Frontier Natural Products is the primary bulk food provider for Whole Foods as well as the co-ops/specialty stores in the Ann Arbor area. Since they retail tea among their bulk foods, I’ve been buying it for years. The benefit of buying tea in bulk is that, unlike tea houses that will force you to buy a minimum of 50 gm->2.0 oz or more per tea, there is no minimum to how much tea you can buy in bulk. Thus, I’ve bought tiny satchels containing something like two or three steeps worth of tea only and often paid less than $0.50 a bag. Mind you, this isn’t very convenient when it comes to reading the bags afterwards, and it’s generally not very good for the environment. “Bulk” (and here you will recognize I mean the opposite of the established nuance) tea buying works particularly well at bulk food stores that import the highest grade teas, such as By The Pound (I could seriously kiss the owner of that business) where store owners will often charge a price based on an item’s pound value, even though you may only need a few grams worth. A great example is Royal Gold Yunnans, which have a tendency to retail upwards of $80/lb. It sounds like a lot, but two or three scoops of that particular tea only weighs something like ~20 gm, so it’s practically nothing. Sadly for me, one of the stores that used to retail tea this way Arbor Farms (where I often purchase the majority of my normal groceries), has gotten rid of their bulk teas as demand has fallen off/never existed besides myself. It’s all right though: Whole Foods can afford to stock almost Frontier’s entire line of teas.
Today I’m drinking Frontier’s Se Chung Special Oolong. I forgot to date it, and so it might be anywhere from three to six months old (I haven’t done a major clean up of my cupboards since August, and I usually do it every four-to-six months, so I really ought to make that my project for myself this weekend. Hopefully I can turn it into a blog post somehow). Se Chung, or Se Zhong (色种 or 色種) which translates to something like “colorful variety”, is an Anxi, Fujian Oolong of somewhat greener hue (props given to this wonderful ratetea.com researcher). Leaves maybe fully rolled and so unfurl quite nicely when steeped. Se Chung smells just like your typical NON-organic Chinese Oolong (which is to say, it’s very attractive). Due to it’s greener, full-leaf aspect, the flavor one gets is somewhat less refine and actually not unlike a Chung Mee. In fact, in a blind taste test, I’m not sure I would be able to place it in the Oolong family necessarily, so I’m very glad I labeled this one.