Teavana -- If you don't want to buy something, too bad.

566 Replies

Dang, after finding this thread and reading the three pages in one sitting, I let my tea oversteep.

It was an interesting read to compare how I train my employees to sell the loose tea at my shop.

The key point of the discussion, to me, is the use of sweetened tea to make the sale more “palatable”. Since I began drinking great loose leaf teas, I have learned that properly prepared, flavorful tea is best tried straight first. Your palate becomes accustomed to the tea itself, and then you may find the tea almost never needs sweetening. Its is just too bad that starting out with sugar, folks may never find this out for themselves.

I like to learn what a guest’s tastes are first. Black, green, white or without caffein.
Then, traditional, floral or fruity and select tea from what you learn from them. I let the guest experience the aroma first and taste if necessary. I find that aromatics seem to be the greatest influence. One does not have to be influencing or pushy. The tea sells itself.

Cofftea said

I could not agree with your 3rd paragraph more.

MaddHatter said

And that is excellent customer serivce! That is what keeps them comming back! The girl at DAVIDsTEA did just this, I waked in, looked around confused and she first asked me about my favourite flavours ect. I told her that too much Vanilla or Lavendar gives me headaches and that most of the teas I choose have some sort of citrus-like flavour, mango, peach, manadarin strawberry and the like. I have never used sugar, I never drink it in my coffee why start doing it in tea. Anyways… I have been back to that store.. well, a LOT and I have over 10 tins of tea since the place opened at the end of May (time to pace myself… NAH!)

I have not yet experienced a Teavana store myself. There is always something to learn about tea, so I am sure such a specialty place would have some useful take-away.

With over 80 teas in my shop, I have a hard time holding back with adding new tea as well. But, I do have excellent turn-over so I must be doing something right.

Thanks for an instructive discussion. The only one thing I have heard about Teavana, from several different guests is that it is expensive.

MaddHatter said

It is rather expensive, but so is the Special Tea place in town that is being taken over by Teavana, so I am sure the loyal customers will not be too worried. I stick to DAVIDsTEA and Murchies, mostly because Murchie’s is the first tea place I have ever been too and because their exceptional customer service keeps me coming back! Just like your customer service keeps your customers coming back! :)

Cofftea said

I don’t think I could limit myself to just one company- there are so many teas to try!

xhado123 said

Columbia, I agree with your third paragraph (first post), and although it breaks the sales process, that’s usually how I do it. My managers always get angry when I sell small amounts of tea without the tin, but if someone wants 2oz of a four dollar tea in a paper bag? That’s four dollars we didn’t previously have in the register. Yes, the tea will go stale in a matter of weeks, so what?

As for expense, I’ve compared our prices to some other retailers. Many of the local shops offer a Bai hao yin zhen of a lower quality for 22 per two ounces. That’s really the only one, when I compare our Hao Ya ‘A’ Keemun to other stores, along with our tigyuanyin and dancong oolong, we’re usually a few dollars more. (25 vs 22, 18 respectively. I also checked adagio) I Emailed Nancy Mack about this (the woman who convinced Andy Mack to open a small tea kiosk and began importing teas from her native China), And her response was along these lines. “We offer bonuses to our farmers, just as we offer bonuses to you. Farms can do a variety of things for us to pay a little more for the tea. Competing against other farms and winning will earn them a bonus. (Our Keemun was rated 8th best out of almost twelve hundred farms in china, two hundred of which could produce hao ya ‘a’ grade.) Conforming to USDA standards is a new style, but it’s been the most difficult to obtain. Conforming to European standards is a must before we consider buying the teas, but the famrs are compensated for this. We also donate 2% of our profit back to the farmers, on top of the original price. The thought here is if we give them as good of an experience as we can, the better tea we get.”

What tea shop do you run, columbia? I agree with cofftea, limiting yourself to one company is unthinkable with so many different teas to try!

LefTea said

I can go either way on the sweetening of teas. Like I said earlier, I think it’s fine as long as they tell you that. As a rare bagged tea drinker I had no idea if there was sugar in the samples at the store because they didn’t tell me. Since no one mentioned sugar I assumed that there was none so I was initially disappointed when I made my first cup and it tasted nothing like the sample but I am now further along in my tea journey and while I still sweeten my tea I use less and less sugar. What Teavana does it make tea accessible to newbs like I was who are used to things being sweeter. Look at the iced tea at McDonalds or Dunkin Donuts, most of that is sweetened because America has a huge sweet tooth (obviously this is problematic too). Had my first teavana sample not been sweetened, I probably wouldn’t have gotten into tea so I’m thankful because now I can decide for myself.

However, I do still have a big problem with some of the misinformation teavana perpetuates. I’ve had the tea dispensed to me in the paper bags and I generally keep it in there until I am sure I want to keep it and I have never had it go stale in a matter of weeks. That’s just a tactic to sell the tins. Perhaps my palate isn’t refined enough yet, but for all the talk about proper containers I honestly don’t notice any difference in taste but when you tell someone who is new to tea that their rather expensive purchase will go bad if they don’t store it properly of course they’re going to buy the tin regardless of whether it works for their kitchen.

xhado123, I appreciate you coming here and defending your company, but you should know that your loyalty is reinforcing some of the stereotypes about teavana and sometimes you sound like you’re drinking the kool aid without questioning anything. Sure, they may give bonuses to the farmers, or the owners might just like a higher profit margin. Price-wise I’ve found that for some things Teavana is higher, for some it’s lower. For a lot of the blends where there is considerably less tea than you’d get elsewhere (hard to compare as no place blends quite like teavana does), they’re probably expensive. Doesn’t stop me from buying from them though.

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Siberia said

I went to Teavana once, and I didn’t like it. The salespeople are quite aggressive, and tried to sell me overly large tins that I didn’t want for an extra $7 each. The sales person was insinuating that my tea would spoil almost instantaneously unless I bought some tins. They also blend two types of tea in their sample, then insist that to get the blend, you have to buy the minimum (2oz?) of each, not just just 2 oz of the blend. I’ve read a lot about how they treat their employees, and I think they have really strict sales quotas. To me, Teavana is the opposite of what tea should be. I hate that place.

Cofftea said

2oz of each… That definitely wouldn’t fly with me.

Yeah I was MAD when I found out about the 2oz of each, not 2 oz of the blend. Of course they didn’t bother to tell me that either…I learned from my mistake. I have also found that when getting their tea in a tin you need to make sure they 0 the scale out, before they begin to fill the tin, and then actually charge you for the correct tea not the most expensive tea in the store.

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momo said

They straight up tell you on the website how to make the samples at home, where you can see how much of that silly rock sugar they put in there… Currently that’s 3 tsp of the sugar for 16oz of tea, except for a fruity blend, that obviously requires 5.

This company is headquartered in Atlanta and all but whoa. You’ve practically turned the tea into a can of soda when you add 5 teaspoons.

Cofftea said

Agreed! Just thinking about this makes my teeth hurt. I’m sorry, but 35-75 calories for a cup of tea that’s not made with any milk is NOT ok with me. Even my chai which I make with milk has only 30-84 calories depending on what type of milk I use.

Tamm said

Is there sugar in all their blends or just their samples?

momo said

just the samples. I meant to include the link: http://www.teavana.com/tea-info/store-samples

Cofftea said

No wonder they add sugar. They add, what I think is, way too much leaf!

xhado123 said

’ang on. Our sheet in our store (from the corporate office) asks for only 1tsp. sugar per cup…

momo said

It’s right there on the link I posted above. Why the instructions for at home use more sugar is beyond me.

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You know, for all that I’ve joked about Teavana’s aggressive salespeople (the ones at the store near me, at least), I do have to say they do have a few teas that are very good quality — or at least, they taste very good to me. And I’m not talking about all the blends with the fruity bits — I’m not wild about those. I really like Teavana’s gyokuro, its Body and Mind tea blend, and its matcha, which has a wonderfully rich smell and taste. The (discontinued) Nine Treasures tea was great, too; maybe someday I can find a blend that is similar. I also think a shop like Teavana opens up the experience of tea to new customers, kind of like Starbucks did for coffee, but on a smaller scale. Teavana is not perfect by any means, but it’s helped introduce a lot of new people to the concept of drinking loose tea.

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Tamm said

I feel that my only large grief with them is that the tea costs a lot for something so full of filler items. I was hard pressed to find anything but random bits of stuff in the Chai/chai blend. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that tea, the flavor was exceptional. But I don’t want to pay $16+/4 o.z. for it. The other teas that I’ve tried from them have the same problem, I can’t tell if I’m drinking ingredients or tea…

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Reading this thread prompted me to pay a visit to Teavana today. I have to say, things haven’t changed much. The salespeople are pushing for the sale but they aren’t too obnoxious about it, and they didn’t badger me about the tins too badly.

The salesperson did try to “upsell” me from Nine Dragon Golden Needle ($12) to Golden Monkey ($18). I wound up buying neither, although they both smelled great, and I tend to be a sucker for anything with “dragon” or “golden” in the name. Golden Monkey in particular had a beautiful chocolately aroma; but having read the lukewarm reviews here, I’m glad I didn’t buy it. I wish Teavana sold small sample sizes; I don’t like that I have to buy 2 oz. without knowing whether I am going to like the tea.

I walked out of there with two of my old favorites — Body & Mind and gyokuro — and some of a well-reviewed fruity white called Shanghai Orchid. I was amused by the salesperson who kept telling me about the health benefits of Body & Mind, and the three different teas in it, even though I had told him I’d been drinking it for a few years and was familiar with it. It was interesting to note that once I had a bag in hand, the sales staff left me alone, even though I wandered through the store trying samples and picking up/looking at teaware after I made my purchase. The samples were definitely sweetened with sugar, especially that blueberry/strawberry lemonade iced tea one. But wow, that was like drinking yummy fruit juice. Like Juicy Juice for grown-ups. I would have asked for a full glass if it wasn’t the sort of thing that would make my blood sugar skyrocket! They were also sampling something called Peach Momoto (?) that wasn’t all that great, or as flavorful as I’d expect for a peach tea. But peach tea isn’t really my thing, anyway.

All in all, not a bad visit — drank a few samples; didn’t feel unduly pressured; didn’t buy more than I wanted.

Shanghai Orchid is wonderful! One of my faves…one of the reasons I do have to go back to Teavana…

Maybe I’ll just bring one of their bags into the store with me to appear that I’ve already made a purchase? ;)

Cofftea said

Eh. Then they’ll ask to see a receipt and you’ll be fubared lol.

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SimplyJenW said

I am still avoiding the actual store even though there are a few teas I like from there. I hardly ever go to that mall, and if I do, I am in no mood to take my chances on meeting an over-enthusiastic salesperson. So, I just placed an online order and found a free shipping code online for orders smaller than $50. Maybe I will never actually have to go in. ;)

Cofftea said

I’m not in the mall much either, but I DO hate not being able to get good tea there. So it’s grabbing a cup to go then getting out of there for me.

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Cofftea said

My review of my first experience with a Teavana store!:

As I walked up to the store I saw the tea samples by the door and began to brace myself for the worst of what I’ve heard about them.

I was immediately met by a very friendly (not pushy) middle aged woman who asked me if I wanted a sample. Yes, I know some people have experiences w/ pushy sales people so this may put some people off, but it sure is better than not being able to get the help of a sales person- and of course she only offered me a free sample. Free is good. :) I was prepared for this and quickly, almost to the point of cutting her off, replied “No thank you, I don’t like my tea sweetened.” This was a double duty answer because I don’t like sweet tea, and I wanted the sales person to be aware I knew they were sweetened so I would prevent some of the newbie horror stories. To my surprise she replied, “Oh that’s ok! We have an unsweetened one inside”. Unfortunately there was only one and it was hot, but there was indeed one and it wasn’t one of their funky blends! I’m definitely going to have to get some of their Monkey Picked Oolong in the fall. I then asked her if they had the Breville One Touch. After the sales woman showed my friend how it worked, we looked at the other teaware for a bit. I was shocked (and pleasantly surprised) that she didn’t try to sell me the Breville or any of the other teaware. After looking at the teaware (there is a copper tetsubin and some yi xings I want though!), I made my way over to the matcha and saw a former HS classmate of mine at the register. Casey and I exchanged a few words as I grabbed my matcha. The lady asked if I’d had it before and if I had the traditional set. I told her yes and gave her an estimate of my consumption. I think she was quite impressed! I then waited in line. As Casey ran my matcha thru the register, the saleswoman made my iced tea. After I checked out, there was no one else in line so Casey spoke with me for a few min- mostly about tea, but about the past 6 years since I’d seen him as well. My visit; however, did not end on a happy note… $4.99 for what appeared to be a 12-16oz glass of iced tea (not brewed to double strength to compensate for the ice I’m sure). The other tea shop in the city charges $2 for a 16oz cup- although you can only have one of the 7 samples on tap. Another weird thing about my iced tea… I ordered matcha in their Anjou Pear-adise Oolong… but it did not look or taste like there was any matcha in it. Has anyone ever had matcha there before? After getting our tea, my friend and I went to a different store and had to walk past Teavana on the way out. I stopped to sample the 2 sweet samples because, well, they were there lol. Surprisingly they were not sickeningly sweet but they were so hot that I nearly scalded my mouth! There was a different lady standing right next to the samples (a little bombardingly feeling) and she asked me if she could help me- I felt better when it was phrased, “Would you like to try a sample?”. So that’s my 1st experience w/ Teavana. Not perfect, but not nearly as bad as I feared!

Cofftea said

I just now dug out the reading material Casey put in my bag… wow, am I impressed! I especially loved the literature on the tetsubin and yi xings (something I definitely want to get into eventually). I also liked the product catalog, they have some teas that I was unware of.

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So I had another interesting visit to Teavana this afternoon. I have a friend who drinks tea and coffee so I figured I’d appeal to her tea side for her birthday this year. So we stopped in while at the mall for a gift card and a travel mug (I have the same mug and she’s mentioned she’d like something like it). Once I got past the two sales folk nearly blocking my entry to the store things went ok. But it didn’t take long for the upselling to begin….

The sales gal behind the counter said hello and commented that she remembered me from a previous visit. To my surprise she did and she recalled my allergy to coconut. That got her bonus points. But they were quickly deducted when she tried selling me a more expensive travel mug after I already had one of the type I wanted in my hand.

I then wanted some tea too. I always want tea. I asked to first smell the Cacao Mint Black Tea, know full well I was going to buy some. I’m a sucker for mint and chocolate! So naturally she starts grabbing teas off the shelve to try to sell me more stuff. I did like a flavored Assam, but seeing as I have a straight up Assam at home I opted for a cup to go. I still might pick some up at another time.

She then asked if I had enough tins for the tea I was going to buy. I have tins coming out of my ears. Mostly due to the generosity of friends who know I am working on my own teas. She then tries to sell me a reusable bag that whenever I shop there will save me next to nothing on my purchases. I said no thank you and asked to check out. I was also getting a gift card for my friend, “Perhaps a decorative tin for her. So she knows to buy some tea.” Really? I think my friend will get the idea without a decorative tin. Finally I pay and get my tea and as I’m turning away the same gal says “let me know if you are interested in anything else.” This floors me considering what I already bought…but whatever I’m used to it.

I miss the two gals who used to be there all the time. NEVER have they ever tried to upsell me. I think they know their customers and know when to push and when not to and I wish the whole company would follow their example.

I know what I’m getting into whenever I go in there. But to be honest it’s better than trying to order online.

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Tekla said

My first experience at Teavana was horrible! The clerk gave me the impression that the tea containers were free but the hilariously, unbelievable gall about the salesman was that he didn’t even let me pick out my own pattern on the canisters! My sixteen year old niece was appalled that I caved in. Youth can be a great thing. She insisted we go back and I get some of my money back. They insisted that I had to have a canister so I bought their big “logo” canister which I didn’t really need either. Compromise; but I got back some respect that I had lost for myself and my niece’s respect for me.

Subsequent visits weren’t as bad. I’m certain that they received a lot of complaints. I do love a 50-50 mix of their Jasmine Dragon pearls and Rooibos Tropica but times are too bad for me economically to be buying such extravagant tea.

Believe it or not I like Lipton and other mostly orange pekoe teas.

Cofftea said

I love your niece. That never would have flown with me… but then again I’ve had a lot of experience with people blind siding me with something not so nice I didn’t even have time to think that I have learned to have a where-with-all and think on my feet.

Tekla, you’ve perfectly illustrated what I don’t like about Teavana. It’s true you don’t have to fall for their sales pitch, but you have to kind of “steel yourself” to deal with a possible aggressive sales tactic. Before you even cross the threshold, your stomach is in knots at the anticipation of what you may encounter. You can’t just relax and look at the teaware or try the samples.

It’s almost like shopping at Bath and Body Works. Ever go there? You walk in the door and a salesperson gloms onto you immediately. If you pick up a product from the shelf, they start saying, “Oh, that’s one of my favorites! It has vitamin E oil and anti-aging properties.” Or they repeatedly inform you of the latest sales promotion (“Did you know those are buy 3, get one free?”). No matter how much I may like the products, the shopping experience is anything but relaxing, and I find myself leaving in a hurry because I can’t stand being the object of such intense scrutiny.

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