Most serious tea drinkers have one or two favorite brands of tea or tea companies that they like to regularly order from. Humans are often creatures of habit, and it's easy to settle into the routine of ordering from the same company over and over again. This is especially true when dealing with tea companies with large catalogs, like my good old favorite Upton Tea Imports, where it is virtually impossible to exhaust the myriad of offerings of tea of different varieties and from different regions of the world.
But are people with such regular purchasing habits missing something?
The World of Tea is Always Changing:
There are so many tea companies out there; RateTea's list of brands of tea currently stands at 189, and there are many important companies that are still not included in that list. I'm constantly astonished both by the number of new tea companies being started, and the uniqueness of some of the newer companies' approaches. This is particularly true of companies that are leaders in sustainability--many of these companies are relatively new. For example, Rishi Tea, now a major force in the U.S. tea market, was founded in 1997.
However, Rishi's founding is old news compared to a number of other companies. Innovative tea companies are continuously being founded. Shanti Tea, a Canadian company, and Tony Gebely's Chicago Tea Garden both come to mind; both of these companies have a number of unique offerings, completely unlike anything you'll find elsewhere, and both were founded in 2009.
I know this post is not doing justice to all the amazing tea companies out there so my apologies in advance to other new, innovating companies.
What have I learned from trying teas from different companies?
They're different. Besides the difference in what particular types of tea are offered (which in itself is important), often, trying the same style of tea from different companies will reveal substantial differences. This is true both of companies that blend their teas, and of those that select unblended teas. Different companies cater to different tastes, and in a few cases, I've even noticed patterns and trends that seem to carry across teas of different styles, from a given company. For example, I've found that Adagio teas tends to seek out lighter, sweeter, more aromatic teas that tend to be less full-bodied. And the Darjeeling teas I tried from Fresh Darjeeling Tea (another recent startup, I might add) all had a noticeable vegetal quality in common to them--one absent in a number of other Darjeeling teas.
So the lesson is?
Get out there and try tea from new companies. You will be surprised what you find!