Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Great Tea Hunt

As you know, I make my own chai. While on our trip to Toccoa, we stopped at two Whole Food Stores to buy some whole cardamom pods. I use whole spices in my chai, and they are hard to find. The nearest store with cardamom pods is about five hours away from our house, in Winston-Salem!
As I said, we found some lemon zinger tea at Whole Foods, but neither store we visited had bulk spices! (boohoo!!!!) These are the stores in Columbia and Greenville, SC. However -- the very kind, very efficient fellow in the Greenville store told me about an Indian grocery just down the street where he shops. He checked online, found their phone number, and called to make sure they were open. What a great guy!
So we drove to the Indian grocery.
And here I'll wax eloquent on saving money when buying spices. Spices are so expensive, as we all know. At WalMart, the small jar of whole cloves below cost $5.18. It weighs 17 grams.
The bag of cloves above cost $8.99. It weighs 200 grams. Yeah -- do that math.
A bottle of McCormick cinnamon sticks at WalMart costs $5.48. It weighs 21 grams.
My bag of cinnamon sticks from our Asian market costs $4.95. It weighs 14 oz., nearly 400 grams.
My next goal is to find whole allspice somewhere.
Spices at the grocery store are a rip off. Find the ethnic markets in your area and shop there. You'll discover so many great foods and ingredients at a fraction of the cost.
Alright! On to the Great Tea Hunt! We discovered the Indian grocery. It ... um ... delayed our trip somewhat. After finding my cardamom pods, I was waylaid by the tea selection. I found this:
See the flavors? Ginger, star anice, cinnamon. Chai! And 72 tea packets inside! What a deal -- so I bought it. A pot of hot chai has never been easier. I'll still make my recipe, but this will be excellent for those rushed times when I'm out of the other. The little bag:
I was hesitant about the other teas. Their packaging looked so good, but I couldn't actually see the leaves. I didn't want a loose tea that was in granular form, and it sounded granular when I shook it. (You can read about the different classifications of tea here.) I don't mind small or crushed leaves. So in my doubt, I passed it by. :(
While at Toccoa, I went online and read about the various types of tea leaves, by size and cut, and decided that tea might have been a good deal, and a lovely tea. I decided I could live with the granules as long as they were simply a small cut of leaf. So on the trip back home, we stopped again, and I bought the Darjeeling, my favorite tea flavor.
I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it to find regular old tea leaves -- well, regular for Americans. We tend to buy pretty chopped up tea. My mother has received tea leaves from China, and when the hot water hit them, they expanded and were huge.
This massive bag of Assam was an even better deal, so I bought it also. My mother's favorite, I'll take some to her this fall.
My loose tea supply was getting so low, it was a relief to stock up for the winter. In my locale, the only loose tea I can purchase anywhere is Lipton tea at Walmart. I kid you not -- last year we searched all the grocery stores. They all sold only tea bags, even Twinings, even at Harris Teeter. I don't mean to be a tea snob, but seriously people!?
I know it's only loose tea and bulk spices, but right now I feel pampered and rich, to be honest. I have a wealth of tea joy in my cupboards, and it makes me happy. Now -- to drink it all. It may take years!
Update: Today I found a large tub of whole allspice in New Bern at a discount grocery store (very happy). Now I have homemade chai for years to come.


  1. I am impressed --- homemade chai is undoubtedly superior! How creative you are!

  2. Oooh, what an interesting post! There was an international supermarket near me where I used to live and it sold loads of cool stuff cheaply- I used to love going there!
    When CBC and I got back from honeymoon in Switzerland where we had been eating these peach sweets you can only get in mainland Europe,we were delighted to find them in there. We have good selections of tea in the UK but many are expensive!x

  3. Yummy! Way to go! You'd be in heaven here in Denver! If you ever need anything, let me know! I'll shop for you!

  4. How long do all those teas and spices keep? I'm wondering because my daughter was talking about all the spices she has in her cabinet that she hasn't used and I wondered if they were still good. It's wonderful to stock up for the winter, isn't it? Tea...books...yarn (for you knitters and crocheters). You are indeed pampered and rich! :)

  5. We have a wonderful Asian store here, and the prices are wonderful.

    Enjoy your teas.


  6. This was fun to read, even for a tea Philistine like me. Now, if I could only drink a cup of your chai without having all the trouble of making it first. . . .

  7. It's hard to imagine Whole Foods didn't have bulk; they sure have changed. I always try and shop at ethnic markets; they have the best prices and selections, especially on spices.
    BTW, have you priced pumpkin spice for pies? It's outrageous!


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