Here are some notes on teas I've tried:
Generally, I never realized before that after I steep and pour the tea, its flavor continues to change as the water cools. It tastes better to me when it is warm but not very hot.
China Mist Toasted Rice Green Tea
Technically not a loose-leaf tea, because it comes in a "sachet" (a pyramidal tea bag, which allows more room for the tea inside): China Mist Toasted Rice Green Tea. I first had this at Pasta Moon restaurant in Half Moon Bay. This is a kind of tea sometimes served at Japanese restaurants; they call it genmaicha. It has a wonderfully nutty delicate flavor.
Ten Ren Tea
innerdoggie recommended Ten Ren Tea http://www.tentea.com/
I tried them first out of all the online tea retailers that folks recommended because they ship from California and the shipping charges are based on weight. They offer .32 oz samplers of their loose leaf teas, nicely packaged in ziploc baggies inside pretty red boxes. I bought samples of:
- Keemun black tea 1st grade, 2d grade, and 3d grade, to see if I could tell the difference among the grades (I can't)
- Lapsong Souchong tea (way too strongly smoke-flavored for my taste)
The Keemun teas are good, but they don't seem to be quite flavorful enough. (With the black teas, I'm trying to recreate my first experience of English tea with milk, when I went to England for the first time at age 15. I took a sip and thought, "Wow, so THIS is what all the fuss is about!" Prior to that I hadn't liked tea but probably because all I'd had was Lipton tea bags, and it hadn't occurred to me to put milk in the tea. I'm aware it might be impossible to recreate this experience.)
Simon Lévelt organic Sewpur BOP Indian Assam
hmms_sio gave me some Simon Lévelt organic Sewpur BOP Indian Assam. BOP stands for Broken Orange Pekoe, which is a grade of tea leaf. This is a CTC (crush-tear-curl) tea. CTC is a method of leaf preparation that results in small pellets. Since they're crushed, the leaves yield a lot of flavor quickly. I tried using an amount equivalent to the amount of Keemun I was using and steeping it for the usual 4 minutes, and the result was much too strong. When I used half that amount and steeped for 3 minutes, the result was about right. The Assam is more flavorful than the Keemun.
Sio also gave me two other teas to try, but I haven't opened them yet.
Four Seasons Oolong
At a restaurant in Las Vegas, I had an oolong tea called Four Seasons Pouchong (http://www.houseofcha.com/details.asp?item=59). It was very yummy both plain and with a bit of honey with a smooth, delicate floral flavor. Oolong is a kind of black tea, that is, it is fermented, but it's fermented for only half as long as regular black tea. So it's kind of a cross between green tea and black tea in flavor.
Sunset Oolong Flowering Tea
Yesterday I tried the Sunset Oolong flowering tea from Numi. Flowering teas are tea leaves and other things like flowers hand sewn together into a little ball. They blossom when you put them in hot water. I liked this tea a fair bit, although not as much as the Four Seasons. I find the flowering tea concept interesting and amusing but it seems like a lot of fuss to go to, so I wouldn't use this tea except for a special occasion.
If I can't manage to re-create my perfect English tea experience, at least I know I really like Oolong and Genmaicha.