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Will said

places vs. companies

Maybe it would make sense to have “places” and “companies” be (sort of) the same thing. While a “place” is not always also a “company”, and a “company” may not always have a “place” you can visit, there is a lot of overlap between the two, and certainly many brick and mortar shops also sell tea. So I think it would be good if you could at least link the two, or just make them the same thing but with different properties set.

Also, is there a way to add information for a “company”; vendor URL, for example, or is this not allowed to make it harder for vendors to spam? Currently, if I click on a “company”, I can see other teas sold by that company, but I cannot see any information about the company; its physical location, URL, biographical information, etc.

12 Replies
Marie said

I agree. I was recently trying to find the main sit for Samovar and had to make my own connection that Samovar was this tea house in San Francisco that also sold their teas online, which was luckily confirmed by the recent Steepster select. Sometimes it’s really obvious when the obscure names for the reviewed teas on this site match the names on the assume company’s website – however that’s not always the case, and I don’t want to give my money away unless I’m absolutely sure it’s for the same highly reviewed tea.

Also – maybe we could add a section to our dashboard that lists our individual favorite “purchase” places (including applicable online urls where we like to buy our tea). My favorite company The Metropolitan Tea Company is wholesaler and their teas sell through several retailers that then do custom blending or rename the tea as something else. I love the teas so much that I try to go with sellers sell the tea as is for a decent price.

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Cofftea said

Will, (in my opinion) absolutely not. Places aren’t just brick and mortar tea shops, but they are also places that carry other products, serve tea, etc. They aren’t the same thing.

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Will said

I’m not saying they are the same thing. I’m saying that there is a lot of overlap between the things that this site considers a “place” and the things that the site considers a “company”. As I said before, there are plenty of things which are only one or the other, but since there is so much overlap between the two, I think it makes more sense to have a slightly different taxonomy… maybe a concept of an “entity”, which could then be a wholesaler, retailer, and / or place that serves tea.

I think it should also be harder to add a new “company” – reviewing a tea just has a freeform entry for the source; I am guessing that over time, this will lead to some messed up categorization. I hope the site will at least provide good functionality for users to fix this when it happens.

Cofftea said

I am guessing that over time, this will lead to some messed up categorization…. It already has! People use different verbiage for companies resulting in duplicates all the time.

Will said

Yeah – I think it makes sense to make it more difficult to add a company initially, so that there can be some review that it’s not a duplicate. Then require people to choose from a company that’s already in the database. This would slow things down initially, but should result in cleaner data.

Cofftea said

“Then require people to choose from a company that’s already in the data base” would make it impossible to add teas from new companies- and to me it’s very important to be able to do that easily, it encourages activity here and introduces people to new teas. When you type in the company name, options already in the database already drop down.

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If you know what company a particular place sources their tea from, include a link in the place description – either to Steepster’s page for that company or their official webpage (if they sell online) or both. I think associating “places” and “companies” any more than that would be more frustrating than not, considering that many companies sell their teas at a variety of places – SerendipiTea comes to mind.

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I guess “place” is for where people stay there to have tea. But we don’t have any local place like this, so I haven’t paid much attention to that category.

A struggle I constantly have is, should puerh be listed by their manufacturer or seller. I see there are both ways now and I have done both ways, which may cause duplication in the future. But after all, I guess it’s something to worry in the future and now everything is ok :-p

Will said

This is a good question (re: puer being listed by manufacturer vs. seller). Of course, for brand new teas, the tea should be the same regardless of the exact vendor, but for older stuff, where storage is involved, the same tea from a different vendor may have been stored differently.

Would be nice to have an optional “manufacturer” as well as a “bought from” category, but don’t know if that would complicate things too much.

As someone else mentioned, resellers are another way that things can get confusing…

Lynxiebrat said

Cross referenced or tagged with the manyfactuer, maybe. Though knows maybe by now that is an option, havn’t tried adding a company.

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Marie said

Hi Will & Gingko,

I agree, it can get very confusing. However if there is an “optional” field to enter the wholesale manufacturer, that would be very nice (for those who really want to know). The retailer is the last stop for a premium quality tea before it gets to the consumer. However, what of the practices, policies, and harvesting ethics of the manufacturer? I know it’s really nitty gritty to focus on this (but we’re tea lovers right? Some of us are bound to be into this aspect of tea production) I’m really proud of The Metropolitan Tea Company’s manufacturing standards, and prefer to place my dollar with them (and retailers of their teas) for that reason. I’m sure there are MANY other manufacturers that have similar standards. Their efforts should be praised more. I’ve heard stories of customers who have bought tea from retailers who have taken the original tea from the manufacturer and have added fillers to make the premium teas go longer and be able to charge the same amount of money as the exclusive premium teas (still marketing it as a single premium quality tea, not an upfront tea blend). This is more bound to take place with consumers who may not know the difference in what they’re getting. Or what about manufacturers who cut corners with their teas, wouldn’t you want to know about it before you give them your dollar? These are the things I think about these days. Our dollars go such a long way with how the food and beverage industry is shaped – and information gives the consumers that power to help shape it for the greater good if we’re willing. Thanks for reading, I’m very passionate about this topic. :)

Hi Amy, I am very passionate about this topic too. Here is a blog article by Alex Zorach that you may find relevant to this topic. Not exactly same issue, but somewhat relevant. I’ve found it very thoughtful.
http://cazort.blogspot.com/2010/03/private-label-teas.html

And Will, as for steepster database, I guess it’s hard to list all manufacturers and dealers with a tea (especially non-puerh tea), because there could be primary dealer, secondary dealer, importer, exporter, wholesaler… It probably will be messy in any other way. So I guess current way is pretty good.

Then, a positive (I think it’s positive) phenomenon I’ve observed in just recent a couple of years is, more and more Chinese farmers start to deal directly with buyers and retailers (instead of through agents or regional dealers) through internet. I think this may change the entire tea market (at least price-wise) in the future.

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