Tea Time In Tough Times

TWG's whole leaf teas
TWG photos

Last week, a story in The New York Times reported that high-end gourmet tea sales are thriving despite the dismal global economic situation. It seems that quality tea is a small luxury many people are willing to splurge on.

This winter, I had the chance to sample teas from TWG Tea, one of the luxury brands featured in the story. TWG made its US debut in December, and you can find their teas at Georgetown's Dean & DeLuca and online. And this week in Manhattan, Madison Avenue's Dean & DeLuca will open a dedicated TWG Tea counter with 58 loose leaf teas.

The Singapore-based company sources tea leaves from the most desirable harvests from tea gardens around the globe, and like wine, some of the teas carry a single-estate distinction.

The leaves are gorgeous — the largest and most fragrant I've encountered in my amateur tea drinking. The White House Tea (a perfectly elegant DC souvenir, don't you think?) is a juicy blend of white tea, rose petals and berry. I'm also a fan of the Silver Moon, a green tea with berry, vanilla and spice. (Both are $20 for a 3.5 ounce can.)

The Times story, citing data from IBISWorld, reports that "tea consumption in the United States is on the rise, but it is still only the sixth-most-popular drink (not including tap water), after soft drinks, bottled water, beer, milk and coffee."

Are you a tea connoisseur? If so, what do you drink and where do you buy it?