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Life in Teacup - Online in Easthampton, Massachusetts
5/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
5/5
and said Edit

UPDATE: 6/6/2012

Overall Experience: VERY POSITIVE. I made one purchase from them so far this spring 2012, and during the fall of 2011 they sent me a shipment strictly consisting of free samples that I had requested.

General Information:
Life in Teacup is run by a woman named Gingko. They offer a wide selection of Chinese loose-leaf tea in all six classes (including a few tisanes). Many useful pieces of information are listed with each tea (including things like Production Year, Production Season, Production Region, Style, etc.). The location and year of harvest on all of their green, yellow, and (I believe) white teas are provided (many tea retailers do not do this). Gingko has written extensive articles on her blog about many of the teas they sell (possibly all, I haven’t checked). As far as green (and yellow) teas go, when the new harvest starts to arrive in the spring they put their old stock on sale and then once the new teas arrive they update the website with information on the new teas. Most green teas are priced with two options: samples (they vary from tea to tea, and for green teas they are mostly between 4 to 9 grams) and 25 gram packs (or one ounce). Their sample prices are not much more per ounce (i.e. by weight) than if you buy the standard 25 grams. During early spring of 2012 they offered the ability to pre-order some green teas, such that you pay for the tea before they order it from China, allowing them to pass on a 20% savings to you (on some it was actually more than a 20% discount as compared to the price they listed for the tea on their website after the tea arrived). Gingko sometimes has sales through her blog where she offers tea and tea related items that are hard to find elsewhere; sometimes, she also offers buyers of the blog sale to “feel free to claim some free stuff” that she lists. They offer a number of tea accessories. To my knowledge, other than putting the old green tea on sale in the spring, they have no sales. Gingko occasionally offers promotions through a newsletter.
My Experience:
They have a very wide selection of fresh green teas priced from inexpensive (under $4 / OZ) to some of the most expensive Chinese Teas I have ever seen (for a particular tea style, like Bi Lo Chun green tea). The prices for her less expensive teas are priced very competitively, and are some are the best prices I have ever seen on the Web (within the US). Every time I ordered they processed my order very quickly. Their tea has always been fresh and has accurately matched the description on their website. UPDATE: I just recently made another purchase from her through her blog and, although I have yet to receive the package filled with lots of wonderful Teas and a couple of other tea related items (I hope to update this in the future), so far she has—once again—exceeded my expectations.

Website:
Very simply designed, with the teas of each class (green, white, etc.) on one page, such that you have to scroll down to see the description, picture(s), and price of each tea. The simple design is in large part due to the fact that (I believe) she manages the webpage herself; my understanding is that this helps to keep their costs down. She has great pictures of each tea—usually one of the dry leaves and one wet (and recently she has been including pictures of where the tea is harvested). The website is relatively easy to navigate. I have yet to use their cart to buy tea (I have communicated with her via e-mail and paid via PayPal invoices she sent to my email address directly). Although there was no way to review the status of my order online, she has been great about keeping me informed about it (for example, the status of the tea harvest when I pre-ordered one spring green tea). They offer a few interesting resources on their website (i.e. a Tea Harvest Calendar). She has what I consider to be the best tea related blog on the Web (I decided to put a link here as I judge it’s hard to find her the link on her website) http://gingkobay.blogspot.com/ You can find reviews of most of their teas on Steepster. They use PayPal for payment.

Shipping: http://www.lifeinteacup.com/shipping
http://www.lifeinteacup.com/100-security
My Experience: For my order in early spring she offered to split up the order into two shipments (without any extra charge to me) so that I could enjoy some of the teas I ordered right away while waiting for my pre-ordered spring green tea to arrive from China! She has always processed my orders in a timely manner. When I pre-ordered, the estimate from when I would get the package to when I actually got it was right on. She has always sent me a tracking number to allow me to track my package online once it was in route. She has always shipped everything I paid for (including free samples). She has included a nice business card with the last two packages I received from her.

Contact Experience:
More in Overall. I have only had contact with her through e-mail and from discussion threads on Steepster. She is very timely with her e-mail responses, seems very willing to answer questions, and is not only very professional but seems willing to share freely of her enthusiasm and wisdom around all things Tea.

Packaging:
Her packaging is the simplest I have ever seen: sealed, sturdy, silver zip-lock bags with a plain white label displaying the name of the tea (in both English and Chinese) and the harvest date (if applicable). The samples come in either sealed, small silver bags or in a sealed, kind of sturdy brown paper bag.

Would I buy from them again?:
YES!

Life in Teacup is currently my favorite on-line tea retailer (especially for fresh, Chinese green tea). I have been holding off writing this as I knew I would want to take lots of time in writing this to really do Life in Teacup, and Gingko, justice.

The following is what I consider to be a few (minor) downsides: 1) I really don’t like paying for shipping, and so I have to spend $70 before I am not charged for shipping (I wish the break-point was lower—$40, or even $50 would be much better); still, I will say that at least her shipping fee is reasonable—a flat $5 for all (domestic) orders. 2) With a few exceptions, they don’t offer discounts for buying a large amount of tea (any larger than 25 grams); my guess that this is because she focuses more on offering quality tea rather then selling tea in large quantities. And, 3) In my judgement, some of her teas are very pricy—a few are $25/OZ and higher—thus putting them well out of my reach; still, my guess is they are worth that price to those that can afford Tea in that price range, and she does price her samples very reasonably (and on a number of ocassions she offered to give me a small sample—4 grams—of an expensive tea for free).

Everything else I have to state about Life in Teacup is very positive, if not, incredible. From what is stated on her website they like to keep things simple and that seems to reflect in the price of their Teas. I have exchanged numerous e-mails with Gingko (including commenting on and getting replies from her blog), and she is always professional, friendly, helpful, and willing to share information about her experience with all things Tea (I have even made requests regarding information about tea that is not the tea she sells, and she has willingly offered up information about them). I really like that she has what I consider to be a great selection of green teas, including many ‘well-known’ teas (like Long Jing, Bi Lo Chun, Huang Shan Mao Feng, etc) and a few lesser known teas (I have been really enjoying the both of the Frosty Yunnan and the Tong Cheng green teas). She is, in my opinion, very active on Steepster and always seems happy to answer any question bloggers have of her. Twice I asked if she was willing to send a small sample of a tea (after I paid already for the order) from her while waiting for a pre-ordered green tea to arrive, and she sent both with my order.

Finally—and most important to me—I feel she has a genuine passion for all thing Tea; I believe she runs her business to help connect the rest of us tea enthusiasts with the best tea for the best price. (Especially for Chinese green tea enthusiasts) Life in Teacup comes about as close to the perfect online tea shop that I can imagine.

thepuriTea - online in Los Angeles, California
3/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: POSITIVE. I made one purchase from them during their Black Friday sale, 2011.

General Information:
According to their http://www.thepuritea.com/pages/about-us webpage, this company is run by a mother and son team. “We source all of our teas and teaware directly from China, Taiwan and India to ensure the maximum quality, value and freshness for our customers.” For their selection of loose leaf teas they have a reasonable number of black, oolong, green, and white teas; it looks like they are (almost) all pure (I just checked their website and they do have a few flavor-added black teas along and a few scented teas; still, most of their teas being ‘pure’ must be one reason why they are called ‘The _Pur_itea’!). They offer a very limited number of teapots and other tea accessories. I like that they don’t have too large a selection of items, as that gives me the impression they carefully choose what they carry. They have a reasonable description of each tea (no information on location and year of harvest). They had at least one sale that I am aware of during Black Friday, 2011. They offer samples and 4, 8 and 16 ounces sizes for most teas, such that the price per ounce decreases for larger quantities.
My Experience:
My order was processed relative quickly and came within a reasonable amount of time. There were a couple of samples included with my order. Each Tea was reasonably fresh. I ordered mostly samples (see Packaging); the amount in each sample was smaller than I was anticipating (most had only 3 -4 TSP of dry Tea, and yet from something stated on their website I had the impression it was going to be twice that size); this was disappointing to me. On one of the discussion threads on Steepster I remember reading that they were ‘revamping’ their website, including how they package their samples (I hope they are larger and come without the unnecessary packaging that I mention below). To me their prices on their Tea seem reasonable.

Website:
The overall presentation of the site is simple and elegant (although, to me, the ‘Hellobar’ at the top gives the site a somewhat cluttered sense), it is very easy to navigate, and they have decent enough pictures of each tea. The use of a cart when purchasing items and during checkout seems fairly straightforward. They have a blog, but it doesn’t look like they post there very often (less then once a month).

Shipping:
Straight from their homepage: “Free Shipping Over $50, Free Samples w/ Every Order, $7.50 Flat Rate Shipping, We Ship with USPS Priority Mail”
My Experience:
Everything I ordered was in stock and shipped (and included a couple of free samples).

Contact Experience:
None.

Packaging:
(This may have changed) Their samples were sealed in tiny thin silver-colored bags, which were enclosed inside another thin collapsible cardboard box with their company logo on it. Although the ‘boxes’ were somewhat stylish, I thought they were unnecessary, and thus wasteful.

Would I buy from them again?:
MAYBE.
Nothing really stood out about the tea or my experience with them. I thought the samples were very small, and yet I did like that they sent a couple of free samples with my order (although they weren’t really Teas I care for). There would have to be some special event (like another big sale) or some other reason for me to consider buying from them again (especially since they don’t include harvest dates on their green Teas). If there were ‘half’ ratings, I would rate them 3 1/2 stars.

Yunnan Sourcing US - online in Portland, Oregon
2/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
2/5
and said Edit

This review regards a communication with the owner about making a purchase from the sister site: YunnanSourcing.

Overall Experience: DISAPPOINTED. I have yet to make a purchase from either YunnanSourcingUS or YunnanSourcing.

Contact Experience:
Last year I spent quite a bit of time looking at number of different Teas on YunnanSourcing (as I was originally researching the possibility of making a large purchase). After making a decision to try a number of them, and adding them to my cart, I finally entered my shipping information (I know now to look into the shipping cost first before I spend lots of time looking at their teas). I then found out the shipping cost was going to be about half of the cost of the tea itself. OK, maybe that’s because I have several different items in my cart. So let’s try reducing them. … Long story short, I got down to just one 50 gram bag of tea (the smallest available), and the cost of shipping ended up being much more than the cost of the tea itself! Just to clarify, there were no breakable items in my order, and I chose the least expensive method—the one which states may take up to two months.

Well, the cost of shipping for the 50 gram bag of tea was not acceptable to me. So I e-mailed the owner (Scott) looking for a better solution, and I told him I had a number of concerns, foremost being the cost of the shipping. After exchanging at least three different e-mails with him (with an initial statement by him that cheap or inexpensive shipping options existed on his site), and lots of time—and creative suggestions on my part, he finally put forth a solution to address one of my concerns. Unfortunately, his solution did not even address my original concern, as the shipping was the same. So, although I do give him credit for attempting to address one concern, I judge he did not address what was most important to me—the cost of the shipping—even though I repeatedly stated this. My responses were very detailed, and I spent much time making sure I was clear as I could be; his responses were very short. Still, I give him credit for responding. I have admittedly been eying a few teas on his new US website (this site did not exist at the time of our communications, and the shipping is much more reasonable). Overall, though, as I judge he handled our communication poorly, I am apprehensive about doing business with him.

Art of Tea - online in Santa Cruz, California
4/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
4/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: POSITIVE. I made one purchase with them during Black Friday (November, 2011).

General Information:
Art of Tea specializes in organic, fair-traded, loose-leaf Teas. They have a good selection of loose-leaf Teas and flavor-added Teas in every class, including tisanes. You can buy the tea in tins. You can buy their tea in pyramid bags. The quality of information describing each tea is reasonable, although there is no information on location and year of harvest for green teas. They occasionally have sales (they offered 30% off your order and free shipping during Black Friday 2011). The sizes for most teas are: sample, 4 OZ, 8 OZ, 1 LB. The price per ounce decreases the more you buy.
My Experience: Their teas tend to be on the pricy side as compared to other online retailers, but this is probably because most of their Teas are organic and fair traded. It took roughly a week for them to process my order, but I believe that was because of the holiday (Thanksgiving weekend). Each Tea was fresh and accurately matched the description on their website.

Website:
Their website is very colorful, elegant, and well-designed; they have lots of quality pictures of their Tea. It’s easy to find your way around. You have the ability to review the status of your order through an account system. Reviews of their teas are available on each tea page.

Shipping:
It’s a flat $6.97 to the Continental US; they also ship worldwide; you can get free shipping for orders over $75 with the code ‘ILUVThttp://www.artoftea.com/shipping_and_returns/
My Experience: After ordering online I contacted them about sending a free sample with my order (more in Contact Experience), and a very generous one was included (enough to fill two sample bags). Everything was carefully packaged. Everything in stock was delivered.

Contact Experience:
I initially contacted them via e-mail and they were not very timely in their responses (I believe it took over three days for each response). However, later I chatted with them through some kind of online chat software (accessible through a black tab in the lower right-hand corner of my browser that states, “Talk to us!”), and the woman I talked with was very responsive and very helpful (she agreed to send me a very generous sample of a tea I wanted to try).

Packaging: Fairly standard zip-locked bags: the samples were in transparent plastic bags, and the 8 OZ of tea I bought was in a brown, earthy-colored zip lock, with their label on them; they were sturdy and elegant looking bags.

Would I buy from them again?:
YES
I was impressed with how well they responded through their online chat software. Of the six different teas I received (two green and four white), I would consider buying two of them again; the others really didn’t do much for me. Still, a set of six different Teas is a small sampling of their overall offering, so if I do buy Tea from them again I hope to be able to try a few I hadn’t tried before (especially since the green teas were two of their least expensive ones).

Adagio Teas - Online in Naperville, Illinois
3/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

http://steepster.com/places/2897-adagio-teas-online-naperville-illinois

Overall Experience: POSITIVE
I made one purchase with them in late 2011 (during Black Friday)

General Information:
They have a great selection of loose-leaf tea in each class of tea, including lots of flavor-added teas, tisanes, fruit teas, and iced teas. They offer teabags as an option for most of their teas. Although they have decent descriptions of each tea, they do not offer any information on location and year of harvest for their green teas. They offer samples for most of their teas at a reasonable cost. Rarely do they have sales (they had one during Black Friday in 2011 — free shipping). They are starting to advertize some of their teas as coming direct from the farmer (with a little bio on the spotlighted farmer). How much of each tea you can buy seems to vary for each tea, but there seems to always be a price break for buying more.
My Experience: Their prices are fairly reasonable for the quality of tea they offer. Their tea has not best the freshest tea I have had, but overall it has been acceptable.

Website:
The website is easy to navigate. You have the ability to review the status of your order and other ongoing personal information through an account system. They have a very active blog, which I believe is called TeaChat. They have tons of reviews of their teas on the page of each tea.

Shipping:
Ground is a flat $3.75, and free if over $50 http://www.adagio.com/pages/shipping_domestic.html?SID=a2aeb61d04bdf0a2f24b5f29b46e2791
My Experience: Everything came as ordered (with a one-cup teabag sample) in a reasonable amount of time.

Contact Experience:
Other than placing my order online, none.

Packaging: Samples: fairly standard, resealable Mylar bags with their company logo and the weight and the name of the tea on it; the back has some general information about Adagio.

Would I buy from them again?:
PROBABLY.
With the exception that they offer a wide variety of tea for reasonable prices, to me there is nothing that really stands out about them. Still, I do like that they seem to have samples for just about every tea. They also offer custom made, ‘signature blends’. Overall, they seem to be a good place to start if you are just beginning to get acquainted with loose-leaf tea. If I could I’d rate them 3.5 stars, but as it is I gave them a 3.

Culinary Teas - Online in Milford, Indiana
4/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
4/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: POSITIVE. I made one online purchase with them at the end of 2011.

General Information:
The business is owned and run by two women, one of whom has a culinary background http://www.culinaryteas.com/About_Us.html They seem to specialize in flavored-added teas, but they also have a solid line-up of Teas in every class (except yellow), including tisanes. Their prices run the gamete, from very inexpensive (less than $1/oz.) to one of the most expensive teas I have ever seen: a rare white tea that goes for about $35/oz.! Most of the tea is available as loose-leaf, but some are only available as tea bags, and some have the option of either (I am not certain as to why some have the option, and some don’t). You can buy as little as an ounce, or (for most teas) as much as 2 KG—4.4 lbs! The more you buy, the cheaper it is per ounce (or per bag). No availability of information on location and year of harvest on any of the green teas is provided. They sell tea accessories, tins, cozies and a few other tea related items—including mulling spices. They commonly seem to have some kind of discount code you can use (listed on their homepage) and at least one tea on sale each month. You can subscribe to get a monthly newsletter. They had a sale during Black Friday/Cyber Monday, 2011, for 25% off of your order over $25.
My Experience: The prices for their flavor added teas seem very reasonable (most are less than $2/oz.). They didn’t process my order very quickly, but I ordered during their Black Friday sale, and my understanding was that they were very busy (see Contact Experience below). All of the tea we have tried so far has been fresh and accurately matches the description the on their website.

Website:
Their website is very simply designed, changing colors with the seasons. It is very easy to navigate and add items to your cart for checkout. You have the ability to review the status of your order and other ongoing personal information through an account system. One item I ordered ended up being out of stock, but that situation was successfully resolved (see Contact Experience below). They have what I consider to be reasonable descriptions of each tea. Some of their teas have reviews directly listed on the webpage for the tea. For security of payment they are verified by GeoTrust.

Shipping:
They ship UPS. It’s not flat rate, but instead it’s seems to be based on how far you live from their shipping site, increasing in increments determined by weight. It’s free if your order is over $75. I believe you have the ability to track your package online once it is in route.
My Experience: My shipping cost was a little under $8 for roughly a pound and a half of tea delivered a few states away. I received everything I ordered, and it was carefully packaged. No free samples were included.

Contact Experience:
After making my initial order (Thanksgiving weekend), and checking the status on their website for almost a week, I did not see any evidence that my package had been shipped. At that point I e-mailed them, and they promptly responded, explaining the busy weekend for the delay, and that one of the teas I ordered was out of stock. They said they could ship it without the out-of-stock tea, or that I could wait for them to get it back in stock before they shipped my entire order. I asked if they were willing to include a couple of inexpensive items (of my choice) if I decided to wait. When they responded, they stated that they were happy to comply with my request. I believe it was shipped about a week later.

Packaging:
Their tea comes in labeled, standard opaque black, sturdy, zip-locked bags.

Would I buy from them again?:
YES.
Overall, I am impressed with Culinary Teas. They offer an impressive array of flavor-added teas. So far the flavor and aroma of each one we have tried has—at the very least—reasonably matched the name and the description. Although there was a little ‘blip’ in the ordering and shipping process, I was reasonably satisfied with how they handled and resolved it. I really like the options they offer in terms of the amount of each tea I can buy, such that buying larger amounts equates to a reduction in the price per ounce. I like the simple design of their website (which may be part of the reason their teas are so reasonably priced). We bought lots of samples in our first order, and we hope to order larger quantities, of the teas we like, sometime in the near future.

Sanctuary T - Online in New York, New York
3/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: MIXED
I made two purchases from them at the end of 2011.

General Information:
They are both a restaurant in NYC (with a separate website) and an online tea shop. They have a great selection of each class of tea including tisanes and fruit teas. There is no information available on location and year of harvest for their green teas. As mentioned in another review, they sell a few food items and spices. They had a 30% off + free shipping sale during Black Friday 2011. They sell teas in two, four and eight ounce sizes. Two ounces come in a tin. They also sell what they call, ‘teasers’ for a few teas (not all) that are listed as one ounce (see below). I judge the teas are expensive at the two ounce price, but the price (per ounce) when you buy eight ounces is reasonable.
My Own Experience: I had a very strange experience with my both of my orders (more below). A few of the teas I got were somewhat mislabeled. The teasers I ordered are stated on their website as being one ounce, but there is no way the ones I received are one ounce. I got about 7 – 8 teaspoons out of one of the flavored rooibos teasers (I would expect to get the standard fourteen if it’s truly an ounce). The teasers are no where near half of the amount of tea that is in their two ounce tin I bought. I was not happy about this. If a teaser is supposed to be only half an ounce, it should be clearly stated as such on their website. On a positive note, all of the teas (and the brownies) are clearly good quality.

Website:
They have one of the most appealing websites around (check out their restaurant webpage for great pictures of some yummy looking food!). Although there is supposedly a way to access the status of your order, I personally was never able to get any reliable information about the status of my order, or a tracking number. That was very frustrating to me (more below).

Shipping:
Very expensive, but you can use a code to get free shipping (listed on their website).
My Experience: This was, well, to put it lightly, a cluster. First off, after waiting over a week for the package, and then contacting them via email, I finally received it, but it was someone else’s order. They figured this out the day my packaged arrived, and they apologized and promptly mailed the correct package, which came a few days later with one free ‘teaser’ (again, I could not find the status of that shipment on their website). They graciously offered me a significant discount on my next order, so I ordered from them again about a month later. As with the previous package, I was unable to find the status of my order online. Again, after over a week without any sign of getting a package, I emailed them. I had to email them again three days later since they had not responded, and was finally told they were contacting the owners about the status of the package (with no information as to the status). I got no other communication from them, but a little less than a week after that the package finally arrived. I was in the process of drafting an email to tell them to cancel my order the day the package arrived. Oddly enough, the box had a printed message on it, “Make tea, not war.” So I decided to follow that advice and drop the whole matter (I was considering sending them a not-so-nice email). I have not had any other communication from them since (no explanation as to why my order took so long to get to me). Luckily, at least I got everything I ordered.

Contact Experience:
Details in Shipping. I judge they have some serious work to do in the email/contact and shipping department, though.

Packaging:
Their two ounce tins are very nice looking steel cylinders, with tightly fitting lids. 8-oz packaging is standard. Teasers packaging is standard. They use quality boxes and nice looking filler material.

Would I buy from them again?:
I wish I could say, Yes, but it’s hard to say. All of their tea seems to be of good quality, and they did make a few efforts to try to make thing right, but I had such an odd experience overall that there would have to be some good reason for me to think about ordering from them again.

SpecialTeas - Online in Stratford, Connecticut
4/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
4/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: POSITIVE. I made two purchases from them in a very short period of time in the beginning of 2011.

General Information:
Sadly, they went out of business in the beginning of 2011 (Teavana bought them out). I didn’t get an opportunity to purchase from them until they were having their going out of business sale at that same time. From what I remember, they had an unbelievable selection of both flavored and unflavored teas (they may have had over 400). Their website provided great information on each tea, I believe they even included information on location and year of harvest. All of the tea I purchased accurately matched the description on their website.

Website:
Their website was not laid out in a very intuitive manner to me, but I liked their cart system (you could see it in the upper right corner of your screen, similar to the way Teavana does it now). I remember that they had a tea of the week, for a special price.

Contact Experience:
Very similar to my experience with Teavana at that same time period (My guess is that Teavana had basically taken over at that point, as I noticed the return address on both my Teavana and SpecialTeas packages were identical). There was one item listed as ‘in stock’ that did not ship. When i found out, I called them (that fateful Monday that Teavana announced that they had taken over SpecialTeas) to find out what they could do for me, and although you could not get to their website at all by then (you would be redirected immediately to Teavana’s if you tried), they were still answering calls, and I bought a few more 2-lb packages of tea at 75% off, and they didn’t charge me for the shipping; that was enough to make me happy.

Would I buy from them again?:
If they were still in business, a resounding, YES! Although the teas I have tried (seven) were not the highest quality (admittedly, I went for the least expensive ones), their prices were about the best I had ever seen (even before the 75% discount). Alas! they are no more.

Here is some interesting information I just discovered about SpecialTeas: http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?t=8455
Search for, “Randy Altman”

Den's Tea - online in Torrance, California
5/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
5/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: VERY POSITIVE. I have made three purchases from them at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012.

General Information:
The current owner is the grandson of the company’s founder (who started the business in the 1916). A full history can be found on their website. They carry only Japanese green tea and offer a number of flavored-added green teas. They also sell pyramid tea bags, organic tea, cold brewed iced-tea bags, and many different tea accessories. They provide a detailed description, including a harvest date, for each Tea. A green tea starter kit costs only $3 (that includes shipping), and I highly recommend the kit for those new to Japanese green tea. They occasionally have sales, and you can be notified of them by subscribing to their email list. The parent company in Japan (owned by the same man) is the one who sources their teas. They sell tea in two ounce and one pound packages (the pound is only slightly cheaper per ounce then the two ounce package). ADDITION (3-3-2012): I noticed that they increased their prices, slightly, on a number of teas (possibly all of them).
My Experience: His prices seem to be very reasonable when compared to other tea retailers, especially considering that their tea is fresh. I believe they processed each of my orders and shipped them within 48 hours (or less) of ordering. Every tea I bought was fresh and matched the description on their website.

Website:
Their website is very well laid out, intuitive, and thus easy to navigate. You have the ability to review the status of your order, and other ongoing personal information through an account system. The only time I have seen tea go out of stock is during a sale. They have a fantastic section on general information about tea, with a number of helpful graphs and charts (including data about how the steeping temperature effects the caffeine and theanine in green tea).

Shipping:
Shipping is pretty standard, and it’s free if over $50USD. http://www.denstea.com/shippinginfo.html#shipping
I believe a free sample is always included with each order.
My Experience: For all three orders I got everything I paid for, everything was very carefully packaged, and a sample was included.

Packaging:
Fairly standard. The samples (either 5 or 10 gram) come in a thin silver package with a nicely colored label predominately displayed on the front. The two ounce sizes of tea come in fairly standard silver packaging, with a nice colorful label on front; they all include one of those little white-colored packets of oxygen absorbers. Each bag or tin has a label with a ‘best by’ date (which seems to be about a year from harvest); I have been removing these labels and attaching them to the back of whatever container I store them in so I have an idea as to how old the tea is. Love it!

Contact Experience:
I exchanged a few e-mails with the owner, and he is prompt and very courteous with his replies.

Would I buy from them again?:
YES!
I can’t say enough about how much I like Den’s Tea. I really like it when a tea retailer responds to my requests, and I made two different requests of the owner via email, and he was very amenable to both of them. I find their tea—and everything they do—to be of the highest standards: I have tried nine of their teas so far (some were samples), and every one has been fresh, of the highest quality, and reasonably priced. I like that they have a ‘deal’ basically once a month. I love the general information they provide about green tea. I really like that they provide harvest dates (and ‘best by’ dates) on their Tea.

Thank you to all of you Steepsterites whom have touted Den’s teas to the point that I was exposed to them. They are definitely my go-to online tea shoppe for Japanese green teas!

Teavana in St Louis, Missouri
3/5
Edit
SimpliciTEA rated this place
3/5
and said Edit

Overall Experience: MIXED
This was my first exposure to Teavana (there are two more stores that I have been to). I made two purchases from them near the beginning of 2011 during their year end sale.

General Information:
Facts and Observations :
The only tea they sell is loose-leaf. Their focus seems to be on fruity, flavored teas. They do not have a wide variety of unflavored teas, but they do have a reasonable selection in every class of tea (with the exception of yellow), including Mate, Rooibos and other herbal teas.They offer a 10% discount for purchasing a pound or more, 15% for two pounds, and 20% for five or more. They sell many different tea accessories. You must buy at least two ounces of each tea (I personally don’t like this). The very rarely have sales. They offer little to no information on the location and year of harvest of each tea.
They do make charitable contributions. Some of their teas are organic (last I checked, it was only one).
My Experience:
I have found their teas to be very pricy when compared to the prices that other tea retailers offer for similar products (when SpecialTeas was in still business, their teas were comparable, and about half the price. Now Teavana owns them. Go figure). They seem to respect your wish to simply browse in this store (I have been there when it has been busy, and when it hasn’t been busy at all). I have to say that their stores (considering the physical structure and layout only) are very inviting. They clearly put lots of time and thought into the overall layout of each store. I like their ‘tea wall’ and how all of the teas are arranged and displayed in large colored tins. They are willing to pull down any tea for you to look at and smell. All of tea I bought from them looked, smelled, and tasted good.

Customer Service:
Hesitantly positive. Most of their staff do not seem very knowledgeable (I interacted with at least four of them). And there was a small issue the first time I purchased with them; but after a few phone calls and then going back to the store, my decision to conduct myself in an assertive and respectful manner seemed to win out in the end, and I got what I wanted. I would be remiss if I did not mention here that they have one staff member who is honestly a joy to interact with (I think his name is Sean, but I am not certain). He is knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and not pushy, at least not by my definition; I think he said he has been working for them for five years. He is probably as close to the perfect salesman as I have ever met. He strongly influenced my time while I was there to be a pleasant and enjoyable experience. An interesting side note: as he was pouring tea into a tin for a customer that seemed to me to be new to Teavana I did overhear him say, in a very pleasant manner, “Feel free to fill up this tin so you can get 10% off!” In my judgement, that’s not pushy, that’s just creative selling! In the end, saying, ‘No,’ is not much of a problem for me, so I have little to no fear of walking into any of their stores and walking out with something I didn’t want to buy.

Would I buy from them again based on my overall impression of interacting with them?:
CONDITIONALLY, YES
In my judgement Teavana does do a superb job of consistently producing tea that looks, smells and tastes good. However, in looking closely at the base tea leaves in a few of their teas, the quality of the tea seems mediocre at best: there are lots of stems, not very many buds or bud sets, the color of what is there is a little faded, and there are lots of broken pieces. I haven’t personally found or heard of any exceptional teas they sell either. And when it comes down to it their tea is too expensive for me. I think the quality of tea I get is not commensurate with the price. A large portion of the tea I buy is green tea, and they do not provide harvest seasons/dates for their any of their teas; since I do not know how old the tea is, I am only willing to buy it at a discount. The only reason I bought tea from them was because it was on sale. And given their prices, that is the ONLY way I see purchasing from them in the future.

Profile

Bio

(Updated 3-23-2014)

You can call me, Joe.

What, How and Why I steep:

I typically expect, and shoot for, at least three flavorful steepings out of (just about) any tea I brew up.

I generally start at the times and temps below ( = minute(s), " = second(s) ), then add 5F and 30" for each successive steeping:
Chinese Green - 175F, 1’ ;
Japanese Green - 160F, 1’add 15F, then decrease by 15";
White - 160F, 2’;
Oolong - This varies;
Indian Black/Chinese Red and Herbals - a little off the boil, 2’; why do I start with such low temps & short steep times? So as to ‘spread out’ the flavor over multiple steepings. I have found this to work with every tea I have tried so far. Also, I am not looking for intense flavor in that first cup (i.e. Western style), I would prefer to taste it—and savor—it over many steepings.
Pu-erh - Beginning in 2014, I finally chose to dive into pu-erh! Standard parameters when I brew ripened pu-erh in my 11 OZ Yixing:
First I do a 15 – 20 second rinse with near boiling water. Then for each successive steeping I add Stevia to my 8 OZ clear-glass teacup (thus, typically not added to the teapot).
……….1st: Near boiling, 0.5’
……….2nd: Boiling , 1’
……….3rd: Boiling , 1.5’
……….4th: Boiling~(poured usually right after the previous steeping, so the teapot and water are as hot as possible)~, 2’ (if it’s the final steeping, then sometimes longer)
……….If 5th and/or more: Boiling, < If I do more than 4 steepings, I basically add 0.5’ for each. >

I hope to ‘streamline’ my reviews going forward, so, hopefully, they are a little less technical and dry (and perhaps even stilted), and a little more organic and experiential (and hopefully, flowing); this somewhat new approach to reviews is a kind of metaphor for where my life is headed right now, and is one reason why I write reviews: as a kind of time-capsule of where I was in my life at that time.

Tea Rating scale:

1 – 29: There is no reason to even think about drinking this stuff again.
30-49: I may drink it if someone else brewed it up, but I would not bother brewing it up myself let alone bother buying any.
50 – 59: I like something about it, and I may brew it up if I already have some, but I would not buy any more of it.
60 – 69: I like a few things about it, and I may buy it if the price is right.
70 – 79: This is a tea I enjoy and would drink fairly regularly as long as it is reasonably priced.
80 – 89: A tea I will drink as often as I can, and will likely try to buy some when I run out (as long as it’s affordable).
90 – 99: This has everything I look for in the best of teas: beauty in appearance, a delightful aroma, and most importantly, depth and yummy-ness in its flavor.
100: Perfect.

My primary interest is in artisan loose-leaf green tea, although I enjoy Chinese red (or Indian black) and white tea somewhat regularly (during the summer, iced ). Here and there I brew a few of the other true teas and an occasional herbal.

Since I choose to live on a very limited income (‘Voluntary Simplicity’), I have to be very conscience about how much I pay for tea. In reading their Tea Enthusiast’s books, Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss sold me on the wonders of artisan teas. Thankfully I have found that there is affordable, artisan tea out there; it’s just like anything else that has true value: it takes hard work, dedication and at least a little persistence to find it.

I came to tea out of a desire to find something to help calm and focus my mind as naturally as possible. My mind is very active, so to speak, and at times I find it very difficult to focus and keep myself centered. For years now I have been practicing Yoga daily along with others things to help me to stay relaxed and present, but I found I wanted a little something extra to help me start the day; the theanine in green tea seems to help me in this.

I have been enjoying loose-leaf tea since November of 2010.

I enjoy connecting with others about tea.

I drink Stevia with just about all of my tea (no sugar or artificial sweeteners).

I drink a pot of green tea every day in the AM (usually steeped three times over the course of the day), sharing it with my wife.

Each tea in my cupboard is carefully and colorfully labeled in a tin or in a jar that used to hold something else (I love to reuse things!) .

I have five teapots: a simple six-cup and four-cup ceramic (red/black/herbal teas), a glass Bodum – I don’t use the metal infuser/press anymore (greens), a 16 oz glass Victorian (to brew greens and whites, and to use as a pot to decant other teas into), and a Yixing (Pu-erh only).

I tend to be direct, straightforward and honest when I post anything to the discussion boards. I take the approach that everything I say is stated with the implied disclaimer: In My Humble Opinion (i.e. IMHO). I may occasionally emphasize this point, where appropriate. I view your comments in the same way. You are in no way obligated to read what I have posted. And I am in no way similarly obligated to you.

Sitting with my cup of tea I greet the day in anticipation of new discoveries along the way.

Location

Midwest, USA

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