6091 N. Oracle Road
1101 N. Wilmot Road
READERS' PICK: Tea isn't the only et cetera in Coffee Etc., but it's definitely a big one. The herbal tea selection is limited to the Celestial Seasonings brand, but substantial shelves are lined with bulk tea jars with a range of black teas (decaffeinated, too), green teas, oolongs, Maltese and Lapsangs. Sample them by the steaming cup, or take them home by the pound. This full-service retail store also has all the paraphernalia you'll need to customize your own tea ceremony to a ... um, T.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: Food Conspiracy Co-op, 412 N. Fourth Ave. This is our favorite wall in the bulk foods section of this cooperative neighborhood market. Part spice cabinet and part apothecary, the stunning selection of some 64 loose-leaf and powdered teas, neatly shelved in wide-mouth glass jars, provides an infusion of good feelings even before you add water. The three major families of tea--green, oolong (Chinese "black dragon") and rich, oily black leaf--are all well represented here, as are intriguing herbal, fruit and flower blends that promise all kinds of mood-enhancing properties to ease or invigorate your lifestyle. By way of a brief overview, staid traditionals like Earl Grey and English (or Irish) breakfast join trendy Chai and a Native American concoction believed to have anti-cancer properties. There's also the Wiccan Women's Brew (an herbal blend), Dragonweed (an oolong) and Eyebrow tea (a delicate green). Be sure to linger over each poetic label, and read Lhasa Tizer's edifying notes on the side for details on the proper temperature and steeping time (hint: greens steep the longest, and below the boiling point) to really get the flavor of the experience. And if you are a tea person, chances are you'll love being able to bag your blend in a reusable cotton drawstring pouch, available on the counter for a mere 19 cents each.
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