Should Tea Companies rate their own Teas?

49 Replies
Jason admin said

Some Steepster thoughts on the situation…

First and foremost, we’ve always strived to create a place where anyone can leave a review of the teas they’re drinking and we hope people will continue to respect this. People leave different reviews for different reasons and we try our best to accommodate them all.

In regards to company ratings, we’ve always wanted and encouraged companies to interact with the people on Steepster because they are great sources for tea knowledge and help people discover new and exciting teas. At the same time we’ve always asked companies to do so in an appropriate manner that is not overly promotional. A company rating their teas all 100 could be an attempt to game the system. It could be their honest opinion of their teas. There’s no way to know for certain.

However, we’ve always asked users who work for a tea company to identify themselves as such. Their opinions are totally valid, but others should understand their perspective and how it plays into their ratings. The users who have rated the tea in question and work for the same company should identify themselves as employees of the company. Therefore they can contribute their opinion while everyone can also understand that they might be biased (as everyone would be naturally).

In this situation, we also ask the users to report a questionable situation to us ([email protected]) rather than trying to fix it on their own by skewing the rating system. I know we haven’t been very active on the site recently, so it doesn’t seem like we would have the time to address the issue, but until we can we believe it’s better to leave the situation as is instead of skewing the ratings any farther.

Eventually, we would like to make company specific accounts on Steepster so tea companies could interact with the community in the most appropriate manner. Until then, we hope that everyone can work with the flexibility of the tools provided and use them in the fair and open nature of Steepster.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly.

Cofftea said

Well said Jason!

Very well said Jason! I personally think it will be helpful to have a specific “vendor’s guideline” for the forum, because sometimes a vendor may do something without malignant intention but disturbs other people.

For example, in some other forums I belong to, having one’s store name as user ID is deemed as a away of “shameless promotion” and many people don’t like it. My ID on most forums before I entered the business was “gingko” and I tended to keep the same one after I entered the business. Then in steepster, I’ve found that people are very friendly with vendors, as long as the vendors are honest and “transparent” about their business identity. As soon as I learned of that, I switched my user ID to the current one. But I am sure many tea salespersons use non-business user ID’s not for “hiding themselves”.

I don’t rate my own teas, but I wouldn’t have realized how serious the issue could be and how much people could dislike it if there had not been some discussions about it last year. I guess, statistically speaking, when there are hundreds or thousands of people rating one tea, each person’s rating (even if including the vendor’s) is less significant. But if there are less than a few dozen people rating a tea, each person’s rating makes great influence. I believe that’s what may upsets people. That’s how I was convinced that I shouldn’t rate any tea within my business affiliations.

I am sure the last thing any vendor want to do is to offend people. So I think people’s feedbacks and administrator’s guidelines are always helpful.

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Thanks Jason.

I have adjusted my rating accordingly. I hope that the whole community can work together to have honesty and integrity so we can have helpful reviews and fun in learning about new teas.

I haven’t seen someone respond to what I noticed about this situation, but I am extremely uncomfortable with the way the company treated you. If a company were to treat me like that, that would be it, and I can assure you, they wouldn’t only loose me, they’d loose my tea friends as well. Remarks like that to a consumer are uncalled for. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.

@LissaMarie Thank you very much for pointing that out … that was my thought as well and something that I was attempting to convey in my posts on this thread. This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed some rather harsh treatment from this company. It’s quite off-putting and has certainly jaded my opinion of them.

Thanks. While I shouldn’t have changed my rating (for the reason that I did), it was unfortunate that anything like this happened in the first place. It did make me feel uncomfortable, since it felt less like a question and more like an attack. One thing that bothers me is that they insinuated I was secretly a tea company.

I completely agree with you both. And this isn’t the first time i’ve witnessed this either, @LiberTEAS. It’s sad really. But Shinobicha, you are right, the whole situation shouldn’t have happened in the first place. whatever your reasons for changing your rating are your reasons, and shouldn’t be questioned by the company. Sometimes good companies have bad teas, however, i’ve never seen a company react to consumer opinions like that before.

Cofftea said

Ditto LissaMarie!

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Marcus said

I personally do not rate my own teas. I just don’t feel right doing it.

There is another reason I don’t do it. I want to get honest feedback on my teas. It is kind of a funny thing. When you spend time creating or sourcing teas, you kind of get emotionally attached to them. And sometimes you just convince yourself that your teas is the best.

But just like anything else, sometimes it just doesn’t turn out as expected. And a lot of times it is due to reasons that are out of my control (flavorings, equipment, etc.) So Steepster acts a bit like a “police” for my company. I have actually stopped using an importer due to the inconstancy shown from the steepster reviews.

I guess this is my (long winded) way of saying that I do not think that tea companies should review their own teas.

Cofftea said

Wow Steepster does make a difference! It’s really neat that I’ve made such an important decision as discontinuing your relationship w/ an importer because of us.

Marcus said

It actually goes further than this. I actually decided to reinvent my company due to a lot of feedback I have received from steepster. Instead of hijacking this thread, I’ll post a new one and go further into this.

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teatoad said

i think you should not be voting for your own teas.

Of course you want your teas to be rated high. but if your tea is any good you would not have to rate them. I come to this site to see what other people are drinking and like. I always throw out the highest rating and lowest ratings. As a user I am aware that i need to look at all of the reviews of the tea and not just the rating. Also I look to see what else those people have reviewed/rated. I think it was 2 weeks ago when some other company did the same thing. They had all of the people in there company vote their to to get the ratings higher.

Maybe there should be a page of advertisements or new “upcoming” teas to the site. This way a company can promote themselves on steepster without effecting the ratings. That is also why i like “steepster select” i think it is a good way to promote a company/tea.

I just think if your tea is good. It will sell itself. ( when talking about ratings)

Cofftea said

I personally disagree w/ your 2nd paragraph. Steepster Select is a great advertisement… but that is not how I see it 1st and formost. I think that is the extent of the advertisement that should take place here. Advertising is all over the internet and I can go pretty much anywhere to see a tea advertisement (even my hotmail inbox page has them).

teatoad said

I like “Select”. I am not saying i would want advertisements over the site. I would HATE that. Maybe advertisements was not the correct word. but there are over 2,000 tea companies on this site. but it would be nice to explore things from companies you would not search for and find other companies. Those companies need to promote themselves the tea community somehow. By boosting the rating that is a form of promoting (not a good one).

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Cofftea said

I also think a company reviewing their own teas (even if you support companies doing so if done w/ integirity as I do) is different than indviduals rating their own teas. There are lots of sites (Adagio, Design a Tea) that allow you to blend your own teas w/o being able to trouble shoot 1st… I think it’s actually kind of fun to see the trial and error process of the blending (Jaime I know has done this) and what score the creator would give it regardless of if you get compensation (i.e. points from Adagio, Etsy seller, etc).

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Spot52 select said

I do not care if a company rates their own tea, the ratings do very little for me anyways.

Cofftea said

I agree- I tend to like teas that are low rated and not understand why some teas highly rated are so… infact I’m more intrigued by a low rating than a high one lol. Although it still bugs me when a company gives all their teas 100s.

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Getting a STRONG sense of deja vu here.

Months ago (a year ago?) we had this same discussion. I had been rating our teas (typically 100, because if I don’t believe the tea is a 100, I won’t offer it. That’s just the way I feel. And besides, how silly would it be for me to rate a tea less than 100? “Here’s this fantastic tea I created, but well, no, it’s not as good as it could be…”? No, that would be plain stupid in my opinion.

But after a heated debate, much like this one, I decided that the best thing for us is to create the teas and let our customers determine what rating it should have. Steepster has been great for us as a tool to reach out to and expand our customer base, but I don’t think it’s my place (or, frankly, any tea company’s place) to offer a rating on any of their own products. I would rather let our customers rate our teas and let the teas speak for themselves.

So, I removed ALL of my ratings, even though this hurt some of my scores when compared with some of my competitors who WERE rating their own teas. But I think this is the only fair way to do it. I have not rated any of our teas since… well, except for the Tuna Melt tea, which was a joke.

Again, I did rate my own teas in the beginning, but after really thinking about it, I’m convinced that the right thing to do is to let the customers rate the teas. Anything less is exploitative.

Cofftea said

Yay for integrity;) I’d like to see your ratings during the trial and error process… who knows, we may even see flavor combos that never make it to us:)

Thanks! Yours is one of the companies I’ve known I can trust for unbiased reviews on the teas, and they all sound really good (at least, according to all of your real customers!).

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Ellen said

What does everyone think of the 5-6 East Pacific Tea Co. teas now some of the highest ranked teas…

I have noticed that the top teas have been changing drastically thru out the day today! I have also noticed a few wonky things on Steepster thru Out the day today. I mentioned it to Jason and he said they are looking into a few things…I am not sure if this specific item is one they are looking into tho.

Having said that…here are some things that I noticed with this tea company…

Blue Mist has been tasted by 1 person 6 times at 100 percent
Bengal Beauty has had 3 tasters 8 times at different percentages two of the tasters were LiberTEAs and myself.
Gold Flake had 2 tasters with 7 tasting notes…those two tasters were LiberTEAs and myself
The teas above I really think are legit.
The ones below I’m confused by ONLY because there are NO comments, tasters showing up, or ratings for them but they are rated higher…
Citrus Smile – no notes but 6 tastes
Cool Caramel – no notes but 4 tastes
Crimson Caramel – no notes but 4 tastes
Misty Mint – no notes but 3 tastes
I’m not saying those aren’t legit – I’m just saying I’m confused about them because there isn’t more detail info about the tasters, persay.
Having said that – I haven’t seen any random people with accounts and only rating high on those teas so I don’t personally think there is any funny business with them…

Like I said tho…that TEAS list and high rating page has been changing A LOT more than usual throughout the day today…just something I noticed…

I just noticed this too. Looks a bit fishy to me. I see a lot of unsigned ratings. @Jason, this is why I think ratings should be attached to a user. I understand you don’t want users to feel like they have to write a tasting note for each tea rated, and I’m not arguing with that, but maybe each rating could create a simple tasting note that just says, “So-and-so just rated this tea X.” That way when we look at a tea, we can see the tasting notes and the ratings and who rated them. I think not having your account associated with your ratings is opening the door for subterfuge.

Lori said

I noticed that as well….fishy!

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I did not realize this was such a touchy subject. We like this site (also like teaviews and a few others) and appreciate all the promotion we receive. Social media is a valuable tool to help us find new customers and engage them. We promote this site in our store. We sample 5 different tea each day and if someone says they really like it we suggest they share their comments with the virtual world. Perhaps that is why there are some reviewers that only review our teas. We have laptops in the store that people can log on and share their joy at finding a tea they love. I think is a great way to introduce many of our customers to others with similar interests.

We value feedback. We have been in business for nearly eight years and are always looking to improve our business. I think our teas and customer service are second to none. But then again that is why I started this business to provide the absolute finest tea and tea ware and the finest service. I know we are not for everyone and we do not try to be…but if a customer gives us a low rating or gives us criticism I always want to try to find out why and try to improve on that. That is why I contacted Shinobicha as perhaps the sample she got was stale (not from us of course but if someone did not properly store — or in this case stored in near olives!). I was going to offer to send her a new sample at no charge or if she purchased this from us ask her if she wanted a different tea as this one was not to her liking. Imagine my surprise when she candidly told me she had graded our tea out of spite.

We are in business to sell tea. That that comes as a shock to some readers is a hoot. I just cannot understand comments like “You’re just out to sell tea” Like we are selling children into white slavery or something. But at the same time we guard our reputation very closely. I travel the world to find most of the teas we sell…and we are proud of what we offer.

Thank you for your understanding and a chance to let our voice get out there.

And Shinobicha if there is there is another tea that you would like to sample you can contact us directly and we are more than happy to send you another that might be more to your liking at no charge. I see you prefer green tea — we have a number but I might suggest our Honyama Sencha or our Winter Plucked Bao Zhong Oolong

To be honest, this tea is just fine, I’m not upset about my experience with it. I am more concerned with the way my rating was questioned (numerically) and the way my actual notes were challenged. However, after talking some more with Coftea, I changed my rating to truly reflect my impressions.

I appreciate the offer for a sample. However, I think what would be most fair is if you were to remove your own numerical rating from your teas. Please, by all means, leave tasting notes, suggested steeping times, and things you have heard customers say about your teas, etc.
Obviously, you can do whatever you like with this suggestion, but to me, that is what would feel like a move that shows you trust your customers to rate your teas, and that if they are among the best in the world, they won’t need a numerical boost from you or anyone in the company to show up on the first page of Steepster as being among the best and highest rated.

I only care about seeing that the teas are rated honestly and accurately. And I know that by changing my rating to where I felt it was by my impressions (rather than allowing my belief that companies shouldn’t give a # to their own teas to affect my rating), I have done all I can do to contribute to that end.

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Jason admin said

I’ll mention this so everyone understands how the system works…

Each user can only rate a tea once. We made it this way because we wanted a user to have an overall rating for a tea rather than a rating for each individual time they tried it (which could be affected by a number of factors). We thought this would be the best way to get an “absolute” rating from each user.

In situations where you see fewer tasting notes than ratings, that is not because a user has added multiple ratings for the same tea. That is because people can rate a tea without leaving a tasting note. Therefore, the system can’t be skewed by a single user.

For those who are wondering why we changed Steepster so people could rate teas without leaving a tasting note, it’s because we wanted to lower the barrier for people to add ratings. If people have to add a tasting note in order to add a rating, many might not do it. By getting more ratings, this helps users who are not as familiar with teas and are doing a quick browse based on rating.

Thank you Jason for that explanation.

While I don’t really have a problem with people being able to rate a tea without leaving a tasting note, but, what I would like to see different is the anonymous rating as this can also enable skewed ratings. I would like to be able to see who has rated the tea even if they chose not to leave a tasting note.

Jason admin said

Yea, that totally makes sense. The reason we hid that initially is because we didn’t want to overwhelm a person’s tealog or the tea page with blank tasting notes that just had a rating…because right now the way the system is built they can’t exist separately. So, instead of having a bunch of tasting notes that said “No notes yet” we just hid those from view (they are tracked in the system as a tasting note without any content). That’s just an explanation of the process that led us to the current setup.

But this situation brings up the point that there should be more transparency and accountability when people are giving their opinion on teas. There are other ways we could handle the ratings that don’t have tasting notes and it’s something we’ll look into.

Yay Jason! That’s what I’ve been trying to say. I don’t care if they leave a tasting note or not. I just want to know who rated the teas.

Speaking of which, have you had a chance to look into the East Pacific Tea Company? I find it a bit suspicious that they have 6 of the top 9 teas right now, mostly from unsigned ratings (and this is why I think it’s important that ratings be transparent).

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