Given my love for tea, it makes perfect sense to launch my Best Of series with my vote for the Best of Tea. Xiu Xian Tea is Seattle, Kent, Bellevue, and Renton's best tea shop IMO:
I found this place in April 2009 after seeing their sign facing SR-167 and then looking them up online. Drop by and say hi to Mako and ask for a tea tasting. Select up to 5 teas and sample; try before you buy! Tea is healthy, cost-effective, and delicious. Depending on the brew and cut or roll of leaf, 1-3 tsp. can last you 3-6 steeps! Tea makes me happy with its diverse options; each morning feels new as I select a tea for taste. Each season I crave different types (e.g., green in summer, robust roasted brews in winter, etc.) and every day I rotate and drink something different. Yes, I drink water... mostly when it's tea! One bonus: Mako teaches me the all-important requests in Chinese such as Please give me a cup of tea.
Favorites include, but are not limited to, the following: panda pearl white, dragon white, green oasis, dragonwell green, big red robe oolong, misty cloud oolong, dong ding/high mountain oolong, ginseng oolong, jade oolong, tiekuanyin/tien gwan yin/iron goddess oolong, pue'rh, hojicha, matcha, jiaogulan, and rooibus chai. Herbals: osmanthus, purple rose, and white chrysanthemum. Sometimes I add goji berries. See more of my favorite teas.
What's your favorite brew? Xiu Xian offers a loyal customer card; 1 points/1 dollar spent, earn 100 points and receive 10% off. Earn 500 points and receive 50% off. You receive a free drink after 9 drink. Plus you can enter to win your favorite tea at their monthly drawing. So far, I've racked up and cashed in 1000 points, earned a couple free drinks, and 1 of their drawings for my favorite tea (that time I picked Osmanthus). Be sure to order your tea from Xiu Xian! If they like you and you're nice, tell them I sent you! :D It's a great place to meet family, colleagues, friends, or even for a date, or in my case, to de-stress after the GRE... another story. Oh, and you can order tea parties!
Runner up: Vital Tea Leaf in Pike Place Market. They're a bit more pricey, but I like their jade oolong and tea hostesses. They also teach me important phrases in Chinese such as Please give me a cup of tea. :D Visit if you're in downtown Seattle!
Third place: Shinka Tea in the U-District. Their hot drinks are pricey, so order loose leaf and brew at home. They carry Japanese teas (I like their hojicha), plus yummy treats such as mango pudding. Drawback: they have limited hours during student breaks (including Summer). See my reviews on Yelp for more food and beverage reviews.
Happy sipping (or chugging, YMMV),