kixiechic said

Shopping for Teas online

This might be a strange question, but I’m curious about how you all shop for tea online (assuming that you do at all.)

Do you shop by type of tea (Green, Black, etc.) or by something else? If you drink decafinated tea, do you look for a decaf tea link, or do you still go shop by the type of tea you like (i.e., I like green tea, I click on green tea and then choose decaf under the green tea options.)

I know most of you are very serious about your teas. But do you find that your friends and families have any idea what teas are? I mean, do they know that Earl Grey is just a black tea?

I’d gladly welcome any other comments about your online tea shopping experiences. Thank you!

145 Replies

I have bought online…mostly from Adagio and Teavana so far. I buy a variety and whatever sounds interesting or something I haven’t tried or things I like.

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Cofftea said

I’ve been pretty adagio exclusive til now. Now I’m really into denstea.com. I just got a matcha set and free sampler from them. I’m in search of more sites/companies that sell exlusively one type of tea or from one contry of origin. I also want to get Golden Moon’s sampler because it contains every tea they carry. 52teas is expensive, but I want to try some of their blends as soon as I have room in my coupboard. If I had the $ and the space, I’d be buying every one of Rishi Tea’s Daily deals and a LOT of the steepster select items.

Cofftea said

The only thing I hate about denstea.com (and will definitely be emailing them about) is that their steeping instructions on the package are contradictory to the pamphlet they gave me on the steeping parameters of each Japanese green.

Cofftea said

I got an email back from them and the package dirctions are correct. I guess flavored sencha is different still. They will be adding it to the sheet.

52teas said

I just saw this, and I had to ask if you really think that our teas are too expensive, and if anyone else thinks this. (Keeping in mind that our prices do include free shipping to the US and Canada, I think our prices are really good, and I’ve heard that from several customers too).

I’m just curious what you honestly think.

Cofftea said

I suppose it’s relative. For the amount, some are. But your matcha price is killer and that pretty much makes you amazing. But then again you do add other things other than tea (like bacon lol) to some of your teas so that makes it hard to compare. Free shipping also rules:)

Meghann M said

@52teas-I think your pricing is great if I’m buying 1 pouch of tea and getting free shipping. I just wish if I wanted to try several varieties there would be some kind of sliding discount. I don’t really want to pay $24 for 6oz of teas. But then again, that all depends on what is in the blend of tea. I’ve been looking at your chais, but because I can get them cheaper elsewhere, so far I have. I did opt to try your Champagne Mojito Green tea and am excited to get that!

Cofftea said

Meghann M, Manteas offers a discount when you buy larger quantities of Mayan Chocolate Chai. They may have it for others as well. You can get chai other places yes, but (in my own opinion) you can’t find a better one. Of course chocolate and cayenne isn’t for everyone. At 10 cents a gram (the cheapest price on manteas) including the shipping that they charge (a fixed price), I also consider it a fairly economical indulgence. I can enjoy my 12oz cuppa for 80 cents plus the cost of the milk.

Stephanie said

@52 teas I have to say that I also agree with Meghann. The price per 2oz. is good if I’m only getting one tea, but for more than one tea, it is kind of steep (even inclusive of s/h). But thanks for including the shipping with the price—it does make it kind of easier!

Cofftea said

Another thing to remember is most blends have a lot more than just tea leaves and “natural flavorings” in them. I’m sure some flavorings like melon and cucumber aren’t cheap. I also challenge you to find an excellent matcha for $7.99 for 2oz (56g) including shipping.

Stephanie said

@Cofftea: You’re right about that price for matcha—that’s actually incredible! It’s excellent, you say? Now I’m intrigued. I hope more matcha blends are created so I can try and compare.

Cofftea said

Words can’t describe it. Loved the mouth feel of it as well. With any product to do a fair price comparison you need to compare apples to apples and, while the new white blends are more normal and run of the mill, most of their blends you just can’t do that w/ because they are absolutely unique. I’m not happy w/ their customer service, but their products rock my socks off. Even their brick and mortar shop Zoomdweebie’s has some unique flavors (along w/ some more common ones of course).

Cofftea said

Yep, that’s how I know what they offer:) I, too, was scared of matcha at 1st. Not so much of the tea, but investing $ in a matcha set and matcha (because I wanted to prepare it properly) only to not like it. So I went to a cafe that served it for $2.50/bowl and was instantly in love!=D

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kixiechic said

Thanks TeaEqualsBliss & Cofftea.

It sounds like TEB you’ll go to a site with something in mind, but will maybe end up buying whatever seems interesting? And Cofftea, sounds like you know what you’re looking for and are looking for the sites that cater to that?

TEB do you find yourself looking at a lot of different products? Do you move around the site using the navigation or do you click on banners and callouts? Is there anything in particular that makes something stand out at interesting? (Like seeing a place of origin or seeing “organic” or something.)

Cofftea, when you’re looking for what you want to do you tend to use navigation menus or do you search for it? Is there a certain something you’re looking for—particular words or images?

I’m working on a possible tea site. And I’m just curious to know how real tea drinkers shop and think. Thank you both for you help! :) And anyone else please join in on the conversation.

Cofftea said

Yeah, for a 1st purchase from a company I find what I’m looking for. But if I’m happy w/ that purchase, I’ll try other things from them. In the other direction, if I get something I’m not happy w/ I’m leary to try them again even for something completely different. And I normally search by key word. But sometimes, like w/ denstea.com, my interest in a company comes from getting a gift (or a free sample w/ a catalog). Thanks goes to Lena F. for that! After getting a gift from republicoftea.com, I’m also interested in them. I also looked at rishi-tea.com for my matcha because that’s the 1st brand I had (at a resturaunt) and steepster select has further peaked my interest. I might also take the advice of my tea drinking friends if they say a particular company has good prices and low shipping. Low shipping is almost as, if not more important to me than the price of the tea or teaware unless the tea/ware is sold VASTLY more expensive or cheaper somewhere else. If the price is too different, I know someone is ripping me off in price and/or quality.

It really seems to depend on my mood. I will look for ‘different’ or ‘new’ or inexpensive rare teas or deals first. I then tend to thumb thru each section starting with the black, then black flavored, then green, then white, then rooibos/honeybush…and others. I usually do the least amount or look at last the herbals (unless it’s pepperminty) and decafs…I usually don’t focus on those but if it sparks my interest I will buy if the price is right. If there is a good tea section in any of my local chain/grocery stores I will get as much of a variety for a cheap price. I also try and make sure I have a lot of each type of tea so if I am low on greens I tend to purchase more greens. Or if I want to learn more about a region I might look for one or two by region. I have also bought specific ones based on a company giving back to the tea growers…ie…charity/fundraisers, too. Adagio features a tea each month that goes to a specific region or tea farmer.

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LENA said

I first started buying loose leaf online from Adagio. They have a large variety of teas and their lengthy descriptions and customer reviews are very helpful to the beginning buyer/drinker. Now that I have narrowed my tastes down, I shop with other companies like Rishi, Harney & Sons, etc. I mostly buy with my “tastes” in mind, but sometimes I’ll venture out if I’m intrigued or if the price can’t be beat. But it’s still narrowed down by what I KNOW I like. I also look for award winning teas (like several of Rishi’s) and buy them to see if I agree and what I still have to learn. It took several years and even more orders to find likes and dislikes…and it seems as if I’m only getting pickier.
Sites for beginning tea drinkers should offer a large product line (and do it very well with great customer service). Or if you are catering to experienced tea drinkers, only offer limited types, such as only black teas, and do it superbly with fantastic customer service. It just depends on what kind of customer base or niche you are going for.

Can you tell I’m big on customer service? Good luck on your site!

Cofftea said

lol. Were your ears ringing that you replied to a thread where I mentioned you? :)

LENA said

HA! I just now noticed that. Thanks for the shout out!

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Doulton said

Here’s a copy of an email I just sent in response to an email I received:

Dear Sirs and Madames,

I just received the following email from you (copied and pasted below). Your email subject line, address, and content does not reveal the sender. I currently have 5 tea orders in process. You could simply add Teavana. Furthermore, you do not mention which items you are not shipping. Can you not consider that I have spent well over $100 at your emporium? Perhaps the order represents a Christmas gift—or a few. You say that you will ship within a month. So what am I supposed to do? Note in your email you do not include the items that you cannot ship; nor do you even permit a response. Your name is absent. I am disgrunted!

YOUR EMAIL TO ME:
________________________________________
Dear MS. NNNNN
Thank you for your recent order #
Unfortunately we are temporarily out of stock and unable to ship
your complete order due to the unforeseen demand for the item(s)
listed below.

Qty Item No Description Amount
******************************************************************************************

We anticipate shipment within 30 days and apologize for any
inconvenience this delay may have caused you. We will send you a
shipment confirmation once your order has shipped.

Sincerely,

Customer Service Department

*************************************

I have had excellent and speedy service from Adagio, Uptons, Numi, Mighty Leaf, Kusmi, TeaGschwendner and 52teas.

Which makes me wonder if a well-organized forum about the manner in which tea companies treat their customers—-timely notifications and shipping, organization, etc. might be helpful? I certainly would post largely very positive reviews; it’s nice to know when a company cannot deliver in a timely manner.

Marie said

I must agree!!! I ordered tea cozies from www.tea-and-roses.com and they have the absolutely WORST (zero actually) customer service. They are located one state over from me, and I’ve called and emailed them several times with no response. It’s been over 6 weeks, and they already charged my card a long time ago. I’m at the point where I’ll be reporting them to the Better Business Bureau. There’s only one other complaint about them so far, but it said it had been resolved.

Suzi said

Amyb – Did you a chargeback on your credit card? You may be able to do that, and get your money returned.

If you paid through Paypal, I think the limit is either 30 or 45 days to file a dispute on a transaction…

Marie said

Thanks Suzi, this was not through paypal, just credit card direct. My money was finally refunded after I threatened to report them to the Better Business Bureau – the only way I actually received any response from them. Just putting the word out there so someone else doesn’t have to go through the trouble.

Cofftea said

You should still report them. That’s insane.

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kixiechic said

Wow thank you everyone. This is incredibly helpful information. Hopefully it’ll benefit you all once the site is launched and it meets all your needs, ;)

Doulton, I’m sorry to read that e-mail you received, it definitely has too many holes in it—no product list, no shipping date, no sender information. Those are big eCommerce no-nos. They ought to know better.

So it seems that it’s common for the “beginner” to start with larger tea shops that have a variety, at which they shop by personal preference (which is still developing). For those that may not have a strong personal preference yet, they might shop based on region or interesting fact (on sale, rare, new to store, awards).

For better versed tea drinkers, they’re more likely to drink at specialty tea shops that focus on their preferred type of tea. And of course a good online store should follow-up the tea sale with great customer service and communication. Also, free samples and low/free shipping won’t hurt either.

More questions (thanks!)
TEB mentioned buying from a retailer because their proceeds support a charity—does this influence anyone else?

Do you often buy tea wares with your tea purchase? Or are wares more of an impulse buy?

When browsing teas, how important is decaf or organic? (Meaning, would you want to browse decaf teas and then narrow it to type, or would you rather view black teas and then narrow it by decaf/organic?)

I’d love to hear about more online shopping experiences/fails.

LENA said

I bought Adagio’s Ceylon Sonata because it was part of their “Roots Campaign” in which a % of the money made on the tea goes directly to the farmer. I love reading about the farmers who actually grow the teas that I drink. Their bio and stories really capture my attention. I heavily support this type of idea.

I buy most of my tea wares in person and not online. I like to touch and feel and actually see the size and weight of the items. I’m pretty sure that my husband has bought me the Zarafina tea maker for Christmas…and I know that he bought this online as I have not seen it in any local stores. YAY on that, by the way.

I’m not a decaf drinker (unless it is herbal), so I can’t help you on that question. I usually just skip the decaf section on sites.

Cofftea said

@Lena, I too LOVE their roots campaign. But I also tried they’re ceylon sonata because I think it’s important to try what a company uses as a base for their flavored teas sans flavor.

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Bethany said

I, too, started with Adagio. I found them through Lifehacker, one of my favorite websites, which featured their IngenuiTEA in a post one day. I loved their massive selection and the fact that the teas were definitely above grocery store-grade, but not too fussy or intense as to scare off newcomers. When I first saw their selection of flavored black teas, I was in heaven!

While I have moved on to some other vendors, Adagio is definitely still my number one favorite. The teas are generally great, they’re well-priced, and the customer service is outstanding. I love the 24-hour turnaround and the fact that packages always arrive on time and extremely quickly. The few times that I have had issues have resulted in very fast e-mail responses and offers to fix the situation.

Most of the time, I find out about other online vendors through reviews. I read Teaviews often, as well as other review blogs and Steepster reviews, so I almost always go to a site looking for one specific tea. Generally I’ll end up sticking around and browsing their other selection. Organic is not important to me at all. Neither is decaf; I don’t drink decaf black teas and know which other types of tea are generally decaf, anyway. My biggest considerations are price of the tea per ounce and shipping costs. Generally if shipping costs are outrageous, I’ll avoid the place altogether, or wait until they have a free shipping or other major sale.

My latest disappointment was Mighty Leaf. I ordered on Monday morning and my order did not ship (was “in process”) until last night. It will not be delivered until over a week after I placed the order. This is crazy to me considering Adagio’s quick turnaround time.

Cofftea said

I disagree Adagio’s selection is massive. I find myself looking elsewhere for some things I’m looking for. Adagio used to have quick turn around, but recently it’s taken a week for things to get to Washington State. They also take forever to process blends. And don’t get me started on the fact that we’re STILL waiting for the tea chocolates and cookies.

Bethany said

I think for a new tea drinker, their selection really is quite large. Yes, you’re not going to find a lot of unique estate oolongs, but that isn’t really their aim. They appear to be aiming for people who have graduated from grocery store bagged teas to loose leaf, but have not yet become tea aficianados. For that, they’re perfect.

I haven’t noticed any slowdown in shipping, but maybe they’re swamped because of the holidays? I’ve never ordered blends, so I can’t comment on that. But I’m with you on the chocolates and cookies!

Cofftea said

@Bethany, their shipping lag was a few months ago. I’ve sent them quite a few angry emails in RE: to their cookies and chocolates, especially when they’re coming out w/ new products like their honey (which is just basic honey) 1st.

kixiechic said

hopefully a new company on the market will help alleviate some of the congestion Adagio seems to be having :) (They seem to be the go to tea supplier.)

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Doulton said

I think that Steepster would be an ideal place for information on small yet wonderful tea-merchants. It’s only been about two months since I started buying tea on-line. I have purchased from the big names, because I don’t know the smaller names. I know that several of the tea review forums out there only review teas when they are sent free samples, and they don’t necessarily make a point of mentioning that to the reader.

I would love to have a function on Steepster where people could review their favorite tea merchants and particularly those which are not easy to find. It’s easy enough to hear about Adagio and Teavana and a few others; places like Numi, Mighty Leaf, Celestial Seasonings have found their way into supermarkets in fairly small towns. But there are probably some really glorious tea experiences that a person like me, who does not live in a large metro area with several tea-houses, misses out on.

kixiechic said

I completely concur. I hope the Steepster big brothers are out there watching this thread.

Doulton said

I hope that happens. It’s great that we can rate the individual teas and read reviews. It would be nice to be able to review tea merchants for things like shipping time, customer service, and to be able to promote a small gem of a company that has not been able to establish a huge on-line presence. If we end up with 5 or 10 giants in the field, our options might be limited similar to the way that Amazon and B&N have cornered the market on books. A consortium like ABE (books) might be a viable option for the smaller tea-merchant. Or just a blog or forum that is inclusive and looks into new names without expecting free tea.

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teaplz said

Sampler sets are a big thing for me. I’m just starting out, and I’m really just trying to get a feel for what every company offers, and what the different varieties taste like. Cheap samples really do make a difference in what I purchase. Even if it’s a 1-2 cup sample, it’ll give me a feel for that tea and that brand, and steer me in the correct direction for later purchases. That’s another reason why Adagio in particular is great for beginners. I can’t afford to drop $20 on a 30-cup tin of tea when I’m not even sure what it’s going to taste like.

I am actually interested in decaf, since I have several conditions that limit my caffeine intake a day. Yes, it tastes worse, but I have to limit the caffeinated cup average to 1-2 cups a day, and when I’m really craving stuff before bedtime, it’s nice to have a good spread of options.

kixiechic said

That’s a really great point that I hadn’t thought about. Do others out there enjoy shopping the sampler packs?

Cofftea said

@Kixiechic, I LIVE by sampler packs! And even more, free samples. Check out my cupboard- all but my custom blends, white cucumber, and ginseng green are samplers- those are 4 oz. I have no storage as it is, can you imagine if they were all that size?:)

Carolyn said

Yes. I will almost always try a new tea company by picking up their sampler pack first. My assumption is that they’ve put their best stuff in the sampler pack. If I don’t like the sampler, I assume I won’t like anything they have.

Cofftea said

Dirt cheap sale items are essential too. Like the 50% off Rishi items lol.

oh yes! i do love trying samples first, then i know if i like the way they package, ship, blend and care for their leaves

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Doulton said

I like the sampler packs a lot. They seem like a non-threatening purchase and I can always go back and get a fuller size if I fall in love with the tea.

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