Best Tea: Unassuming organic oolongs
This company doesn't spend its money on branding -- its only US store is a modest affair, located in a Taiwanese strip mall, and most of its teas are packaged in simple blue-and-green boxes. Nor does it spend its money on middlemen: The Tsai family imports only tea grown on its two estates, one in the mountains of Taiwan, the other in mainland China, a tea forest reported to be more than one thousand years old. So what you're spending money on is the product: beautiful green and oolong teas that seem to express not just the rocky terrain their roots clutch but also the mountain mists that cling to their leaves. You can pay from $10 for a quarter pound of Pearl Orchid green tea up to $110 for a pound of the highest-grown, most fermented Lee Shan oolong -- which, in tea terms, is still quite a deal. Plus, the Tsais' Chinese estate is certified organic; the Tsais claim the Taiwanese estate is functionally organic, but harder to get the paperwork for.