My experience has thus far mainly revolved around grocery store and mideastern food market teas. So having tried my brands of my favorite blend – earl grey – I have been reading the reviews of the same on Steepster. I realize there are some reviewers who will never review a grocery store or bagged tea positively. That is fine and expected. What surprised me was how different my experience with these teas was from many of the reviews. I enjoy reading others thoughts but I am wondering how valuable they are when reading about a tea I haven’t tried myself.
Let me offer a few examples of my own experience – I have tried Tazo EG mutiple times (at Starbucks and at home) and have yet to detect the bergamot. Just tastes like a breakfast tea to me. The reviews generally say well balanced bergamot flavor. Republic of Tea smelled wonderful but there was so little tea in the sachet (1.33g) that the bergamot way overpowered and made for a bad cup of tea. I read many positive reviews again saying something very different. I could go on but you get the idea.
How do you use the reviews to help you select a tea? Honestly, I am hesitant to order online based on what I am reading.
I think there are always going to be people who have biases towards certain types of teas, it’s unavoidable. We tried to position Steepster so that people could follow each other and, through the process of reading updates from others, they could not only find new teas but also better understand that person’s tastes.
So, if you haven’t been following the people that left the reviews you’re looking at, I’d take a look at their tealog and see what some of their other reviews say. Getting a more comprehensive idea of their tendencies helps you understand their tastes and how they compare to your own. Or you could always just jump in with both feet :)
I’m sure others have plenty of advise on this subject too…
Don’t misunderstand I am greatly appreciative of this site and the community it creates. I am following some folks and did look at the tealogs of those who left the reviews I questioned as well as some that I agreed with. I am still trying to sort out what it means.
I take what I know about teas, through experience, and apply it to what people have said. As long as the rating is not seriously low, and it is a tea type I generally like, I would make a purchase. One example would be http://www.whiteaugusttea.com/products/Rogue-Wave%E2%84%A2.html
I know that I generally like the flavours in that tea in my tea. The rating was good. And it was worth the risk.
Or sometimes it is a shot in the dark. Hojicha sounded interesting to me, and so I tried it. I was pleased with the result. But sometimes it is a miss. Some teas sound great and do not deliver. I now know that I do not like citrus in my green tea.
It has some exploration elements for sure.
How do you like that for a short and simple answer.
I agree, I sometimes find the reviews a little contradictory. This is like the Yelp problem with rating an experience like movies, books or food. I only give credit to those reviews when it’s 100+ people who have reviewed a restaurant!
I think the best bet is to follow people who are making reviews in line with what I like, or waiting until there’s a sufficient number of reviews to understand the quality of the tea. I also sometimes read the reviews and try to decide if someone is making a thoughtful effort.
I’ve been lucky enough to find other Steepsters with similar tastes to mine, so that makes reading the reviews a lot more meaningful. I’ve also learned where my tastes differ from other tea drinkers…anytime I see a review that is along the lines “omg, the tart! It burns!”, I know that there’s about a 98% chance I’m going to love it.
What I did when starting on Steepster was to read other peoples’ reviews of my favorite teas. When someone described an experience similar to what I’d had with it, I’d check out their tealog to see what else they’ve liked. It’s worked so far!
I like to find people who are not drinking the same things I am…it is a chance to hear about something new and try something new. I like the more formal tea reviews but I prefer the less formal ones, just average drinkers talking about what they like. I suppose I have never really had a disgusting tea so it is not likely that something I order will be horrible, even if it is not my favorite. When I started drinking loose leaf I started with the flavors I liked in bagged form and then quickly spun out of control :)
You also picked the tea that has a serious love/hate thing going on. People are VERY picky about their Early Grey. Coming to a consensus on Earl Grey is like asking a mafia person how to make pasta sauce. Everyone has their opinion and will defend them tooth and nail.
If you want to branch out, you will find that other teas (Green Oolongs, Ceylons, Assams and Keemun’s) are more universally liked or disliked. But even these have people that have different tastes so there will be some experimentation that will have to happen.
I take a lot of things into consideration when I look at a review on Steepster.
First of all, I ignore the tea score unless it is really low. I don’t know how people (that are not on my friends list), rate their tea. Do they think it is the best tea in the world, or do they have really low standards? If they like the tea do they automatically give it a 100? And the same goes for a bad experience, do they rate it a 5?
If I am looking to buy a tea that I can’t smell in person. The actual written tea review is my best hope. Sometimes I even look at the person’s other reviews to see what other things they like. Anyways, I look for some of the following things in reviews: how strong particular flavors are, what other teas it reminds them of, their experience buying the tea, whether they would buy it again or not, why they like or dislike that tea.
Echoing what others have said, you can benefit greatly from watching people and what teas they review. Personally, I add people that either are in my country or buy from the same stores I have access to. Also, I add people that review tea often or that write very interesting reviews. So that I can get a good idea about what people are drinking.
I don’t think anyone minds if you watch them. Likewise you shouldn’t feel compelled to add someone if you’re not interested in their reviews.
And if you can find someone with similar tastes, it is easy to chat with them and become friends too! :)
Another problem with the numbers is that people have different ideas about what they mean. Some people use the whole 1-100 points, but others use something that looks like the U.S. letter grade system where anything below 50 is a FAIL. So depending on the writer, 65 can mean “pretty tasty” or “barely drinkable.”
I’m basically going to say what everyone else is saying – you have to take reviews with a grain of salt. I try to not go by the numerical rating of a tea and more about the actual comments on it – though I know you were saying that that’s where your trouble has been. I’ve purchased teas for the sole reason was that their rating was so high – and ended up feeling like I was the only one who didn’t enjoy it.
I think the main thing is that any time you’re trying a tea you haven’t before – you are taking a chance. I guess it’s about finding people who tend to feel the same way about teas you do/do not enjoy and listen more to them. The fun part about steepster is that if you find a tea you don’t like – there will be someone out there that would love to swap teas!
That’s what I can say based off my experience so far at least! :)