better. When it comes to tea, I think it’s ALL good. Thanks for commenting.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    Lovely post, Ann! My tea interest is gaining momentum along with my perfume interest- perfume still out ahead though. I have been making frantic notes as I read your post and all the replies! All of your selections sound delicious. I’ll have to get to Fortnum and Mason and gaze in wonder at the tea wall when next I get into London- maybe a day out to visit the new Ormonde Jayne shop and F&M?? Hmmm….:-)

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the post. I, too, am loving all the ideas and suggestions. And I do so envy you being able to get to London (F&M AND Ormonde Jayne — oh, be still my heart!!). What a wonderful outing!

  • Mellisu says:

    I too am enthusiatic about teas (and the tins). Does anyone use an electric teapot? I’m considering a purchase, but don’t know if it’s worth it or what brands are good. Any recs are welcome. TIA

    • Ann says:

      Hi Mellisu, I don’t use one, but am thinking about getting one, too. Looks like we’ve already got one recommendation below and perhaps more to follow. I also love the tins — many are so nice that they’re practically collector’s items.

    • Kelly says:

      I LOVE my electric tea pot! I have the UtiliTEA and like it because it has a temperature control knob so I don’t “overcook” my whites and greens. It’s faster than a stove-top pot (and frees up space when you’ve got a big dinner going) and, besides being far more predictable than microwaving your water, it really does taste better! (Don’t ask ME why!)

      • Ann says:

        Kelly, it sounds great — love the temperature adjustability. Will definitely have to look into this. Thanks …

  • Aparatchick says:

    Ahhh, tea! she said as she sipped from her morning cup. Chocolate Cream with Chocolate Pieces from specialteas.com. Their Jazz Mint and Sweet Lemon tea are a joy to open the package and sniff (and drink!). They also sell wonderful non-flavored black, green, and white teas as well as rooibos and fruit melanges. I buy a lot of loose-leaf tea from them, but when I was working in an office, I needed bagged tea, so I had a collection of favorites in my office: Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla, Market Spice Cinnamon-Orange, Stash India Darjeeling, Republic of Tea Irish Breakfast were usually on hand.

    Back when I lived in the Pacific NW, I used to visit Victoria, BC and never missed a chance to go to a shop there called Murchies. It was my introduction to tea that didn’t come in a Red Rose box with a cat figurine in it! They had lots of lovely blends, and I loved their Russian Caravan tea.

    Olfacta, we always have two pitchers of iced tea going in the summer; one of flavored tea for me, and one of Luzianne for Mr. Aparatchick.

    • Shelley says:

      Luzianne is IT for basic iced tea, isn’t it? There’s always a big jug of that on the counter in the summer (and spring, and fall :) ) in our kitchen.

      You remind me that the nice man in the beautiful “casual” linen suit at Mariage Freres said he had not heard of Russian Caravan–quite a comment to hear after spending half an hour just perusing the walls there, and twenty minutes in to a conversation we were having as I explored this and that. I got flustered, wondering if I was speaking clearly…he asked me to describe it, and I said it was “somewhat smokey, as opposed to all out smokey, like a Lapsang Souchong for beginners.” But I then hastily added I didn’t really know what was in it. He was kind enough to smile and say “Ah, no, I get it.”

      Reading this morning’s leaves suggests there is something smokey in my near future… :)

    • Ann says:

      Ah, your choices are making my mouth water. So many great flavors/blends. Guess I’d better get exploring on that site. Thanks for sharing!

      • Ann says:

        Shelley, my hubby and his family are huge iced tea fans, and more often than not, it was Luzianne — definitely a staple, especially in Southern households.
        BTW, loved your story about the tea guy. I’m guessing that you might have had a perfumista flashback right then and there. As in going into a store and asking for a scent, and the salesperson gives you an odd look and says they never heard of it.
        I’ll have to try the Russian Caravan, as the Lapsang is a tad too smoky for my taste. Thanks!

  • Victoria says:

    Ann, what a great first post! I also love tea, and I drink it pretty much all day long.
    While I have a wide range of favorites, I keep returning to Japanese Genmaicha, which is a mix of green tea with popped roasted rice kernels. It has a wonderfully toasty-nutty flavor.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Victoria. You and others have been singing the praises of the Genmaicha, so I think I must give it a go. As I’ve mentioned in earlier comments, some of the Japanese teas felt a little formal to me and I have been hesitant to try them. So thank you for the encouragement.

  • maidenbliss says:

    Wasn’t going to post as I’m not a tea drinker–until the mailman came and dropped off a box of gifts from my son. Included in the sweet/savory delicacies is an adorable red double decker London bus shaped tin of Ahmad Tea from Hampshire, England.
    Years ago my best friend and I would have tea and Scrabble time in the quiet afternoons of winter. This might be the beginning of tea time for me once again.
    Lovely post, Ann

    • Ann says:

      What a wonderful gift! I hope you enjoy it and it puts you on the tea path once again. It’s a great habit to get back into, especially at this time of year. Thanks for posting.

  • (Ms.)Christian says:


    Nice to see a new poster writing about something that is as sensual and fragrant as perfume. Tea has been my beverage of choice since I was 8 or 9 years old, thanks to my maternal grandmother’s influence.

    I’d leave the house in a clown outfit before I’d use stevia. Agave syrup is my tea sweetener of choice. It allows me to have natural sweetness but in a much smaller amount than using sugar. I can use just enough to barely cover the bottom of my cup, and I mean the thinnest covering, and still get a sweet counterpoint.

    Numi is one of my favorite boxed brands. Their Monkey King is a gorgeous green jasmine that I’d love to have as a scent, they have a few kinds of chai-all good-and they also carry several Pu Erh teas. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pu-erh_tea I have long loved Pu Erh and am glad to see it is becoming more accessible. Numi’s Chocolate Pu Erh is rich, subtle and earthy and it is elevated to “treat” status with cream and agave syrup-a perfect dessert beverage.

    I love English or Irish breakfast tea; most major brands suit me just fine. I keep decaf versions on hand for night time use; caffeine after 10 a.m. leaves me tossing and turning.

    Earl Grey was my first foray into “fancy” tea and while I still enjoy it, there is so much more to explore. Loose jasmine pearl tea makes me giddy with happiness just looking at it, and for me, nothing soothes a stuffy nose and sore throat better than a strong (4-6 bags) pot of peppermint tea.

    The “sweet” trend in teas (vanilla, fruit, coconut and general foo foo) that seems to be an effort to attract consumers of caramel mocha frappucinnos turns me off. I’d rather sip a cup of bancha or a brew of chrysanthemum flowers.

    Republic of Tea enchanted me when it first came out years ago, but now I feel like I am paying for the pretty containers. I have moved on to buying samplers of obscure teas from tea merchants all over-here and in Europe. My cupboard runneth over, and of course, this tea habit has spawned a tea pot collecting habit.

    I still prefer the fiercer teas, like Gunpowder and Lapsang Souchong to the whites and greens, and I think most people overbrew green tea and thus do not really like it, other than for the touted “health” benefits.

    High tea is something I try to “do” at least 3 or 4 times a year. I have had the Ritz-Carlton’s version in several big cities (nice but left me longing for better), a wonderful one in Vancouver B.C. and there was a memorable “working class” tea room in L.A. that I frequented once a month to both catch up with friends and just soothe my soul with fine black tea and the amazing hospitality of the owners.

    So glad you posted!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks so much. My grandmother also introduced me to tea and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. Love all your suggestions, too. The only Numi I’ve tried is the Mate Lemon Green, which is nice, but I need to explore the others in the line. Agave syrup is definitely near the top of my must-try list, but not sure which brand to go with. Any suggestions? Thanks!

      • (Ms.)Christian says:

        Ann, if you have access to Trader Joes, their brand is just fine. Agave is a “hot” item now, and often overpriced. Go for whatever is most reasonably priced if you don’t have a nearby TJs. Agave syrup is not like Scotch or artisan cheese-it is what it is, and there’s no need to pay astronomical prices for a bit of sweetner.

        Numi is a local Bay area family (brother and sister) business and they also have a small cafe here. If you cannot get their tea in your area, please let me know and I will be happy to help you procure whatever you are looking for.

  • pam says:

    Thanks for the great post! I have not tried some of the teas you and others have written about. From lunch to 5:00 pm is the time I drink tea and I will be looking for some of the teas mentioned. One of my places to look is my Indian market, but those teas tend to be rather strong.
    Rooibos is especially good while reading Alexander McCall Smith. (Bush tea.)

    • Ann says:

      Hi lady, so good to hear from you. I love rooibos, too, and will drink a cup in your honor later today while reading. Thanks!

  • maggiecat says:

    I love tea – I’m drinking “Nutcracker Sweet” from Celestial Seasonings even as I type this – and have a big basket of different teas here at work to share. I find medicinal teas helpful as well as enjoyable – ginger for upset tummies, for example. And I love the fragrance of tea itself. In terms of tea based scents – Ava Luxe did a lovely White Tea at some point (no longer, I fear) and – don’t laugh – Healing Gardens has a White Tea with neroli line that is light and lovely. Thanks for posting today!

    • Ann says:

      Yum! Isn’t sharing so much fun? Tea is wonderful stuff in all its varieties, and I’m learning a lot today. Like perfume, in my mind, it’s ALL good (and good for you — yay!!).
      Didn’t know about the Healing Gardens one and it sounds nice to me, as I’m a fan of neroli. Any idea where to find it? Thank you for sharing!

  • Shelley says:

    Ahhh, tea. :)

    I love it in all its incarnations (black, green, white, straight, blend)…though, like you, I’m going to protest that I’m a newb. I like playing in the tea garden, so to speak, but don’t know half of what’s going on there. Nonetheless, I do happen to have some thoughts. ;)

    Another shout out to PG Tip-sters; that’s how I often start my day. Unless it’s Irish breakfast. The recent routine has been:

    Start of the day tea (PG Tips)
    Flavored black (Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cinnamon with a splot of maple sugar recently)
    Move on to green or herbal (a recent happiness has been Tazo “Rest,” with rose petals, lemon balm, lavender, valerian, etc.; also might go to Celestial Seasonings “Bengal Spice”)

    My younger son recently mentioned that he thought that tea–High or Formal tea, as a snack ceremony–was a good idea. So 4 o’clock now means “Tea,” not “after-school snack.” When his schedule allows, that is. :)

    Mariage Freres was one of my pilgimages while in Paris this summer. I’m a sucker for their “France,” but their smokey teas, and the rice-wafting Thai Mountain are happinesses as well. And their Golden Needles. Aw, heck, right now I’m more infatuated with them then some folks are with Serge.

    One of the nicest teacher gifts I ever got was a mini-serving set for Tea Forte. I agree, nice. And what was the brand that used silk/sheer bags before it was the rage…Revolution? Good tea, and the bags were so beautiful, I {drops voice so not everyone hears} saved them after I used them. So pretty to see the flowers and leaves and such. WHAT? I have a friend who said she did the same…

    Thanks for a nice start to the morning. ::Lifts cup in your direction::

    • Ann says:

      Hi Shelley, so nice to hear from you (lifts a cup right back at you). I loved your comment about playing in the tea garden — that’s perfect! All your suggestions sound good, especially all the MFs and the Trader Joe’s. There’s not a TJ very near me but I will check it out the next time I head into the city. And that’s so cool about your son. Also, thanks for the reminder about Revolution; I adored that line a while back. Haven’t seen it lately — is it still out there, do you know?

      • Shelley says:

        Revolution seems to have retreated to Cost Plus only around here. And, come to think of it, not sure if I saw it on my last trip. I don ‘t know if they’re still around…hmmm.

  • Musette says:


    Great post! I’m not a huge tea fan, except in the evening, but I have no fewer than 6 tea sets – maybe more. My longtime dear friend K gave me this absolutely gorgeous vintage lustreware tea set – like you, I love mint tea in the evening, so apre-bain, it’s a lovely tray with 2 leetle cookies and a crossword puzzle. Very soothing.

    I also love the ritual of afternoon tea – there was a place on Melrose, Elixir, that I loved going to – sitting in the garden, sipping some unknown herbal blend….feeling all Zen, at least for a few minutes….priceless!

    xoxo >-)

    • Ann says:

      Hey sweetie, thanks for stopping by even though tea’s not really your thing. I know your tea sets are beautiful. And thanks, too, for the Zen garden moment. How soon can we go? :)

      • Musette says:

        Alas, they closed that shop. One of those Only in LA places – where one can devote a rather large piece of real estate on a pricey, then-tony street…just for tea. Or cupcakes.

        Or squirrels…

        xo >-)

        • Ann says:

          Oh, drats!! But at least you got to experience it while it was there. I’ll definitely have to pass on the squirrels, though (have had too many of them partying in my attic in the past 10 years or so)… :)

  • Olfacta says:

    The huge farmers market where I shop is run by people from India, and they import and market their own teas — all different kinds, many green ones. I’ve meant to explore these more. I’m a kind of tea traditionalist (English or Irish breakfast, or Earl Grey, with milk and sugar). In winter I’ll often have “tea time” in the afternoon around 4 — makes me feel so civilized.

    We drink iced tea by the gallon, winter and summer. I use the market tea — sometimes a flavored variety they have called “passion fruit,” but lately I’ve been experimenting with adding a spoonfull of their jasmine flowers to it — pearls of what I think is jasmine sambac! Sniffing from that container is like smelling jasmine perfume. Jasmine iced tea with slight tropical flavoring is wonderful.

    • Ann says:

      Hi lady, so good to hear from you. Is that DeKalb of which you speak? Gotta get there one of these days. I like your afternoon tea tradition, especially on these chilly days. And your jasmine combo sounds divine — a definite must-try!

  • Debbie R. says:

    Jasmine green tea is a perfume experience even if you don’t put it on your skin. So fragrant and beautiful! I get mine (No. 5) from Adagio. My favorite tea is Birthday Tea, a ceylon scented/flavored with vanilla, cream and caramel. I drink at least 16 oz. every morning. The leaves rebrew great.

    • Ann says:

      Debbie, I second you on the jasmine green tea. Heavenly in the cup or on your skin. And that Birthday Tea sounds yummy (and I’m happy to see that it re-steeps well). Thanks!

  • karin says:

    Hi Ann! Thanks for the great post! I’ve been a tea drinker off and on, but am on the verge of breakthrough. Discovered Zhena’s Coconut Chai quite by accident while wandering through a natural grocer’s with friends who were doing some serious shopping while I was wandering aimlessly. I spotted it high on a shelf, read the label, and thought hmmm…this sounds good. Was I looking for tea? No. But I’ve been having that Coconut Chai for breakfast with some toasted When Pigs Fly orange, toasted walnut, and cranberry bread (http://www.sendbread.com/cart/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=2&sort=20a&page=1), and WOW – what a great combo!!! It’s made me curious about other flavored teas…

    • Ann says:

      Hi, swap buddy! Glad you’re enjoying the Coconut Chai. And man, that bread sounds AMAZING! You’ve created a major jonesing for me. Thanks for the link; think I’m going to have to get me some.
      And have fun exploring the wonderful world of tea!

  • Jillie says:

    Brilliant article on my next favourite obsession after perfume! Obviously as I love fragrance, I love scented teas and we have in the UK two lovely companies (Brewhaha and Teapigs) who make gorgeous teas – my passions are Teapigs Winter (spicy, Christmas in a cup) and their Caramel; plus Brewhaha’s Rose, which is like sipping dew from a rose in the garden.

    My ultimate tea was Twinings Rose Pouchong (which didn’t taste anything like any other Rose Pouchong, but more like liquid Turkish delight). This was discontinued due to production difficulties, and now Twinings say they will never make it again to my great sadness. They have substituted it with Rose Garden, which is nothing like the RP. Maybe if enough fans were to get together, we could persuade them to rethink? But I suppose it’s like all the best things …. enjoy while you can, as nothing lasts forever!

    • Ann says:

      Hi Jillie, thanks for your picks. Those tea brand names made me smile. The Teapigs Winter and Caramel sound right up my alley, but the rose — hmmm. I’m not much of a rose fan in perfume (although I’m coming around a bit), but in tea it might be nice.
      Sorry to hear of the discontinuation; I hate it when that happens, too. But you’re right — enjoy it to the fullest while you can.

    • FragrantWitch says:

      Thanks for recommending Teapigs and Brewhaha- eveything looks delicious but a Christmas Cheeky Bundle ( Winter, Chili Chai and Chocolate Flake) Is on it’s way! :d

  • Eric says:

    I’m probably going to be the odd one out but the only brew teas I really like are white (or herbal) and I drink them straight. I don’t know why it is this way, but I find them too bitter for comfort–and I drink my black-eyes black!

    My current favorite is… Rishi Silver Needle Tip Something, I believe. ;D No fruit (I’ll give it to you that if you’re drinking a fruity tea, it needs a TINY bit of sugar to make the flavor bloom), just a gorgeous, velvety savory tea.

    I’ve actually started training in Japanese tea ceremony and if you even get a chance to try matcha (NOT a matcha latte from Starbucks: those things are evil), it’s heavenly. Not to mention the utter serenity of experiencing the ritual. If I’ve ever come close to inner peace, it’s on the tatami.

    • Shelley says:

      Matcha! Are you getting the brush and everything? I knew a young girl once who loved the tea and the ceremony and was actually pretty darn good at preparing. In fact, I miss those days… :)

      I agree about the ritual. Very…calming.

      • Ann says:

        I’m getting more intrigued the more I read from you all. And who couldn’t use more calming in their lives, right?

      • Eric says:

        Did you get my email? I’m all ready to send your package, just need your address.

        I actually haven’t bought matcha for myself yet, just taking the time to enjoy it during my weekly lessons. Maybe one day. It certainly does have a beautiful taste, especially koicha, the thick, shiny tea.

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Eric. That’s the great thing about tea — just as in perfume, it’s OK to like what you like. I do find some teas are better straight (whites especially), with no milk or sweetener of any kind. BTW, it’s so cool that you’re getting into the Japanese tea ceremony. I need to look into that, but the formality has made me hesitate a bit.

      • Eric says:

        I think part of the reason I enjoy tea ceremonies IS the formality. There’s so much rushing today, so many deadlines and call-me-backs and text messages. It really is a beautiful thing to calm down and settle in for something thoughtfully prepared (and no rush!). It’s the whole Zen philosophy truly: you will only experience each moment once. If you ever get the chance, it’s nice to just sit in on one, even just a demonstration.

        But the matcha is delicious and you can get that any time. :3

        • Ann says:

          Eric, I think you are right. That’s the beauty of it. I just have to block out the time and do it. And it’s a good philosophy for everyday living, of course. You guys have inspired me to give it a go (after the craziness of the holidays, of course :) ). And I will seek out some matcha, too. Thanks …

  • ElizabethN says:

    My favorite herbal teas have licorice, such as Yogi Breathe Easy and Throat Comfort. As for black teas, I like Thunderbolt Darjeelings (free shipping straight from Darjeeling and great CS). Time to go order some more! Mariage Frères has beautiful test too- their Moroccan Mint (can’t remember the name) is fantastic.

    • Ann says:

      Nice suggestions, Elizabeth. You’ve got my mouth watering …

    • ggs says:

      @Elizabeth. Have you tried Aveda’s “Comforting Tea”? The licorice root is pretty prominent. It also has pepperment and fennel. I’m not a fan of licorice or anise teas (or fragrances for that matter) but this is my daughter’s favorite tea.

  • Stephanie says:

    If you love tea, you *must* visit Steepster.com! It’s a tea review/log community for any and all tea drinkers. I love Mariage Frerestoo ! I also love the teas from Golden Moon, Samovar, SpecialTeas, 52teas and Lupicia.

    Warning: Steepster.com may be hazadous to your wallet ;)–but ultimately beneficial to your heatlth and well-being!

  • florentina says:

    Hi Ann!
    Thankyou for this tea post!

    Current favorites are Harrod’s blend 49(anniversary blend) is probably one of the world’s best cups of tea… I have it in loose leaf and it is dwindling down dangerously so I alternate, just like with perfumes… Another reason to dream of a trip to London…

    I also absolutely love jasmine dragon pearl tea(green tea and jasmine petals)-it is amazing how the aroma of different brands will differ from one another… they are not always right…but when they are, Magic occurs and just inhaling from the tin box or bag is enough to make me swoon… Now if they could just bottle that exact smell and make me a perfume, I’d be ecstatic!!

    Taylors of Harrogate makes an exquisite china rose petal leaf tea for rose lovers(I have a spare box waiting….see? so much like perfume…)

    And… lastly, for violet lovers, Kusmi tea in Violette is really lovely…both to inhale and to drink.., and the Kusmi tins are just so beautiful…Agree with Nina; a great line of teas…very unique!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks for all the great suggestions. I, too, think jasmine dragon pearl green tea is lovely. I’ve only had a couple of varieties but enjoyed them immensely. The Taylor’s and Harrod’s sound divine, too — are they limited editions and/or can they be ordered?
      See, now this is why we need a tea decanting site and also a forum to do tea “splits.” BTW, you’re the second person to suggest the violet Kusmi tea, so it must be wonderful.

  • tmp00 says:


    This is great! I adore tea and drink it a lot. We have a great place called Chado Tea Room which sells bulk teas in as little as 1oz samplers (I’m not tied to them in any way, I just want them to thrive)


    • Ann says:

      Thanks! I agree with you, it’s important to support our favorite businesses so they’re around for a long time for us to enjoy. And hooray for Chado, offering the smaller amounts. Wish some of the big guns would do that.

  • Nina Z says:

    For mornings, I prefer a good, clean Chinese black tea, either Yunnan or Keemum. I generally buy these from Peets in Berkeley, CA, but might also pick up some at T Salon in New York or Tealux in Cambridge, MA (both good places to drink tea as well).

    In the afternoons, I might indulge in a scented tea, such as French Earl Grey with Blue Flowers or Smoky Earl Grey from Mariage Fres or even a Lapsang Souchong (very smoky).

    In England they separate tea drinkers into those who prefer India and those who prefer China–you might be getting the idea that I’m a China person.

    A great place to have tea in London is Fortnum and Mason (and their tea is very good, too). A very interesting brand of tea is Kusmi tea, which is Russian style tea from Paris. You might enjoy that because they have several highly fragranced and/or spiced teas. See: http://www.us.kusmitea.com

    I could go on and on….

    • JAntoinette says:

      I love Kusmi; their tins are beautiful and the tea is quite tasty. I really like the Be Cool and Detox wellness teas. Oh, and the violet infused black tea could tempt a few fumeheads me thinks.

      • Ann says:

        They are the most darling tins, aren’t they? I have a sampler set of their Russian teas and they are just too cute.
        In fact, I’m sipping some of Kusmi’s Anastasia right now as I’m typing. Thanks for the heads-up on the other varieties — I will be on the lookout for those as well.

      • Shelley says:

        Violet infused? I might like it better in tea than in perfume…thanks for the heads up! :)

    • Ann says:

      Hi Nina, great suggestions for tea spots. Isn’t it great that so many wonderful places for tea have been popping up in the past few years? I love teas from China and India, so guess I’m a Heinz-57 mutt :) And yes, Kusmi is a lovely line. I want to explore it further.

    • Nina Z says:

      Oh, and I want to share my homemade ginger mint herb tea recipe. Buy (or pick) tons of fresh mint leaves. Peel some ginger root and chop into chunks. Put mint and ginger into a tea pot (it looks pretty in a glass teapot!) and add boiling water. Let steep for a good while. It’s perfect after dinner, and even people who say they don’t like herb tea, love this.

    • jenh says:

      F&M! I had my first formal tea there, jetlagged and tired, it was so great.

  • Ann says:

    Mmmm, yes, jasmine’s a lovely way to ease into morning. Thanks!

  • Pklagrange says:

    Love MF’s Marco Polo. Your description is perfect. Also love jasmine teas for a fragrant morning.

  • Daniela says:

    Yay tea! This was a pleasant surprise :)
    I’m the resident tea (and perfume) addict at my work. There’s a whole corner of my desk, complete with a buddha statue, dedicated to tea-ing. I will try anything, any kind of concoction.

    A great supermarket tea I found recently is called “Chocolatey Chai” from President’s Choice (a supermarket in Canada). I’m not a fan of chai, but this one has a beautiful chocolate taste. On the slightly higher priced end, Fortnum & Mason has some amazing blends. Their London store is gorgeous with its wall of large golden tins of tea. My favourite F&M blend out of the ones tried so far is Countess Gray.

    Anyway, I could go on and on and on, but thank you for writing a post on tea and I look forward to trying the ones that you have suggested!

    • Ann says:

      Thanks, Daniela. Glad to hear you’re spreading the good word about tea and perfume at your job. That Chocolatey Chai sounds dee-lish (wish we had that store here). I have a bit of F&M that I have yet to sample and will be on the lookout for the Countess Gray.
      The London store is close to a Holy Grail for tea fiends, isn’t it? I’m just sorry that when I was in London in 2002, I was not the tea fan that I am now. But one day …

  • Ann says:

    Kelly, if you ever do find that fog-clearing tea, let me know! As for the silver needle, I’ve only had it in a blend, so will have to try it solo (I need all the hugs I can get). I’m glad you work it for multiple infusions, as I think it tends to be a bit on the pricey side, right?

  • Catherine says:

    I love Mariage Frères. Their green teas are all I drink, perhaps 3 liters a day on average (I make it by the pot). I tried to drink teas that were more easily available, but I didn’t like them nearly as much. But then, I don’t find Mariage Frères that expensive to purchase in bulk and ship from France, particularly in comparison to the price of tea at Whole Foods and the like.

    My favorites right now are Vert Provence (exact name ??) and Vert Opera (a gorgeous warm vanilla). Vert Casablanca is also very good, and the mint immediately restores sanity to an overtaxed stomach.

    I encourage luxury! Green tea is medicine, so it’s okay to buy something great!

    • Ann says:

      Catherine, I’m with you on that — when something is that good AND good for you, it’s definitely worth it. I saw those green teas on the MF site and lusted after them mightily but the tea budget is busted for now. I’ll peek over at Dean & DeLuca; they carry some of the MF blends. Thanks!

    • Tommasina says:

      I just googled that vanilla MF tea and found this:

      • Ann says:


      • Alicia says:

        I use this site all the time and love it. You try teas and write what you think of them for future use. It recommends teas too. Has deals. Locates local tea houses and such. They even host a traveling tea box that allows you to share and sample other guests teas. :)

        • Ann says:

          Thanks, Alicia. Now that’s a one-stop site for tea lovers, isn’t it? Think I’ll brew a nice cup of holiday tea, sit down and explore that site top-to-bottom.

  • Kelly says:

    Tea! Squee! I’m really pretty set in my beverage ways and morning HAS to be coffee. I haven’t found a tea that kicks hard enough (without making me grimace) to clear my morning fog. However! Once afternoon rolls around, I’m firing up my electric tea kettle and it’s Adagio’s Silver Needle white for me, for the rest of the day (and often, night). I drink it without anything and get 5 or 6 infusions out of a large pinch of leaves. Even after how-many-thousand cups, each still feels like a loving hug.

  • Ann says:

    Hi Kate, I agree with you — PG Tips is a great tea. And served as you mentioned it, I think it’s the tea equivalent of comfort food. Must try the Hob Nobs and the Lady Grey soon. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  • Kate says:

    Gosh I get you, Ann. But I’m a simple tea drinker, a PG Tips gal here–robust black tea with milk and one sugar. I used to bring back a box when I would go to London. Once I had a box of PG Tips and some chocolate covered Hob Nobs and the customs in London remarked, “you’ve everything here but the kettle!” Now one can get both the tea and the chocolate covered Hob Nobs. My favorite special tea is Lady Grey, the orange top notes are gorgeous.

    • HemlockSillage says:

      Hooray! More tea fans, and PG Tips fans!

      I agree that Lady Grey is a lovely tea, and I like plain Earl Grey, or the extra bergamot Earl Grey teas. Weirdly, as my perfume tastes became more complex, my tea choices became more simple. Now I like non flavored black teas (plain ol’ pekoe to Assam to Darjeeling), with a touch of sugar. My time in Japan made me love black tea with lemon. Milk tea is also very soothing in the afternoon. Wonder if perfume fans have as varied and situational tea/additive preferences as they have perfume preferences?

      Have you dabbled in green teas? I started with (spelling?) Genmaicha, which has little puffed rice bits that give a popcorn scent, and soften the green tea. I moved to jasmine green tea. I’d predict both if those to be intriguing to fellow perfumistas. Neat topic!

      • Ann says:

        I do love jasmine green tea as well and the ones I’ve sampled in the Earl Grey family tree. The puffed rice green tea is on my list to try. But some of the Japanese teas seem a bit intimidating to me, like they need to be part of a formal tea ceremony to be enjoyed properly. Or am I just being silly? And I know what you mean about the complexity of perfume influencing your tastes. Thanks!

    • Ann says:

      BTW, forgot to mention for the Earl Grey lovers, that Zhena’s Gypsy Tea (no affiliation) has a blend called raspberry Earl. At first I thought it sounded kind of weird, but the very subtle raspberry does add a nice touch, for something a little different.