I just wanted to start my journey in the wide world of tea talk by introducing myself. As you've gathered from the title, I live in Pittsburgh, PA: home of French Fries on sandwiches, Heinz ketchup, and unfortunately, highly processed and shredded tea marketed as quality loose leaf. My initial attempt at procuring decent Darjeeling from an independent teashop met with great resistance. The clerk could not tell me from what estate the tea had come nor its flush (or even year) of harvest. Nevertheless, I took home two ounces of "Darjeeling TGFOP" to satiate my tea cravings (the cupboard was bare from a recent move to the city). The tea wasn't horrible if the package had said Lipton on it, but the price was far more than what the resulting liquor deserved.
At press time, I am currently placing orders with several online retailers in the hope of better results. I'm a huge fan of Darjeeling First Flushes from Castleton, Arya, and Makaibari, though the second flushes from this year have been wonderful as well. From the Green Tea category, I greatly enjoy a Hongyokuro or a high grade Long Jing for their rich vegetal qualities (though my wife chides me for drinking what she derides as overpriced lawn clippings). I also enjoy White Teas, but my pending shipment will be the first quantity of such a tea I have owned; until now, I've stuck to ordering pots of it. I look forward to reviewing my first home-brewed pot of Silver Needle on this forum.
I'd very much like to entertain some other recommendations for "must drink" teas, as well as recommendations for vendors. I've heard some reasonably critical reviews of Upton, but nothing concrete as to where their limitations lie. I also hear decent reviews of Adagio and the Tea Emporium. From where do you most enjoy buying your teas, or do you prefer different vendors for different types?
Thank you in advance for your input and I look forward to becoming a productive member of this fine community.