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Feedback on Asha Tea House's Online Store

29 Replies
David Lau said

I was surprised and delighted to see so many responses, thank you all for your input. It’s going to be a big part of our site re design. We have a promo code for all of you: SteepsterFeedback. Happy drinking!

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As has been mentioned, I love the pictures (especially the rotating ones on the front page).

I would like to see at least one tea in each class that is less than, say, $5 / OZ (or less than $9-10 / 50 grams).

I notice you don’t yet have any loose-leaf green tea. Do you plan to carry any?

The following is something I have been recently contemplating about what, ideally, I would like to see in tea retailers (and really, not just tea retailers, but all businesses). I realize this is no small order, and I am certain there are all kinds of complications to implementing my ‘idea’. Again, this is a rough sketch of what my ideal online tea business may look like. So, the following idea may be a little, uh, unconventional, but sometimes that’s where the best idea from from, no?

I would like to see more transparency. As regards to tea retailers, especially online ones, I want to know WHY a teas costs what it does. For example, in all honesty I don’t understand why buying tea closer to the source sometimes makes the tea less expensive, and sometimes it seems to make it more expensive. Now, I know one complication here is the question, am I comparing apples to apples? It seems with so many different factors that go into determining the price of a tea it may be near impossible to compare; but still, the more I know why the tea costs what it does, and why you charge what you charge, the more likely I am to buy it (even if the tea is what I consider to be ‘pricy’).

I am not asking for you to post your accounting records of every business expense (now that would be interesting, though, wouldn’t it?), but I would like to know in general what the costs are that go into determining the price of a tea. Showing me how even one particular tea is priced as it is may be enough (as in, not all of them) just to give me an idea of what the breakdown of the others would look like (kind of like how an itemized list helps explain why the final cost is what it is). Of course, this means including things like overhead and other costs that business may not normally like to draw attention to; but I believe the educated consumer understands that these costs are inevitable.

Even showing the cost of simple things, like, the packaging, or the cost of maintaining the website, would be helpful. And there’s transportation costs—the cost of shipping the tea from the source to your warehouse/shop. And the cost of traveling to visit the sites, or of paying someone in the country to do that and report back to you. And, I don’t know, just being wild here and throwing caution to the wind, maybe even including the cost of using translators when dealing with countries where you don’t speak the language (only if it’s appreciable), or the cost of monetary exchanges (from the Yen to the dollar, and back). All of that stuff costs money. When you don’t tell us what the expenses are, then I have to simply guess as to why a tea costs either more or less than what I judge to be a comparable tea.

Or, I simply trust you; I trust that you are providing me with the best value for my money. But, as I’m sure you are aware of, building trust is very hard to do over long distances (and even harder when there is no direct back and forth communication and/or communicating with the written word only). And, it takes time. Transparency is one way to facilitate the building of the most precious commodity of trust.

I guess much of what I want to see in an online tea retailer boils down to information. I value information. I realize not everyone does. But neither you nor any other business will know unless I state that (here, and elsewhere). And, having looked into over 50 online tea retailers during the almost year-and-a-half from when I first got into loose leaf tea (and having purchased from roughly 20 of them), the reality is I am willing to pay more for Tea that has more information given about it. And more and more I am not even bothering with websites that don’t, for example, provide harvest dates for their green tea; not providing that information makes me wonder if they are trying to hide something (for example, selling green tea during the summer/fall from the previous years spring harvest; I want to know if any of the green teas were harvested well over a year from the date of sale as it is then generally considered to be ‘old’).

I have a ceiling, a hard number, on what I am normally wiling to pay—per ounce or gram—for tea (this does not include anything I would consider to be a sample, as I realize the price per ounce may be higher). So, another circumstance I find I am willing to pay more for a tea is if you can somehow connect me to the place where the tea was grown, processed, and packaged (and possibly even inspected, shipped, etc). So, if you could somehow show me how to mentally trace an unbroken path from me to the Tea (and beyond with the use of history and legend) you are selling, then I would be willing to pay more for it (perhaps, even much more), as you would then be adding value in a way few (if any) are doing.

I wrote this before thoroughly checking out your site, and I see you have an ‘Origins’ section. I like that, as it is a means toward the end I mention above. Awesome pictures. I would like more textual information though.

Anyway, a little on what I want to see in tea businesses. As you can see, I like to write, and I like to give feedback. I hope you can take something from it. : )

David Lau said

Hi Simplicitea, thanks for writing so much! You’re right that more information is better than less. It’s a challenge to find a way to present it so that it’s not overload for most viewers and without tooting one’s own horn too much =)

We had a really extensive blog actually that we haven’t completely migrated from Wordpress over to Posterous. Our plan is eventually to have the blog and the main site working in conjunction.

Hi David,

You are welcome.

Will you be carrying any Chinese Green tea?

Another thing, in looking at your website, the rate at which the images on the main page change seems a little, unsettling, to me, as in, they change too fast. Fading out and fading in would be my preferred method, or a slower transition.

I just checked out your blog; the food pictures look awesome! And your articles, “The Story of an Oriental Beauty” and “Where is Nantou?” are very interesting, and they both help connect me better with the tea.

What do you think about my idea about transparency? I don’t see any information out there regarding what your costs are. For example, is there any piece of information that you are willing to share with us (in your blog, or wherever) regarding what your actual costs are (even in regards to simple things like shipping or packaging)? I understand that you would only do this if you see any value in making some of those kinds of details available to the consumer. I hope my previous post had at least one compelling reason to do so.

I know it may not be conventional to do such a thing, and I certainly don’t ask that you expose yourself in a way that would allow competing online tea retailers to benefit from the information. Still, I believe there may be some piece of information about your costs that you could share with us. It may be risky, but clearly you have to take risks to stay in business and make it over that five year hump (as I am certain you have taken many, already, to be where you are). The question is, is this a risk you are at least willing to consider?

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