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Help Me Review Online Tea Retailers!

Over the last year or so of buying tea online I have had much experience communicating with and/or purchasing from roughly 20 online tea retailers (possibly more). Although there are some tea retailers that have been wanting in one area or another, my experiences have, for the most part, been positive.

I don’t know about all of you, but it helps me to have a little information about any online tea shop I encounter and consider buying from. I don’t lightly decide to take the time to look over who they are and what they have to offer, as there are lots of shops out there. And if they are small or relatively new—-as a great many online tea shops are, it may be hard to find any information about them from anywhere other than their own website. Steepster seems like the most logical place for a repository of information about online tea shops. But we don’t have one, as such, at least not in any organized fashion. We rate the teas, but oftentimes incidental information about the experience buying the tea does not fit or belong in a review about the tea itself. And the current Places tab seems designed for ‘Brick and Mortar’ businesses (B&M). But with a little of what I like to call, “creative end-user engineering,” we can all review online tea retailers.

This is the gist of an email I sent to Jason a while back (I repeat some of what I already wrote above; for that I apologize.):

There are many tidbits about online tea retailers floating all over in tea reviews and in the discussion threads, but they are not easily found. I propose a way to streamline this information.

I have experimented with the best way to use the existing functionality implemented under the Places tab. This is how I currently do it:

1) I select the + Add a Place button at the top of the Places page.

2) I enter the name of the online store and simply appended the descriptors ‘- Online’ to it in the name field, thereby creating an entirely new ‘Place’ which differentiates it (and thus the review) from already existing shops (like Harney and Sons) who currently have a brick and mortar store (I believe that making this distinction is very useful since buying over the web is almost always a very different experience than buying from a physical store).

3) I enter all the other information as with any other store: the correct physical address for those stores that have provided one on their website—-for those without one I simply enter the country and something like ‘123 main street ‘ in the address field (This doesn’t always work on the first try, though. You may have to get ‘creative’ with it to get it to accept an address. I think this would be rare, as it seems most websites list some kind of physical address), their email address in the phone field if there is no phone number, I enter any other necessary information, and I leave the Hours of Operation alone.

4) I submit a picture (If I can find one). NOTE: Once you submit a picture, you CANNOT change the default picture that shows up for that ‘Place’ (although you can submit other additional pictures that users can select to view). So I have created a new online place named, “tea place photo test – online” (http://steepster.com/places/2924-tea-place-photo-test-online-anthony-kansas) to help test out how photos look before you submit them in the “add a photo” section of a new online Place you create.

5) Once I have created a new Place, I then select the desired star rating just under the name of the shop, up comes the review page, I write the review, save it, and Voilà! It is done!

Here is a list of the current online Places that have reviews http://steepster.com/places?near=&name=online.

Finding the reviews is as simple as clearing out the Find tea places near field in the Places page and then typing ‘online’ in the named field. Thus, no need to change the interface, no need to change any current functionality.

Possibly the strongest motivating reason for my doing this is to acknowledge and praise those online tea companies I enjoyed buying from so others may buy from them, which may, in turn, help them to stay in business.

Incidentally, I am not the administrator of this site, I am just a simple blogger just like the rest of you. So you are free to completely disregard my petition. Yet, I hope at least some of you will choose to review online tea retailers (as some of you have already) either in the way I have or in some other way to help us all to make more informed decisions when buying tea online.

Happy reviewing!

Here is a link to help with formatting http://steepster.com/discuss/1894-how-to-use-text-formatting-symbols-formatting-can-be-fun

Below is my template that I use which I complied with some help from the community form a previous discussion

  • * _ Overall Experience _ * < VERY POSITIVE, POSITIVE, MIXED, NEUTRAL, DISAPPOINTED, WILL NOT BUY FROM THEM AGAIN, etc. >
    < Mention frequency of purchases >

General Information:
< How long they have been in business, and who they are >
< Selection of each class of tea and any tisanes/fruit, iced, loose-leaf, teabags, tea sachets, tea pyramids >
< Quality of information describing each tea >
< Availability of information on location and year of harvest >
< Rewards program > (H&S has one)
< Things besides tea they sell: tea accessories and other related items, including food and books>
< Option to have the loose-leaf tea packages into tea bags> (Ovation has this option)
< Samples and their general cost>
< Sales and promotions (year-end sales, coupon codes)>
< Whether or not tea is sourced from another tea company rather than directly from the farmer>
< Contributions to a charitable type organization>
< Any other practices toward environmental, social, or other kind of planet friendly or fair trade types of things>
< Books written or other things published>
< If they conduct classes on tea>
< Ways you can buy their tea: how many ounces, if there is a price break for buying more, or if tins are included (Davids’ Tea), etc.>
< Price range of teas, and how they compare to other online retailers>
< Your experience with how quickly they processed your order>
< Your experience with the freshness of tea, and how accurately it matches description on their website>

Website:
< Look and layout (including color, pictures, and overall presentation, simple and elegant vs cluttered and busy)>
< Quality of pictures of each tea>
< Ease of navigation (can you easily get where you want to go, and find what you want?)>
< Use of cart/basket when purchasing items>
< Ability to review status of your order, and other ongoing personal information through some kind of account system>
< How often items are in stock>
< Section on general information about tea (health benefits, definition of classes of teas, ‘tea 101’ etc) >
< Related blog >
< Reviews of teas >
< Security of payment information >

Shipping:
< Cost and break points (if any, like FREE if over $50) >
< Where they ship >
< Ability to track package online once it is in route >
< Options: next day, ground, Fed-Ex, UPS, etc. >
< If everything in stock was delivered >
< What comes in/with package >
< Were free samples included >

Contact Experience:
< e-mail, phone, snail mail, person to person >

Packaging:
< Description of tins, bags, boxes, etc. >
< How samples are packaged (if any) >

_Would I buy from them again _:
< YES/MAYBE/NO>
< Any detailed reasons>

87 Replies
DaisyChubb said

I just reviewed Tealish online! :)

A note: It takes a few minutes for a place to show up after you Add it, so try to stay on the page or you’ll be lost and confused like I was, trying to search for it! haha

Also, to review a place, click on the star to make a “star” rating and it prompts you to write a review.

^ I know all this is said up there, but I’m a speed reader and missed it and made a fool of myself, so I thought I would reiterate if anyone is like me! :D

Thanks Simplicitea!!

Awesome, DaisyChubb! Thanks for the note. It does seem that the way you create a review by first selecting one of the “stars” amongst the set of five greyed out “stars” is not necessarily ‘intuitive.’

I’m off now to read your review. : – )

Wow, great review! I love all of the detail you gave. Fairy Dust huh? That sounds fun!

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I’ve only ever purchased tea online once and that was mainly because the store had none in stock… but if I ever do order online I will be sure to review the experience! :)

oh and it was from David’s tea… they are already reviewed I think

Indigobloom: But if you did buy from them online then you can still do an online review, which is a different experience than walking into their B&M store and buying something from them. I may buy from David’s tea in the future (which would be online), so I’d like to read a review about them (I’ve heard plenty about their tea, but not much about how they conduct business through their website).

It’s been so long I really can’t remember much, but if I order online again you can be sure I will write about it :)

Tina S. said

SimpliciTEA — I just reviewed Davids online but in case you missed it, they excel in online ordering as well!

Awesome, Tina S. Thanks!

btw, I am a big Star Trek Fan! I was impressed with the new cast they introduced in the last movie a few years ago.

UPDATE: I just read you reviews. WOW! And I thought I was detailed about my reviews! I am sorry to hear about you experience with McNulty’s Tea & Coffee Company. But I am glad you have had much success with David’s Tea and The Tea Haus. That’s a cool story about the owner of The Tea Haus taking that early morning call of yours. It certainly says lots about them. I’ll be checking out their online store, when I get the chance.

Thanks a ton for writing such incredibly in-depth reviews!

Tina S. said

Yay more Trek fans! I loved the Reboot, and am excited that they’re filming the new one as we type!

A new one? Awesome! I was so glad in the last one they didn’t rely too much on the the special effects as many modern Sci-fi movies seem to do these days. And that special appearance of one of the originals stars in there really caught me by surprise (I was blown away, and it was even plausible, the way the set it up). I don’t know if they gave it away in any of the previews or in the reviews, but that is why I AVOID previews for movies I want to watch at all costs.

I am excited now about seeing the new one! Woo, hoo, you go Star Trek!

Tina S. said

I love details and stories myself, so I like to share what I can with others :) And yes, definitely try The Tea Haus, and let me know what you think. I can’t praise them highly enough!

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I applaud your efforts, and wish you well in your endeavor as I also value hearing what others have to say before I order from a company. Being disabled, ordering online is the best way for me to support my tea addiction… and the “Places” tab was one of the first parts of Steepster that I explored when I joined on. The problem is that most of the info I found either to be so out of date or inaccurate as to make it useless.

I hope that others will be as inspired by you to work with Steepster’s format and provide good reviews. I tried to find my regular purveyors via the search option, but none of them came up and I don’t have the energy to figure out why.

E Alexander Gerster: If you entered the names of your regular purveyors in the named field and deleted any address information in the Find tea places near field on the Places page, and nothing came up, then depending on how particular the parser is about matches (and if you spelled it correctly and assuming that everyone who enters each ‘Place’ spells the names correctly), it is probably because no one on Steepster reviewed them yet. If so, I invite you to create a new online place and then write a review. If you don’t know how to create a new online place, PM me (I started following you), and I would be happy to help you with that.

I just looked at the teas you have been reviewing recently, and I see, amongst others, you have some from Verdant and Den’s. I have made purchases from both of them recently, and hope to create a new online ‘Place’ for each, and review them (I have great things to say about both). I also bought a few samples from Adagio just the other day and hope to review them, too. I have had samples and communications with Jerry Ma @China Cha Dao and plan to do one for him. I have also had communications with Scott at Yunnan Sourcing, but bought nothing from him as of yet; I may create a new online place for Yunnan Sourcing and post a review for that, too. SanctuaryT, ArtOfTea, PuritTEA, Culinary Teas, the list goes on …

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K S said

Learning about online retailers was one of my motivations for joining Steepster. There is exactly one B&M within 100 miles of my home. This is an important topic. I applaud your effort. The Places tab only has usefulness if you are fortunate enough to live near one of the shops. The social network here is a way bigger community than a few cities.

I do accept there may be some legitimate reasons why this is not a part of Steepster. Still, thanks for trying.

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seule771 said

I have been doing teashop visits and reviewing them on steepster.com. I have not done any in a while due to lack of funding.

Nice to know another is steps away/already doing it. Kudos!

If I have misunderstood, then so be it. Disregard comments.

seule771: I just checked out all the B&M ‘Places’ reviews your have written. WOW! I used to live in the North-east, so it’s fun to read about some of the shops up there. Thanks!

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Thank you all for your support.

I hope to add at least a few more company reviews before the year is out.

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momo said

As a Yelp user with a tea list, I will gladly contribute to reviewing on here! It’s not easy to review things purchased online on there, and the information is better suited to Steepster anyway. I am not sure anyway why I haven’t done many on here but hey, I can’t sleep right now so it sounds like a good way to spend my time.

Amanda: Thanks for writing the reviews! They were very helpful and interesting to read. Offering different perspectives is exactly what I was hoping for with online reviews.

Your note about Teavana deleting your review confirms my suspicion that they didn’t list every review (it sounds like they review the reviews). I understand them not posting some review in which the reviewer vents anger, or uses inappropriate language, or something to that effect, but otherwise I think they should post every review written.

I’m off to read some of the other reviews, and hopefully write one myself! : – )

momo said

Exactly, I wasn’t rude or ranting, I just was critical about the mix of ingredients and said it’d probably benefit from being blended differently. Considering they post at the top “most positive” and “most negative” reviews on some teas, it’s just weird. Though most of the “negative” ones look to be 3 stars. Giving something 3 stars on Yelp makes it a candidate for Review of the Day, and is not considered “negative.” Whatever, Teavana.

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Dinosara said

I just reviewed Verdant, Naivetea and thepuriTea… hope they’re helpful! I do really like this idea because I do a lot of online tea ordering. I will try to put up more reviews before I forget about some of the details of each experience.

Dinosara: Wow, very thorough reviews! I hope to write reviews for two of the online shops you created. I plan to email David soon to see if he can upload a picture for his ‘Place.’

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I’ll try to help out where I can too! Awesome idea!

I’m a big advocate for adding the functionality to review online stores instead of just “brick and mortar” ones in the Places tab. But it’s ingenious to just add “online” to the name!!

It’s funny because we do the exact same thing with the training courses listed in our LMS (Learning Management System) at my work. If it’s a classroom-based training, we just put the name. If it’s a web-based training module, we put the name and add “online.” But it never would have occurred to me to do that here! Props to you, SimpliciTEA!

CHAroma: Thank you for your reply, and for your support.

I would like to state for the record that this idea, so-to-speak, belongs to the community. There were a few ideas about this very idea exchanged a while back in at least one other thread topic. And of course the ability to review online retailers, or tea, for that matter, wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of Jason, his cohorts, and all of us.

I look forward to reading your reviews!

I just added Lupicia Fresh Tea, Samovar, & Adagio. I also posted reviews for 52teas & Teavivre. I plan on adding a couple more after I try some of the teas in my cupboard. Thanks!

Awesome! I am off to read your reviews!

It looks like you included lots of great information about each Place in your reviews.

I like the extra pictures you provided for Lupicia Fresh Tea. I love looking at great pictures of tea!

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I just added ESP Emporium and Golden Moon Tea, which are the two companies that I’ve ordered from most recently. I would also like to add a rating to 52Teas, but I don’t know their address … if Frank is reading this, if he could please add his information, I’d be happy to add a rating!

52teas said

Thanks. Just added it.

cool! I’ll work on a rating soon!

OK… I’ve now rated 52Teas in addition to the other two I mentioned. I wanted to only include tea companies that are fresh in my memory … so, I will add more as I order more… but I probably won’t be ordering any more tea for the rest of the year…

LiberTEAS: I just read your reviews. Awesome! I believe every word you wrote about Frank!

We’re up to 21 different online companies, now. Woo, hoo!

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