I've become an early morning, when-I-wake tea drinker, even though I'm a coffee lover, so after having pulled together a definitive list on 3rd Wave Coffee, I thought I'd do the same for tea. This list is shorter and I will admit to knowing of less sources - PLEASE DO HELP IF YOU KNOW - but the ones that I've cited here are excellent.
Bellocq, above, is an excellent place to start (and what I am drinking right now). Founded in Greenpoint, Brooklyn by Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Michael Shannon, it is a hidden "jewel box" of a shop where they have "turned six years of sourcing and blending the finest teas and botanicals into a devoted and articulate history of tea connoisseurship. Behind the hidden storefront, single-estate teas are sold exclusively whole leaf, organic tea and herbal blends are still assembled by hand." More below...
- Far Leaves Tea - From $10
Based in Berkeley, CA since 1998, Far Leaves comes recommended by a friend as the best local tea in the Bay Area. Makers and sellers of tea as well as a shop on San Pablo Avenue: "We seek out and support hand made goods ... We visit farms and screen our sources for organic and wildcrafted teas and herbs. Our herbal infusions blend millennia of experience and knowledge into elixirs and tisanes designed to restore, replenish, and remedy a variety of human ailments and conditions."
- T2 Tea - From $10
Founded in Australia over 18 years ago by Maryanne Shearer, T2 is now one of the biggest retailers of tea Down Under and has only recently come to the US with a store right near me in SoHo. The style of the shop is a bit wild, but the tea is excellent: "We aim to create a range that delivers a bombardment of subtle, unexpected flavors and aromas; creating a spirit of peace and serenity. The range includes exotic teas that look just as beautiful and sophisticated as they taste."
- Serendipitea Tea - From $10
Founded in Manhasset, NY of all places, Serendipitea is shop, robust online store and a passion driven by Linda, Tomislav and KiHwa (I think. It is hard to get info on them). Serendipitea sells a wide range of teas, selected during long buying trips: "We are committed to the highest quality loose leaf tea, selecting fine certified organics when available. Working closely with tea gardens, estates and specialists around the world, maintaining knowledge and expertise regarding all facets of tea and production."