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A Tea Record


My first cup of tea came at the end of a night's work when, vague memory tells me, the cool New England air, the convenience of Dunkin Donuts, and an experimental mood led me to order a cup. I imagined it would be unpleasant, so I assented to sugar. The girl scrunched up her eyebrow when I asked for three. That hot syrup hit close enough to the mark that I brought the drink, with rapidly lessened sweetening, into my beverage routine.

At the supermarket, I managed to skip past Lipton, Tetley, Nestea, and Red Rose, instead going for Bigelow then Twinings on a friend's recommendation. Not long after, out west, I found Stash at the grocery store and discovered Market Spice's loose-leaf array. From this point, I sought tea shops for stocking up and had pretty good luck overall, but a move back east into a semirural area meant mail order would become the new order.

SpecialTeas' style, selection, and price made me a regular. I supplemented my SpecialTeas favorites, for a couple of years, with selections from Portsmouth Tea Company scooped straight from the warehouse barrel. Then that shop made a couple of missteps (leading to its demise) and SpecialTeas got absorbed by Teavana (a company for which I had already gained an aversion), so I was forced to seek out a new online source. I landed at Upton Tea Imports and have stuck there since. Gifts and random finds keep variety on the shelf.

Upton says I've ordered these. I use ***** for the best. Four stars is threshold for "would order again."

DJ70: Tindharia Estate 2nd Flush Darjeeling GFTGFOP1 (November 2016)
NT06: St. Isaac's Blend (August 2020) **** Earl Grey disguised
NT77: Thé Mélange Russe (August 2020) **** Suits any mood
TA04: Season's Pick Assam FTGFOP Organic (July 2011)
TA07: Season's Pick Assam GFOP Organic (December 2015 ++) ****
TA20: Tippy Orthodox FBOP Assam (November 2016 ++++) **** Good for breakfast
TA28: Mangalam Estate Assam FTGFOP (September 2017)
TA40: Tippy Orthodox GFOP Assam (April 2017 ++) **** Anytime no nonsense
TB02: Leadenhall Street Blend (June 2016 ++) **** Full and earthy (*** 05/19)
TB05: Mincing Lane Breakfast Blend *** Assam and Yunnan
TB10: Bond Street English Breakfast Blend - I have forgotten
TB12: CTC Irish Breakfast Blend (April 2017) **** Sure, why not?
TB14: Scottish Breakfast Blend (+++) **** Malty a.m. kick
TB20: River Shannon Breakfast Blend (++++) **** Reliable day-starter
TB51: East Frisian BOP
TB52: East Frisian TGFOP (November 2016) *** Adequate, not exemplary
TB70: Finest Blend Russian Caravan (March 2021 bonus)
TB75: Baker Street Afternoon Blend (annual) ***** Smoky but balanced
TB84: Robert Fortune Blend 41 (January 2020 +) ****
TB86: Richmond Park Blend (September 2019)
TB89: South Street Breakfast Blend (September 2019) ***
TC57: Somerset Estate BOP (April 2020) ** Added ingredients required
TE01: Season's Pick Earl Grey Crème Vanilla (May 2015) *** Vanilla overpowers bergamot
TE10: Original Earl Grey (September 2019) ****
TE11: Extra Bergamot English Earl Grey ** Too much extra
TE19: Devonshire Earl Grey (June 2016) **** Straightforward Earl Gray
TE57: New England Harvest Blend ***
TI69: Jolotigo Estate Java Orthodox BT (December 2015) *** Meh bonus sample
TM72: Donyi Polo Arunachal Pradesh (April 2019 bonus) **** Tipply mouth mystery
TV11: Vietnam Eastern Beauty Oolong (January 2020 bonus)
ZGP6: Silver Sprout Green (2018 bonus)
ZG18: China Chun Mee Moon Palace Organic (August 2020)
ZK11: China Keemun First Grade (April 2019 ++) **** Assured every day
ZK21: Premium Keemun FOP
ZK97: Keemun Mao Feng (September 2017) ***** Undertones and overtones
ZK98: China Keemun Mao Feng
ZP22: Panyang Congou Select
ZP76: China Panyang Congou (June 2016) ****
ZP78: China Congou Wu-Yi Golden Monkey *****
ZY24: Yunnan Black Mao Feng (April 2017)

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