I've noticed several tea sellers have closed their online shops in the past couple of years. Why?

Several have closed for personal reasons (like the recent news of Min River Tea), but I’m curious why else others may decide to close up shop.

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The trouble I find with tea is that it’s very difficult to make a living selling it. Most people run companies because they are passionate but need to maintain day jobs as well. People can only juggle so much before they have to prioritize. There is also the issue of being passionate but lacking the business acumen to become successful. It also very hard to do well outside of big cities like NYC, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle etc. Much of the US just isn’t ready for tea that isn’t from Lipton yet.

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Yeah, I think that Nicole is right. It’s a difficult undertaking.

And … somebody kick me but I’m probably going to be getting back into it. This time, though, I’ve got a business partner!

Ubacat said

Ooooh, looking forward to hearing more about it!

Me too!!

LiberTEAS-Best of wishes in your new undertaking! :)

looseTman said

LiberTEAS – Congratulations! That’s excellent news! I’m sure you’ll have many Steepster friends (myself included) who are eager to see your new website!

Uniquity said

Interesting! I joined Steepster shortly after you stopped blending, and I remember many discussions about your apparently infamous caramel blend. Is that right? Hmm…

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…. plus world wide recession and saturated market (at least here in EU)..

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LuckyMe said

Ditto Nicole. Additionally, it’s difficult for small online shops to compete with bigger tea retailers. You also have a very niche clientele. I imagine it’s mostly hardcore tea enthusiasts like us who buy from online tea shops. Most casual tea drinkers prefer brick and mortar stores like Teavana or more established online tea shops

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I wouldn’t guess it’s anymore than normal. Keep in mind that over half of new businesses fail within the first 5 years and there are always new tea companies popping up.

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It is a crazy difficult undertaking. I’m just way more stubborn than most people—or way more stupid… I’m not sure which.

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twb0392 said

because there are too many tea sellers online trying to sell tea.

ifjuly said

Kind of agree with this. The online market feels hella oversaturated to me given realistic estimates of how much a single enthusiast can reasonably consume (esp. since tea is relatively shelf stable compared to something like coffee, so it’s possible to buy a large amount from someone online and then not give them any further business for a year or more, esp. if said individual buys from multiple vendors—tea vendors can’t count on regular, even-keeled amounts of cash flow from loyal customers the way one might with something more immediately consumable).

This is not to say there aren’t new niche markets/ways to offer tea online to be discovered by someone with savvy and talent, mind—but the fact the same kind of generalized emporium-style vendor sites, with the same blends and same straight styles—abound online (sometimes even with literally the same tea and tea blends just repackaged/named!) indicates most straightforward online tea vending is oversaturated. It’s hard to distinguish your product from the millions of others vying for attention or a chance even. And it might be easier to get into despite this fact because a) tea seems like a labor of love type thing as mentioned upthread b) you’re not dealing with certain issues/hurdles to get started as much compared to other vendors of consumables like wine, meltable food, food/drinks that spoil without refrigeration, etc., so it feels worth a shot, easier to at least try than other things. That’s just my two cents though.

Nicole said

Good points but also bear in mind that those of us on Steepster are lucky to be in an environment where we are exposed to what seem like tons of online tea retailers. It’s like politics, in a way. If you are involved with it, it seems pervasive and you tend to assume that everyone else is paying as much attention as you are. In reality, you are a niche. :) and with high quality, expensive tea, you are a niche within a niche. :)

But yes, I feel bad when I hear about retailers having troubles and I can’t justify buying more right then. I have so many options due to hearing about them here on Steepster that I just can’t Buy. All. The. Tea. :)

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