I get random emails with random questions from time to time. They often ask the same thing, so here are my answers:

I have a budget of $XXX, where should I buy tea, and what should I buy?

The simple answer is I have no clue, because I don’t know what you like or prefer, and asking strangers online for their preferences and then recommending places is not easy, to say the least, not to mention full of potholes that can result in disappointing purchases. The truth of the matter is, a budget of $100 or so (the sum most often cited) really won’t get you much of anything these days, when including shipping, taxes, etc. It’s basically a few big samples and that’s that. There are a few places, like Yunnan Sourcing, that offer generally reasonably priced teas that are at least no frills, but since I never buy online these days I honestly can’t recommend anything specific.

I’m about to visit (place in East Asia). Do you know of any good shops?

The answer to this one is quite similar to the answer to the above question – I don’t have a good answer, because while there are places that I visit on a regular basis, the type of stores I like to visit are usually not very good for the random visitor to East Asia. For one, they often require some local language, but more importantly, they don’t normally sell culture – they sell tea. As I recommended in my post on teashops in China, a normal visitor should really just visit one of the bigger chains – it will, on average, offer a better experience.

This is a teapot/tea I bought recently (with picture attached, sometimes). Is there anything wrong with it?

You really need to use the smell test on this one – is it too good to be true? Is it really cheap and tells you it’s a super rare tea? Is it a pot with shoe polish on it? If the answer to all these are no, then I’m probably not going to be able to help you. I don’t have x-ray vision. Unless the leaves are black and the guy selling the tea to you tell you it’s green tea, I can’t tell you a lot more, usually.

I am with company X and we have this product we’d like you to plug/review, could you?

No, I’m not interested, thanks, unless you’re offering me 50 years old teas.