In my tea travels i encounter a great many small businesses: tea retailers, tea blenders and even a couple tea growers/producers. Yet, when i considered which of these many businesses to focus on for #SmallBusinessSaturday, it occurred to me that one stood out as the best candidate.
By the Pound on South Main St. in Ann Arbor (fittingly just a few blocks from where the University of Michigan and Ohio State University are at this moment holding their To-the-Death rivalry American Football spectacle), a dry goods grocer that sells predominantly in bulk, has for years been a boon to my exploration of tea. In truth, before i discovered By the Pound I didn’t realize that tea was even sold in bulk. Most of the businesses you’ll find that retail loose leaf tea expect you to purchase a minimum amount (usually one or two ounces or more) in order to make a viable profit on the expensive commodity. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule–businesses that focus on buying and selling in bulk can afford to sell small sample sizes of their teas to entice customers with higher priced items that the thrifty shopper might otherwise never try. By the Pound was the neighborhood shop that opened my eyes to this intrepid breed of tea retailer.
I believe i originally discovered By the Pound purely by accident. My ex-roommate was besotted with the pierogis at the Copernicus international market next door. During one of these pierogi runs I wandered the shopping mall and soon had to scrape my jaw off the floor when i happened upon By the Pound’s tea wall. I think I delayed our trip by half an hour or more that day, filling paper bags with tea, scribbling titles and any preparation suggestions on bags and losing myself smelling jar after jar of rare hand-selected high quality teas from around the world. Yeah, i guess you’d have had to be there… xD
Of course, I’m not alone in shopping at By the Pound. For years Ann Arborites have flocked to the South Main Market shops for international grocery shopping, fine restaurant dining, quality shoe repair, etc. Recently however, Ann Arbor’s local news published an article reporting on a building proposal for another high rise apartment complex that would encompass the strip mall as well as its neighboring businesses (less than a year after breaking ground on a similarly enormous housing development directly across Main St). The article mentions that the proposed complex would offer a couple of street-facing retail spaces that could be made available to the current South Main Market tenants. As you might imagine many community members (myself included) responded negatively to the proposal, citing the other 26 housing developments currently in the works in and around the city as evidence that this proposal might be superfluous, as well as detrimental to local commerce, traffic, the Ann Arbor skyline, etc. As of this writing, that proposal has yet to be approved. However, even if it ends up being approved, there’s a good chance By the Pound might be able to negotiate for one of those new retail spaces after the complex is built, or find another viable location to move to in the city. This article basically does nothing to ring By the Pound’s death knell. Indeed they’ve recently stated on their Facebook Wall that rumors of By the Pound’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, it feels timely to draw Michigan tea lovers attention back to this little-known resource.
Having already reviewed more than 10 of their teas (some of which represent my earliest posts), Parting Gifts has tremendously benefited from By the Pound’s existence. Much of my early experimentation with tea was predicated on the fact that i could bring home so many different styles of tea cheaply from By the Pound. I’d like to take this moment to thank them profusely for their help making this blog possible. Now that all that’s out of the way, I give you the 11th By the Pound tea review:
Also known as Royal Golden Yunnan Extra Fancy Supreme, Royal Gold from By the Pound has for years been my favorite Black tea. As i’ve been exposed to more and more teas from across the globe, I don’t know if i can exactly claim Royal Gold as still being my absolute favorite. It is, however, a stellar tea i can’t recommend enough.
With a burnt umber liquor and a heady malt Tip aroma, Royal Gold is one of the most enticing Black teas you’ll encounter. In flavor a gooey, barky rich malt with a robust, full character. In texture, a tingly furry full Tip with a note of dryness. Royal Gold reminds me of a weekend excursion in the sun or sitting down to a chat with a long-lost friend. If i had to assign it an Indian-like rating, Royal Gold would be SFTGFOP1. Obviously there’s the $79.99/lb price point to consider, but then I can’t imagine drinking Royal Gold everyday. It’s a delectable experience that would no doubt dull with over-drinking. Even after a decade of trying different teas, Royal Gold remains one of the very best Black teas I’ve ever encountered.
- Aroma – 94
- Taste – 96
- Texture – 95
- Spunk – 95
- Rarity – 93
- Availability – 94 (You won’t be able to get BTP’s Royal Gold online but its compliment is available from Teavendor.com)
- Appearance – 94
Mean score – 94%
If you enjoy Black tea, you simply must try Royal Gold.