I was visiting Chinatown in San Francisco with my close friend, and after stopping at one of the tea vendors mentioned earlier, who no longer was carrying any truly great teas, we started walking back to the BART.
I noticed the "free tea tasting" sign on the Vital Leaf shop and, on a whim, suggested that we try their teas. We sat down and tried a few teas but weren't impressed with any of them.
The owner, with a twinkle in his eyes, invited us to try one more. It was unbelievably outstanding! A truly great tea. I generally don't like Tie Guan Yin teas, in fact, but this one was not only incredibly smooth, but truly transporting.
I asked him just how much did this tea cost? And he replied, "$800 a pound". After getting over my shock, I remembered that my sisters had given me enough money for my birthday to allow me to buy a quarter pound of this amazing tea.
The owner was very kind and not only packaged the tea in a beautiful tin, but topped it off (giving me 5 ounces instead of 4.)
You can get this tea, Cloud Mist Iron Goddess, here.
As my friends know, I can be incredibly persistent in pursuing my goals, and so I was determined to find a Tie Guan Yin tea like the one from Vital Leaf that was comparably excellent but much less expensive.
At the TeaVivre.com website, I discovered a lovely Nonpareil Anxi Qing Xiang TieGuanYin Oolong Tea that was also remarkably smooth and uplifting, not quite as phenomenal as the Vital Leaf one, but still really, really fine.
It costs about 1/10th the price of the Vital Leaf one, however, which makes it a truly incredible find. It is also packaged beautifully in individual servings, and so will keep perfectly for a long time.
I imbibe all of the teas mentioned above using the Gong Fu method of multiple infusions (my current regime is infusions of 45, 30, 30, 45, and 90 seconds, with one more infusion of four minutes if the tea has staying power.)
However, sometimes I like having tea by the glass (1 teaspoon brewed for 3 minutes in a cup of 200 degrees water.)
The tea from The Formosa lends itself perfectly for tea by the cup.
Specifically, their Yu Shan and Da Yu Ling teas are superb for this way of enjoying tea.
They are also very well priced, making a cup of beautifully excellent tea something you can enjoy every day.
Important Note: If you click on any of the above links and they are no longer working, just go to the (also provided above) links to the home page of any of the websites to find their latest offerings.