Doug F said

Steepster as marketing site.

I’m very new to steepster and although I’m thrilled to find such a great forum to share tea experiences, there are a couple things that have turned me off a bit. First, I’ve found that people who work for various tea companies or purveyors habitually offer slavish reviews of their teas and give ratings that artificially inflate their worth. I would like to see an upfront disclaimer by these people so that we can place their comments in context. Secondly, I’m surprised to see such a heavy stress on highly flavored teas and Tisanes. To me, flavored teas are confections that use tea as an ingredient. Would you take the finest wines, scotches or caviar and bury them with pedestrian condiments? I would like to follow people who like to experience the best unadulterated teas on the planet and know where to find them.

87 Replies
Dinosara said

While many people will agree with you on the first part of your post, I’m afraid you will likely offend a great many others with the second part.

The great thing about Steepster is that you are free to follow any members that you like, and I know there are definitely those who share your views on flavored teas. But you might want to refrain from belittling the things that others love. Some people like fine scotch, and some like artfully, meticulously crafted cocktails; neither has inherantly more worth than the other.

And welcome to Steepster, I hope you find it to be a useful and amazing community like so many of us have.

Sara said

Well said, Dinosara, your scotch vs. cocktails comparison is right on. Makes me laugh especially considering I best prefer tasty dessert cocktails when I go out, and tasty dessert teas when I stay in. Though I begrudge no one their red wine and darjeeling preferences. Silly to judge people over their taste in tea.

Angrboda said

Completely agree, Dinosara.

Oh it is to perfectly acceptable to judge people by what they drink :P

Oh boy. I did believe this was a site for tea lovers ie lovers of tea in all shapes and forms, not strictly unadulterated tea snobs. I keep seeing things here and there with an arrogant, judgemental feel and it’s starting to push me away from this website. It just annoys me and makes me laugh. Sigh. Alas I’m just a confection loving amateur, and that is what I always will be. Woe is me.

Doug F said

Okay Ashley, let me try to clarify again. I don’t mean to offend you. It IS easy to like these kinds of teas, just as it is easy to like the song “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey. I just don’t consider them great teas that need to be reviewed in any great detail. They satisy on a gut level as does a good pop song. We don’t need a treatise on a journey song like we do on a Beethoven sonata. Great teas add to the value of our culture in an important way and I feel it is totally warranted to spend more time discussing a hand made oolong that craftspeople have labored to create rather than a mediocre tea that has chocolate and cashews added to it.

I guess I look at life completely different than you do. I just want people to be happy. I don’t like to compare things or place things higher than one another. I appreciate the goodness in all things created from passion. Journey and Beethoven bring happiness to people in different ways, and you can love them both. I wouldn’t look down on someone for picking Journey over Beethoven. It just doesn’t matter to me. I enjoy what I love, and I love when other people enjoy things. And that’s enough for me. I do what I love, and I never have an urge to look down on someone to prop myself up on a pedestal. To me everything is equally important.

Angrboda said

I just don’t consider them great teas that need to be reviewed in any great detail.

Therefore we shouldn’t want to write about them? I’m sorry, your logic completely escapes me.

I shall instead give the word to Steepster Admins and their discussion board guidelines,
5) Respect the tastes of your fellow Steepster members. Every one has their own way of preparing and enjoying tea and that’s what makes this place interesting. Share your opinion, but don’t force it on others.

Doug F said

I love a lot of different things too, both silly and serious. That’s my point. But I feel it is absolutely necessary to compare things in life. We do it every day in order to find the best way to live, act raise our children, etc. I believe progress comes from making comparisons. I don’t make critical judgments to prop myself up on a pedestal. You can love both Journey and Beethoven, but let’s not kid ourselves that in the scheme of things one is more valuable to society than the other, apart from the personal joy it might bring. You seem to misunderstand that I’m not looking down on people, I’m making a critical judgment about an object.

We are very different. But that’s the beauty of humans.

Doug F said

Angrboda, I thought that was what I was doing-sharing my opinion. You can write whatever you want. it seems like you are the one suggesting speech-control. Going to the Steepster Admins because you don’t like my opinion about flavored teas. Really?

Angrboda said

But somehow these things of lesser value (to YOU ) may not be compared to one another?

Look, it’s totally fine that you don’t find as much enjoyment in something, be it pop music or flavoured tea or pink undies or this or that tv-show. We get that.

But if you openly make value judgement on something, you are also doing so on the people who love it. You may not intend to, but you are putting yourself and your own values on a pedestal, proclaiming them to be universal. Or at least that they, in your opinion, should be universal.

But they are not. No matter how much you may want them to be, they just aren’t. They never will be. They can’t be, because people are different and different people like different things and have different values.

If you want to make your comparisons according to your own values, go forth and review the teas that you like, follow the people who have similar taste, don’t follow those who don’t. But please don’t come here and tell everybody else that their preferences are worth less than yours.

People’s tastes are individual. It’s not something that really can be compared.

Please be aware that we are not saying that you are not allowed to have this opinion. We are merely saying that many do not share it, and that you are not making friends with the way you phrased your opinion.

Angrboda said

Er, I’m quoting the board guidelines, buddy. You know, the rules? The ones that people should follow?

I’m sharing my opinion in response to your opinion. Is this speech control?

Doug F said

I love pop music and television. And why has Western culture “evolved” to the extent that people have to take critques of things they like personally, as if they too are being criticized? I love Bob Dylan, but when people tell me he has a terrible voice and hate his music, I don’t feel personally assaulted. There are plenty off unfavorable reviews of teas I love on this site. Am I to feel hurt because of it?

Exactly, Angrboda. Exactly.

Doug F said

I misunderstood you’re phrase “I shall instead give the word to Steepster admins.” It sounded like you were going to contact the Admins, but I now see what you meant.


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Doug F said

You are correct. They are totally discrete entities. I simply feel that with some of these highly dressed up teas, the actual tea leaf is beside the point. I also feel that people who are new to loose leaf tea are being done a dis-service because so many tea companies have popped up that are willing to make tea more palatable to people when, if given the chance, these people might really enjoy the incredible flavors inherent in top quality teas. I wouldn’t go to a wine afficianado’s site and expect to see the majority of reviews about sangria and wine spritzers. Case in point is a review of a Sencha from Upton that is a very good example of it’s type, yet the reviewer (who favors flavored teas) gave the tea a rating of 1. If I am to be sensitive to the flavored tea crowd, then I think they have a responsibility to not belittle teas they have no interest in. I would never review a chocolate truffle black tea because I wouldn’t want my review to influence those who might like the tea. And, it is unpopular in our PC world to say so, but I think that yes, some things have inherently more worth than others.

Angrboda said

I’m sorry if this is harsh, but people like different things. That person didn’t like the Sencha. Maybe they had never tried it before and therefore didn’t know they didn’t like it. Maybe they just didn’t like Sencha in the same way that I think celery is one of the most vile substances on the planet. Not only do people like different things, but they also rate according to what they, personally, like. So if you don’t agree with someone’s rating of someone, I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with it. Does it not also skew the rating system if the lowest fifth of the rating scale is not allowed to be used in praxis?

Fact is, tea is sold in flavoured and unflavoured varieties. It has been for ages. Remember that one of the very most classic teas out there, Earl Grey himself, is a flavoured tea. Some people are more interested in the unflavoured stuff, the base flavour profiles for the entire tea culture. That’s fine. Some people like the flavoured teas, to see how the base tea flavour can work with the added flavour, or they just like that particular added flavour. If someone liked an orange flavoured tea, for example, would you tell them to go drink a cup of boiling orange juice instead? Not really the same thing, is it? Some people like both varieties, and even more people find the flavoured teas a place to start when first going beyond the average supermarket brand teabag. Personally, I like both. I know of an orange flavoured pu-erh, for example, that is excellent because I think those two flavours really compliment each other. Think of it a bit like seasoning a tomato sauce. Sometimes you just want to use one herb in it. Other times you want a mixture of three.

Besides, it’s not like tea doesn’t come flavoured in and from the producing areas. Think of Sencha sakura, think of chai, think of jasmine…

I can totally see how, for someone like you who seem to be part of the more experienced group in the community and who takes a more basic and …what’s the word I’m looking for here? Someone who likes to know where things come from and prefer things done properly from the bottom up rather than average industrialised conveninece. What’s that called? Anyway, whatever the word is, I’m under the impression that you like this sort of approach to your tea, yes? I can totally understand how, based on this, you can get frustrated that others don’t have the same values as they are obviously important to you. But people are different, and there just isn’t anything to be done about it.

(As for your example of whisky in the original post, did you know that many scotch whiskys have caramel added for colour enhancement? Did you also know that distilleries play with different casks to get certain flavours out in the whisky. Sherry casks, for example, my father tells me, and he knows just about everything worth knowing on the subject, are quite popular. Bourbon also, but rather cheaper than sherry casks. Be careful of the questions you ask him, however, as he will literally launch into lecturing mode, and the fact that he obviously lost you at some point within the first paragraph will not stop him.)

Sorry, this got way longer than I anticipated… o.O

You were looking for the word snob weren’t you, its ok, I’m not offen … sob, sob … offended. ;)

Angrboda said

Actually no, silly. :p I’ve got it right on the tip of my tongue. It’s one of those ends in -ist words, I think. Disturbingly, I can’t even think of what I would call it in Danish. If only I could, I could look it up. Oh well.

“If I am to be sensitive to the flavored tea crowd, then I think they have a responsibility to not belittle teas they have no interest in.”

Do you know this person, and their interests? Their intentions may have not been to belittle but just their honest opinion, and on this site you have no authority to judge and tell people what they can and can’t do and how and what they can and cannot rate. This doesn’t seem like the kind of website you’re looking for, so why not just keep looking for those that you’d be more happy participating in instead of you yourself belittling this website?

Doug F said

Ouch! And yet you are judging me for not liking flavored teas. All I am saying is that I am not the only judgmental person on this site. Her review was dismissive and unserious. And thanks for the suggestion, but I really like Steepster. I think I’ll stick around.

I am not judging you for not liking flavored teas. You have the right to like what you want, however by the rules of this website you don’t have the right to be rude and judgmental in a mean spirit, and that is how you’ve come across, which is why members immediately noted that you would offend many.

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Triumph, I totally agree with your first point about vendors shouldn’t rate their own teas, and I think the web masters have added it to the official forum policies.

As for your second point about flavored tea – I rarely drink flavor tea and never drink flavored tea that is not scented with real botanic materials. However, I don’t think we should tell other people what to drink. I wouldn’t like to hear people telling me I should switch, for example, from green tea to puerh that they think better. By the same token, I don’t think flavored tea lovers would like other people to tell them their tea is not as good as pure tea.

Derived from your second point, I do think it might be a good idea to put black tea and flavored black tea in two different categories in the tea listing page, oolong and flavored oolong in two different categories, etc.

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Doug F said

That is a good idea, Gingko, though I’m not telling people what to drink, I’m just registering surprise that flavored teas comprise such a huge portion of the reviews. Of course people are free to enjoy what they want.

“To me, flavored teas are confections that use tea as an ingredient. Would you take the finest wines, scotches or caviar and bury them with pedestrian condiments? I would like to follow people who like to experience the best unadulterated teas on the planet and know where to find them.”

If you believe people are free to enjoy what they want, how about not looking down on them or putting them down for doing so?
I read in your profile you don’t like to come off as a snob, this isn’t proving point.

Triumph, I do have some sympathy about your view of which tea is better than which. But once we start to compare and rank like this, it will become harder and harder to dicern what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate. For example, if someone says a high quality sencha is better than a flavored green, you will probably agree and some others may not agree. Then, if someone says, gyokuro is better than fukamushi, or longjing is better than maofeng, would you still agree? If someone says, aged gyokuro is better than a fresh one, would you still agree? If this continues, we will surely reach a point that everybody has a schema of comparison and ranking that nobody else would agree with.

I think it’s human nature to have differentiated mind. Everyone has an agenda in mind what’s better than what. But differentiated mind is basically source of all conflicts in the world, so it doesn’t harm to try to have a bit less of it :-p

Doug F said

I do yoga and study Hinduism and Buddhism so I agree with you about the differentiated mind. I probably would not make try to claim that a gyokuro is better than a longjing, just as I wouldn’t claim that Tolstoy is better than Faulkner. But Tolstoy is better than Robert Ludlum.

I was going to stay out of this discussion, but I find myself being sucked in. To say that Tolstoy is better than Robert Ludlum is faint praise, Triumph! Come now! That’s like saying Jane Austen is better than Danielle Steel.

For what it’s worth, I like Tolstoy better than Faulkner. I would much rather curl up with a cup of tea and a good translation of “Anna Karenina” than a copy of “The Sound and the Fury,” or even “As I Lay Dying.”

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Spot52 select said

One of the reasons I like this community is the lack of judgment about tea preference. There are plenty of snooty sites that have that air of snobbery. But there are different communities for different people. Different strokes for different folks.

On a side note, there are some flavored teas that are standards. Earl Grey is one tea that is flavored and beloved by many. I prefer to rate them on the quality of their ingredients.


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SimplyJenW said

I agree with you on the first part…..vendors rating their own teas is a turn-off. However, I do like reading back story on where it came from, or how it is processed, etc.

I do agree that the rating system is not perfect. I have read somewhere that the powers in charge here do have things adjusted by some kind of algorithm to try and adjust the numbers make more sense. I generally read well beyond the numbers if it is a tea that I am researching. I see it that the information is here, and it is up to me to interpret it, even though it might not be in the most convenient form.

I have to agree with what Dinosara said that you will offend a great many with the second part of your post. Tea means many things to different people, and there are many paths to its enjoyment.

Anyway, welcome to Steepster. It is what we make it.

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Wow, I like to to the one that offends and works people up but Triumph I think you’ve out done me. First off let me say that I pretty much agree with you, both points even.

For your first point I think everyone (minus some dense tea distributors) recognize that retailers should not rate their own tea. It screws with the ratings and is quite unprofessional.

As far as your second thought goes I agree with you completely, I rarely will every drink a flavored tea and on occasion tisane. And when you find a community of tea connoisseurs you would expect to find mostly fine teas. However this is not a community of tea connoisseurs, this is a community about all things tea. If your looking for a community of people who only like the finest teas, then this is not the place. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of people who know their stuff and are quite knowledgeable. But this is a friendly and open community and most all are welcome no matter their tea preference.

Ok now I’m going to paint a big target on my back, but I think this discussion has become more heated than it deserves. Triumph didn’t say that people shouldn’t drink flavored teas or tisanes, merely that he was surprised that this was the majority of the reviews, when I first showed up so was I. I thought Steepster would be more tailored to aficionados who loved only this finest teas. After hanging around for a bit I have realized that’s not what this site is about. But it is something equally beautiful, all are welcome, no viewpoints (with the rare exceptions) are shunned and everyone is encouraged to get involved no matter what their tea preference is.

I think we all recognize that all teas have their place, I for one would not be a big fan of drinking the quality of tea that they use in flavored teas without the flavor. Plus flavored teas appeal to many which encourages more tea drinkers, which gives more attention to tea, which helps demand higher quality teas so really we all depend on each other and we all have a place. And flavored teas have brought many people into the world of tea that otherwise never would have been. Plus I rather like flavored ice teas for I think it is a shame to ruin fine leaves on ice tea. ( If anyone criticizes this I will make some rather nasty claims in regard to your character :P)

So is it surprising that many reviews are of flavored teas? Yes. Is it without merit? No. Stick around you will find some that share your viewpoints and others that never will. Which is why Steepster is such a wonderful place.

Angrboda said

And when you find a community of tea connoisseurs you would expect to find mostly fine teas. However this is not a community of tea connoisseurs, this is a community about all things tea

Excellent point, well made.

Well said. I appreciate your bluntness as you equally speak with humbleness and respect.

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Doug F said

I’m grateful that there is a place to share ideas about tea and I thank Seattle for understanding my position. I’m really not a tea elitist—a 5 dollar tin of good Ceylon will make me happy. I just happen to believe that highly flavored teas are more like hot dessert drinks that use an average tea as a base and as such are like a mixed drinks that use an average vodka as a base. They are simply in a different category of libation. I guess I’m just interested in tea as the focal point not a drink where tea is one of the (heavily masked) flavors.

Not all flavored teas use an average tea base. If you don’t drink a lot of flavored teas then you probably wouldn’t be able to make said assumption. Yes, there ARE many flavored teas with mediocre tea bases. But some blenders look at it as an art and meticulously craft their blends from start to finish and they have the ability create highly enjoyable teas, which yes, are very different from pure unadulterated teas, but still enjoyable nonetheless to many, even those who TOO enjoy high quality unadulterated blends. There are no rules that you can’t enjoy unadultered teas and flavored blends alike.

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Flavored teas are the gateway into tea for many people. AND, you gotta love the Earl!

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Doug F said

I agree that Earl Grey and jasmine scented greens are part of the Pantheon of fine teas, but Pancake Breakfast?

SimplyJenW said

I feel that there are more flavored teas on this website, because the sky is the limit on what can be blended with the same base tea to have differing results in taste. There are also many vendors who get their tea from the same wholesaler and don’t mention where the tea originated. I am sure many of the flavored teas in the database are duplicates. I am actually more frustrated with repackagers who don’t add anything to the product and don’t disclose its origin.

As for the Pancake Breakfast…. I have it and it is very good. I appreciate the creativity of that vendor, and he rarely if ever rates his teas. I admire the way he is able to think outside of the box and come up with a unique flavor blend for every week of the year. He has a niche market, and does what he does very well. And he is an honest businessman with great customer service.

The appreciation of tea is a journey. I will admit to no longer appreciating many of the teas I liked in the beginning. However, some of the flavored ones are exceptional, and they have their place in my cupboard, as well as the cupboards of many.

Angrboda said

I wonder, when EG and jasmine scenting was first invented, how many found that utterly bizarre… Give it 300 years and Pancake Breakfast may have turned into a classic.

Why is some form of flavouring better or more acceptable just because they’ve been done longer?

Inquiring minds wants to know.

So sad I missed Pancake Breakfast, at least Cashew Turtle is on it’s way :D (10 left!)

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