Food: Specialty Tea Distributors
The 800 pound gorilla of the upscale tea market is Teavana, but their advantage only extends to brick-and-mortar stores. In the wilds of the Web, you can order tea from dozens of places, near or far. Here are two companies I've used that have provided good service and good tea.
This Illinois-based distributor was founded by Steven Popec and his wife Elena, who introduced Steven to the world of Russian tea culture. I ordered two samplers, the "Pearl of Fruits" flavored green tea sampler and the "Chai & Mate" sampler, which each contained four 1 ounce bags of four different teas (I also ordered some Japanese kukicha green tea). All the teas were shipped promptly and arrived as advertised, though the actual bags ESP uses to ship its teas are not airtight.
The chai sampler was very good. I found that the black tea chai was serviceable, and particularly enjoyed the green tea chai and rooibos chai - the complex mix of spices in the blend paired well with these milder teas. The "Pearl of Fruits" sampler was a litte disappointing: all the teas save the gojiberry were overwhelmed by the dried fruits. For everyday drinking, I recommend the kukicha - it has a nutty, mild green tea flavor, and it can be steeped at least two or three times before losing its flavor.
This is a smaller distributor, and it's actually a local outfit - I picked up my tea orders right from their office near Jog Road and Southern Boulevard. Of course, it's a little incongruous pulling into an industrial park office and walking out with bags of tea, but it's the flavor that matters, right?
Teas Etc's flavored blends tend to be lighter than most, which I prefer (it's hard to enjoy tea when you're getting a faceful of dried coconut or orange). My favorite is the Moroccan Mint, a positively refreshing blend of organic green tea and organic spearmint. This tea was so good that even people who don't regularly drink tea liked it: