Lori said

Vendors resell and re-label teas blended/flavored by other companies?

In my tasting note for Ca Tea House’s Almond Butter, it was mentioned that the some of the CA Tea House tea blends are similar/equivalent to Special Teas blends.

So did CA Tea House purchase tea from Special Teas, repackage and then relabel as its own? Does anyone have any experience/knowledge of this being a common practice in the tea industry?

32 Replies

This is a pretty common practice indeed. SpecialTeas sells their products wholesale by two pound increments. A company can purchase the teas, package them in their own packaging, and put their own label on it… and call it whatever they like. Perhaps the largest wholesale company in the States is Metropolitan Tea. Some companies keep the same label that Metropolitan offers, others purchase the tea from them and repackage as I mentioned previously.

The biggest difference between Metropolitan tea and SpecialTeas (or other wholesale companies) is that the company “Metropolitan Tea” does not sell on a retail scale. They offer their products wholesale only – a retail customer cannot visit the Metropolitan Tea site and make a purchase, whereas SpecialTeas sells wholesale AND retail.

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Lori said

In one way, it seems misleading.

But on the other hand, maybe when the teas are relabeled and re-named, it makes them more appealing. Ex., CA Tea House’s Pistachio Gelato is a better name than Vienna Winter Green (if indeed they are the same tea- although I am certain they are from the descriptions). Also, if they sell locally, then maybe it is not soo bad but it is a bad deal if I am purchasing via the internet…

Cofftea said

My local tea shop renames some teas but keeps the brand name. It drives me nuts.

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Miss Sweet said

Most tea companies – if they aren’t blending and flavouring teas themselves – tend to order from the same wholesalers. Even if you get a company saying they are ordering from 10 different wholesalers its likely they are nearly all, if not all, coming from the exact same supplier operating under different names. I thought it was pretty bad in Australasia, but the US wholesaling system is much worse (there’s a great write up on Adagios Tea Retailer about this).
I prefer it when the company keeps the name of the tea the same as what their supplier calls it. It’s just frustrating when you think you’re trying a different blend, when really its just the same old flavour. I’ve been burned by this many times, especially on my hunt to find the perfect vanilla tea. Gah.

Lori said

Is this writeup on the Adagio web-site?

And you make a good point. You think you are trying something different and it is the same tea!! At different prices!!

Miss Sweet said

It’s part of the wholesaling series here: http://www.tearetailer.com

Ah yes I forgot about the wildly varying prices! In the past I’ve discovered two teas from different companies, that were exactly the same but the cost difference between them was $8!

Cofftea said

$8 per what? ounce?

Miss Sweet said

For a 100g bag- one was around $9, the other was $17

PRICE is generally where you will be able to smoke out the original vs. the reseller. A reseller is going to probably mark up the tea a bit more than the original producer.

But… I do want to say, that reselling isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. It might end up costing the consumer a bit more, but it is not necessarily dishonest, any more than say buying a pound of apples at one store for $1.00 a pound versus purchasing a pound of apples at another for $2.00 a pound. Both stores most likely purchased their apples from the same produce supplier. That the consumer opted to purchase the apples at a higher price point isn’t the fault of the vendor.

On the other hand, if a vendor is actually claiming a creation to be their own when it is clearly the creation of another company, that to me IS dishonesty. If you do not flavor the tea yourself, then you should say so.

For example, one thing I do not do myself (as a tea artist) is scent teas (such as jasmine or rose flavored/scented teas) – because to be quite honest, to be done properly, this is something that needs to be done at the source.

To expound upon this further – let’s take the example of the jasmine scented tea. By the time I would receive tea from my suppliers, the tea leaves would not be young enough to layer with the jasmine petals and achieve the same depth of scent and flavor as would be achieved by the source, as this becomes part of the harvesting process itself.

So, for my Breakfast in Bed blend, for example, which is a rose and vanilla flavored tea with cinnamon…. I start with the best Rose Congou tea I could locate. I didn’t flavor the rose tea myself. But, in order to gain the best depth of flavor I wanted for this particular blend… I needed to use a rose congou. The fact is – that with just about any rose congou tea in the States, it is likely that the company you are purchasing from… did not flavor it themselves but relied upon the source for the flavoring. Same is true for jasmine teas, and some fruit flavored/scented teas such as lychee.

Miss Sweet said

Reselling isn’t a bad thing – in fact it seems necessary for smaller companies wanting to bulk out their selection and offer what has become a typically large and varied tea menu. Its just interesting when you start having a dig around and discover the same wholesaler for several tea companies, supplying flavoured blends that the company may or may not rename.
As a customer I’m fine with companies using already scented/flavoured teas in their own blends, its more the passing off preblended teas as their own that gets annoying. But I do realise its a necessary evil, I just try to hunt out places that do actually blend their own teas or find the few teas that have been blended by the company themselves (usually the words “special blend” or similar pop up in the description).

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I’m a fan of anything with Almond in it so I’ve had both of these teas. I notice a lot of companies have similar teas so they must get ideas from each other, but I’m sure these teas are not the same. I like SpecialTeas’ Almond Cookie better than Almond Butter. I like the extra cinnamon zing to it and it’s got a stronger Almond taste. CA Tea House’s Earl Grey is smoother than SpecialTeas. I think they have more vanilla or something. I noticed LiberTEAS has an Earl Grey Creme too that looks identical to these others. I’ll have to try that one and see if it’s as good as these others.

Cofftea said

LiberTEAS (who’s a steepster member) blends her own teas. She’s VERY talented and I can promise you she doesn’t use someone else’s creation and pass it off as her own. I wish she’d stay open- I’m such a sucker for blends:)

@CrippleCreek: I will say that I do get inspired by one blend or another – for example something that I have been working on was actually inspired by a Lipton’s blend (which to me is, in itself, pretty astonishing given my dislike for Liptons in general… but this particular blend is quite good) that is green tea – jasmine, orange and passionfruit. I really loved the combination, but the Lipton’s blend doesn’t have enough jasmine to satisfy this lover of jasmine so I thought I might improve upon the idea. Still working on it though… My Earl Grey Creme wasn’t really inspired by another “Earl Grey Creme” but just a desire to sort of “curb” the sharp note of the bergamot in Earl Grey. Unfortunately… my supply of Earl Grey Creme has sold out! I have one customer in particular who buys it by the pound, and recently purchased the last that I had. I had forgotten to take it out of my Artfire shop, so I do thank you for mentioning it in your post! I didn’t realize I had a tea in there that I didn’t have available!

@Cofftea – thank you very much for your kind words. Closing was a difficult decision, but the right one for me.

Lori said

So Cripple Creek-you detected the differences as well. I KNEW I was not imagining the discrepanices…The Almond Cookie does have more of a cinnamon flavor; whereas the Almond Butter seems “more smooth”. I actually prefer the Almond Butter…

But it is odd that the tea blends look similar and CA Tea House and Special Teas seem to sell similar blends- Lemon Drop, Earl Grey Creme, etc.

Liberteas- I actually had always wanted to try your Chocolate Rose- what a wonderful combo. But I could undertand closing the business as I am sure it is a lot of work…

I wish I would have had a chance to try LiberTEAS blends as well. It sounds like there were some good ones.
Yeah, I think a lot of these companies get inspired by each other and try to improve on each other’s blends like LiberTEAS said she liked to do. I can’t blame anyone for trying to take something good and make it better or even put their own personal twist on it. Musicians and Painters do it all the time!

Miss Sweet said

Of course those companies could actually be blending their own, putting a twist on a preblended version, or merely sourcing from a different supplier. I know “1001 nights” is a staple for companies here and I noticed The T Shop have blended their own version and named it 2001 nights haha.

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Lori said

Hmm…so maybe these companies are each tweaking the almond tea their unique way….

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52teas said

When I was getting ready to start my tea business, even though I was determined to blend my own teas, I talked to a lot of “wholesalers” (primarily about tea gadgets/accessories) who wanted me to buy their tea. It was astonishing how many layers of middlemen are out there. It was like peeling an onion a layer at a time. I’m positive there are companies out there who really believe they are dealing with the manufacturer when in fact there are three or more layers of middlemen between them and the manufacturer. Even in dealing with bulk unflavored/unblended teas, I had to go through several suppliers before I got to the importer we now use.

I think it is a shame, and ultimately just costs the consumer as every middleman takes his markup. To give you some idea—I think I could count on two hands the number of companies (including 52teas) that actually blend/flavor their own teas. The rest, believe it or not, are just reselling.

Kristin said

Care to share who the other companies are that blend their own teas?

I’d be interested too. It’s really disheartening to find out about all of the middlemen. My opinion is that the consumer is paying more for possibly not as fresh tea and ultimately, we might not be able to find out where the tea is really coming from due to it being lost in translation.

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I don’t have any experience with blended tea. But IMHO, if the tea tastes good and the price is reasonable, then it’s a good product no matter where it’s from. For example, I’ve seen small vendors selling Rishi tin packaged tea. As a renown seller, Rishi also does wholesale. When a small vendor sell Rishi tea for a price slightly lower than Rishi official price, then it’s a win-win situation. Rishi sells more tea, the consumer gets better price, and the vendor may get better sales record by selling an already famous brand.

It’s indeed somewhat different when blends involve intelligence investment. But if the wholesaler allows vendors to repack and relabel, then the vendors have the right to do so. I believe the key is “win-win”. A vendor gains long-term benefit by letting consumers enjoy some benefits, price-wise or service-wise. I’ve seen consumers giving up a vendor by finding “exactly the same but less expensive” products. Meantime, I’ve also seen consumers choosing a more expensive vendor for their convenient store location.

Personally if I wholesale some of our tea to another vendor, I wouldn’t care if they repack or relabel the tea. But I do believe that with the increased popularity of tea, tea trade will be more simplified and less mysterious, with clearer source information and fewer layers of distributors.

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Cofftea said

I know other companies sell Market Spice teas and that personally ticks me off most. It was blended and names especially for Pike Place Market in Seattle, WA so I think it should only be available at that one location or on their website.

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Cofftea said

I just noticed there are 5 entries in the database for Starry Night.

Miss Sweet said

They are just different blends with the same name though. As an aside, the Art of Tea one with the star-shaped white tea looks amazing!

Cofftea said

Good point. I did no research myself to find out lol. AOT and The Jade Teapot use the same pic which I find odd if they’re different.

I had a blend called Starry Night. It is a green rooibos blend that I named after my favorite painting – Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh – and had actually created because I was creating a ’zine (self-published magazine) that was a “tribute” to Vincent Van Gogh (as well as about other things concerning art) several years ago, and I felt the Great Van Gogh deserved a tea named after his masterpiece.

I have a tea bowl that I name it Starry Night! Now I wonder if Van Gogh drank tea, since Netherlands is probably the European country with longest tea drinking history :-D

Stephanie said

I know that the Starry Night from The Jade Teapot is from Art of Tea. The Jade Teapot is a re-seller of Art of Tea and Teas, Etc.

Miss Sweet said

@Cofftea Haha clearly I did minimal research, i.e. clicked on about 3 of them and saw those were different :)

@LiberTEAS ah, thats so amazing! One of the reasons I want to blend my own tea is to name them after my favourite things!

@Miss Sweet – that is one thing that I really enjoyed about it as well. Whenever I might have a particular something that I wanted to celebrate, I could do so with a special tea, and name it accordingly.

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This is so NOT true, as a tea blender, you can work within the same flavor family, 100 different companies can make Creme Earl Grey, and 100 different companies can make Bananas Foster. It doesn’t mean they are using a middle man, or several. What would bother me more then the same, or different flavors, is the price. People are selling for $3. per ounce up to $10. per ounce. That is what would make me angry someone charging an arm and a leg for tea,ripping off customers.

I think we can all agree that pricing correctly is not an easy thing. While you are trying to be competitive, the ultimate goal is to make money. Some people may think that tea companies make BIG money, and some bigger ones probably do. For the rest of us, it’s more like trying to stay in business and make a living.
As blends go, you always want to offer your customers the best quality available. Some blends can be done with very low grade base tea and some with higher grade to make it taste better. That’s where the price difference may come from.
But it’s just my opinion…

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