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ifjuly said

Dammann Freres customs fees to the US?

So my current two big “last frontier” tea companies I’m dying to try are Dammann Freres and Todd and Holland, both because apparently the tea is very good quality and they do blends I can’t find anywhere else (figs and strange plants, mm!).

This post pertains to Dammann (my T&H hesitations are a separate issue). I am prepared for the hefty shipping cost to get Dammann to me in the US, but I’m really, really nervous about customs fees, or whether the tea will get to me at all. Reading the legalese on DF’s translated website makes it sound like once they ship it they can potentially absolve themselves of all responsibility re: customs or getting the tea to me once it hits the US, and the US customs FAQ online has something about how fruit-flavored tea might not be allowed in at all.

I’ve read the epic Doulton-orders-DF-for-everybody-to-split-stateside post 4 years ago (so jealous!), and it sounds like it was a huge success with no customs fees and speedy delivery. But I know Mariage Freres is a huge hassle to import for individual orders with steep customs prices. Does anyone in the US have recent experience ordering from DF? How was customs? Was there any worry you wouldn’t get your tea?

I’ve looked into getting the tea from other sources who ship stateside but I can’t find many, and the couple I have found don’t carry the flavors I’m most interested in (the fig ones, the hazelnut/choc/orange ones, etc.).

20 Replies
Lala said

I am not in the US and have never ordered from Dammann but I can provide some other insites. Customs is very hit and miss. They will sometimes check the order and sometimes not. You may get several orders from international locations with no problems, then the next one customs hits you with fees. They say they do “random” checks. I have never had problems with teas actually getting to me, although can take extra long time. Fruit based teas would only be a problem if there are actual fruit chunks in the tea. If it is just flavouring then there should be no problem with it being confiscated. I have had customs open a package before to check it (ie. open the box AND open the bag containing the tea, then tape it shut).

ifjuly said

Thanks a lot for the info! Yeah, I’m afraid that confirms my suspicions: I figured it was random luck, and also that the issue of potentially being denied entry hinged on actual fruit or nut pieces in the tea, which all of the ones I want to order contain. D’oh. Guess I’ll just have to daydream about DF and cross my fingers someday soon a shop here starts to carry those blends.

Again, thanks for the info!

OMGsrsly said

Wait. You’ve had Canadian customs get you with teas? I called (and emailed) and was told there are no customs duties on teas, only tea wares like strainers and pots and things.

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Sil select said

You might be able to just ask a nice european steepster to buy your teas and mail them to you…paypal them the money or something.

ifjuly said

I hadn’t thought of that! Yeah, maybe someday hopefully soon…gotta establish community cred first/get to know more Steepsters I think. I only got in on my first swap this week (! so excited!) and I just today ordered some opaque little ziploc baggies online (couldn’t find any locally) so I’ll be swap-ready. I didn’t have enough tea variety when I first joined Steepster earlier this year to feel like a decent swapper (and most of my better teas were only 2 cup sample portions), have now finally reached a point I feel I might have something good to offer, so now I gotta build up some swap cred. Was thinking of posting in the swap thread this or next week actually. I see all the swapping and order sharing and everything here and get so jealous ’cause it looks fun!

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SimplyJenW said

I ordered from Damman about a year and a half ago without a hitch. I have also ordered from China multiple times. Since you are in the US, I think there won’t be an issue for customs as I have never been charged customs on an overseas tea order. If you lived in Canada like Lala, your chances are hit or miss. The last time I tried to order from Damman I had issues getting their website to take my American credit card. I finally gave up.

ifjuly said

Huh, interesting. Maybe I’d have the same problem then with my US CC…

I could maybe be open to trying to order except for the risk my tea wouldn’t even be allowed in because of the fruits/nuts. To pay so much and then not even get it would be awful.

SimplyJenW said

I did only order a few teas and figured if I was out the money, it was a valid experiment. It took less than a week and they sent marvelous tracking from what I can remember. I am also pretty sure ashmanra has ordered a few times without issues. I can’t speak to fruit or nut teas….I have not ordered them from outside this continent. (I ordered Gout Russe Doutchka and Earl Grey with flowers.)

OMGsrsly said

There are no Canadian customs on teas. I even called them to check before I placed my first order. :)

Ricky admin said

Never ordered from Damman, but I’ve ordered teas from China many times and I’ve never had customs issues.

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Dustin said

Do you ever travel in the US? There are shops in California that I know of who sell DF and MF. They are pretty fancy specialty grocery stores and I’m not sure they have an equivalent in Memphis (based on my two hour experience of it). You could also try contacting DF and asking who they have as US distributors. Theodor also has really interesting blends with lotus, fig and other really neat ingredients, but I only got to sample some because of a swap and haven’t found a good source in the states. For MF you could try Dean and Deluca online. http://www.deandeluca.com/coffee-tea-cocoa/gourmet-tea/mariage-freres.aspx

Palais des Thes also has really interesting flavors (I think it may be a French tea thing). I have a violet that is really nice and another with lotus. They have a couple retail stores in NY and it looks like you may be able to buy online from within the US, avoiding customs. http://us.palaisdesthes.com/en_us/

ifjuly said

Thank you very much for all of that great info! Yeah, I did find sources for MF in the states (Market Hall Foods IIRC, and D&D yep) so that isn’t an issue for me, but I know people who’ve ordered direct from them and had customs nightmares in terms of crazy amounts of fees, and they weren’t ordering blends with fruit or nuts in them so they didn’t have to worry about not getting their tea.

That is a good idea about keeping my eyes open at fancypants specialty shops. I was on the west coast for the first time this summer actually, got to see Pike Market in Seattle and was in San Diego for a weekend, but it never occurred to me then to look for good tea. D’oh (this is similar to my “d’oh!” at being in Albuquerque in July and not realizing I could’ve gone to New Mexico Tea Company’s shop). Will do in the future for sure—that’s a really good point.

And super grateful for the other ideas of spots with similar sounding awesome blends!

Dustin said

You are going to catch the tea tourist bug now! One of the first things I check for when we are visiting somewhere new is what tea places we are close to.

Sara said

Considering a Dammann order myself and so was reading through this thread – Dustin, if you’re still looking for a good Thé O Dor source in the states, http://jinpatisserie.com/product-type/teas-tea-gifts is the ticket! They’re a little pastry shop in LA and they happen to have an excellent selection of the brand. Enjoy!

Excelsior said

The only reason why I buy my teas directly from MF France is because the specialty stores like D&D do not carry the teas I favor. Customs is not a nightmare but they will charge you handling fees and like I posted below, they have charged me every single time. If there was a source for MF FF Darjeelings like Namring, Castleton, Margaret’s Hope, Jungpana, I would be willing to buy. I’ve tried Upton, Thunderbolt, Tea Trekker,etc, but MF has the flavor, quality, and taste that sets them above the others. This is the reason why I am willing to pay the high price + shipping fees + customs handling costs. It can get very expensive. MF has excellent customer service and the teas arrive from France to California in less than a week. I could buy the teas from Japan and bring them back in to the US but MF Japan charges over twice, sometimes three times the price of what France Charges.

Dustin said

Sara, I have seen that site before, but I thought the shop closed it’s doors. Does it still have a retail location? Do you know if they sell in bulk (so you can give it a sniff test first) or in the packages they have on the website?

If you are in the Bay Area, Chantal Guillon has a decent selection of MF. http://www.chantalguillon.com/wp-chantalguillon/products/ They have a shop in SF and Palo Alto and sell AMAZING macaroons.
The Pasta Shop in Berkeley also sells MF in the tins and about 12 types in bulk. http://www.rockridgemarkethall.com/pasta-shop
Draeger’s grocery has a selection of DF (at least at their Menlo location) and has four bay area locations. http://www.draegers.com/
Even if those places don’t have the tea you want, it would be worth asking if they will do a special order for you and add it into their next order with that company.

Sara said

Dustin, yes, I was just there to buy tea about two weeks ago! They moved from Venice to a new location in Culver City to focus more on their wholesale business but they do accept walk-ins. All the teas are sold in 100 gram packs (as pictured on the site – those are the bags they come in). I haven’t tried online ordering from the site but I assume you can do it since they have the Add To Cart function. I’ve tried about a dozen of the flavors they have for sale and have loved most of them. If you have any trouble or questions you can just call them – I called first to check on what they had in stock before I drove over and they were very helpful.

Sil select said

doh. too bad shipping is a little insane. Silly UPS.

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Dexter3657 said

According to the Customs & Border Protection it says that you are allowed to bring the following into the US
“Dried foods – including polished rice, beans, and tea”
“Fruits – canned or dried products only”
“Nuts – (but not chestnuts or acorns or nuts with outer husks)”

It also states:
“Is there a duty-free allowance for merchandise shipments?
Yes – $200.00 for commercial shipments or for a personal shipment of merchandise sent to oneself such as ordering off a foreign web site addressed to yourself.”

http://london.usembassy.gov/ukcustom.html#food

I think you are ok as long as the fruit is dried and the nuts aren’t chestnuts, and your order is less than 200.00 but that’s just MHO…..

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Excelsior said

I’ve been hit with a custom charge every single order I have placed with Mariage over the past three years. Adding all the figures up, it totals to $400+. I can’t order from D&D since they don’t carry the high end teas and neither does Market Hall or any other US based retailers selling Mariage Freres teas. Yet none of my tea orders have been denied acess.

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