A trip to a Teavana retail store is an adventure for the senses. Loose leaf teas are arranged by category in colorful tins lining a large bookshelf - white teas, green teas, oolong teas, black, pu-erh, herbal, rooibos, mate, decaf, organic, and blooming teas - each with dozens of individual flavors to choose from. (Check out Teavana.com and click on "virtual tea wall" to see what I mean!) The employees are standing by to help you pick the perfect tea and will spend as much time as you need pulling down these large tins and allowing you to enjoy the different aromas. They are extremely knowledgeable about the health benefits and caffeine content of each of their teas, and can make excellent suggestions about ways to combine them to create your own custom blends to maximize both flavor and health benefits (I'm currently a fan of a custom blend to help with digestion and weight loss made with monkey-picked oolong, strawberry slender pu-erh, mate lemon blast, and imperial acai blueberry.)
If seeing and smelling aren't good enough, there are always free samples of both hot and cold custom blends to tantalize your taste buds. It's a great way to try something new without having to spend a penny. If you find something you like, you can order a drink to go from their beverage bar. Or purchase a bag of loose leaf to take home.
Loose leaf teas are sold by the ounce, so you can buy as little or as much as you like. They package them in foil-lined bags to preserve the flavors - or you can purchase metal tins to extend the shelf life (and they look great lined up in your cupboards at home). They even sell a variety of pretty tins to match your every mood.
On a rainy day in Seattle, there is nothing better than a hot cup of tea and a good book. Which is exactly what I'm planning to do now.