Steepster as marketing site.

87 Replies
Doug F said

Thanks OolongLily, I’ve been following your method and I’ve found a lot of interesting commentary on teas I’ve tried. I really didn’t anticipate the reaction I got from my post. Maybe the word “pedestrian” hit a nerve.

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I try not to get involved in some of the more heated conversations here, but since it seems several of our teas were at the heart of the discussion here, I have to add my two-cents—and that’s all it is. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. It’s not my fault that mine is the only one that is correct. =)

Just kidding of course.

Anyway, I would just like to state for the record that while many of the mass produced flavored teas do use some inferior base teas and what I would consider “pedestrian” flavors, I built 52teas on the premise that we would use the best of everything.

We could save a lot of money using cheap black teas from China or Vietnam or Argentina like some of our competitors use. We could also contract with the big flavor houses that make cheap flavors by the barrel. But we don’t. We use premium teas for all of our blends. We have made blends with Assam tea, Nilgiri tea, Japanese genmaica, Yunan, lapsang souchoung, bai mu dan, shou mei, ti kwan yin and others from fine estates all over the world.

This probably won’t earn me any points with the purists who are surely thinking this is a waste of good tea, but I don’t think so. Would you tell a Chef that any ingredient available to him is too good to be paired with something else? That it must stand alone or not be served?

I honestly look at what I do as an art form. I love trying to create new flavors that excite the imagination. Nobody else makes a pancake breakfast tea or a maple bacon tea. Maybe the idea of them is weird to some people, but others are enjoying them immensely.

I can’t tell you how many customers I have who tell me they are on strict diets and can’t have sweets, but they can enjoy our teas and the hint of something sweet and dessert like gets them through the day. It makes me proud.

Somebody here on Steepster the other day called me “the Willy Wonka of tea”. I almost cried. I’m sure I’m going to have to put that on my business cards next time I have some made.

We’re not a big outfit, raking in tons of money. Honestly, if I weren’t so passionate about what I do, I would have given this up a long time ago. But I love that our teas make people happy. And if something makes someone happy I don’t think it’s anyone else’s place to belittle the source of their joy.

Incidentally, I quite agree with the not rating your own teas thing. The ONLY tea of mine that I actually rated was the April Fool’s Tuna Melt Tea, though I know other companies rate their own teas and I know they sometimes try to rate our teas LOWER. I’m very pleased to be able to say we have some of the highest rated teas on Steepster and it is through absolutely NOTHING that I’ve had any hand it (except, of course, creating awesome teas.)

Anyway, Triumph, I would sincerely invite you to visit our website and pick one of the least objectionable flavored teas of ours to try out. You might actually be surprised. =)

Angrboda said

Purist!!! That’s the word I couldn’t remember earlier! Thank you!

LOL. Glad I could unintentionally help. By the way, I love your idea that in 300 years Pancake Breakfast could be as popular as Earl Grey. LOL. Maybe I should patent it now. =)

Aw, Frank. This almost made me cry. I admire your passion so much.
Your teas have cheered me up immensely, especially lately with all the recent surgeries and pain I’ve been going through. And your drive and determination in starting your own company has re-inspired me to follow through with my passions.
I just get a bit protective and big mouthed. I’m a little grenade when set off.

I love what Frank wrote:
“Everyone is entitled to an opinion. It’s not my fault that mine is the only one that is correct. =)”
As Spock would say: this only seems logical. LOL!!
Frank, I do really love your teas. They have helped me through many a day when sweets were not on the menu. You really have taken flavored teas to a new destination and I thank you.

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Doug F said

I admire your dedication to your craft and applaud your use of high quality teas in your creations. If I was flippant while refering to your products, I’m sorry. It wasn’t a criticism of the drink itself—maybe just a slight frustration that I wasn’t immediately finding as many reviews of artisan teas themselves. I only hope that some of your satisfied customers realize that many of the flavors they like can be discovered in lovingly grown teas that reflect the terroir in which they grow. It was a revelation to me the first time I drank the best golden Yunnan and tasted the creamy cocoa taste, or tried a first flush darjeeling and felt the dizzying perfume of the muscatel notes. And yes, I would be happy to check out your site and look for a tea to try. I’ll let you know what I think.

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Jason admin said
Message deleted by author.

You’re WRONG, Jason. You’re just wrong! I can’t believe you would want to encourage an environment where all individuals are respected! Just who do you think you are? Some sort of Steepster Overlord?!?!?

Just kidding, of course. Nice to know the powers-that-be are still keeping a watchful eye on us. :)

Seeing Jason post on here cracks me up.

Thank you Shredder for clearing this us. Shredder the peacemaker!

Jason admin said

@Erin Hurley: I always forget about my avatar :) but I like to think Shredder is just expressing his opinion about something located to his right. Maybe I should change it so people can see what I actually look like?

Don’t tell me a picture of Donatello? Hehe just kidding. :)

Jason admin said

Oops, accidentally deleted my own post :/

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Doug F said

Thanks Jason, I’m loving steepster, so I’m grateful to you for starting it. Unfortunately I’m spending way too much time here instead of working. Just to wrap up my position once again, judgment is an integral part of steepster; reading the reviews of teas reveals many harsh criticisms that could easily hurt the feelings of those who sell, blend, grow, or otherwise have a hand in bringing those teas to market and had I confined my lack of interest in flavored teas to individual reviews, noone would have ever noticed. Because I made more of sweeping generalization about a class of teas that I don’t generally drink, having become entranced by the unadorned flavors of the tea itself, I hurt some feelings. I think you’ll find that all my reviews are pretty positive—if I come across a tea I really don’t like I’m more likely to not review it at all. I recently came across a review of a Castleton Estate darjeeling, second flush—most tea drinkers would objectively say this is a very good tea, one of the best darjeelings in fact. The reviewer gave it a grade in the 40s and said it was creepily smooth and admitted she doesn’t like darjeelings. So before I get singled out, let’s realize that there are a lot of snarky reviews on this site—no one should take them personally.

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Katiek said

I’ve been reading for a bit, but this is my first post – so hi! I’m a real tea newbie. For most of my life, I could count the cups of tea I had on one hand. But I was trying to drink less artificially sweetened beverages, so I decided to give iced tea another try. I started with some lemon flavored tea bags at the grocery store, and then started to explore.

It wasn’t long until I was checking online sites for loose teas and asking for recommendations, but it was definitely easier for me to start with flavored teas – in part because I know what some of those tastes are and also because it’s closer to what I’m used to. Now my cabinets are filling up with all sorts of various teas and I’m finding some I like and some I don’t, and discovering my preferences.

If someone is a “pure tea” fan, I hope they’ll take the time to post and describe what they like and why. I may be intrigued enough to try it and see if it goes on my “like” list. A lot of the teas I’ve tried so far are from recommendations and posts that people have made here and in other places. I’m open to learning about all sorts of different teas and I’m sure my tastes will evolve. They may never evolve beyond flavored teas, and if that’s the case, I’m fine with that. Or maybe I’ll explore other things and see I like them as much or more. I’ve already been pleasantly surprised by the huge variety included in the umbrella of “tea”.

I do appreciate the open, non-judgemental environment here. I don’t mind if people are passionate about their own tastes and preferences, but if I felt people were mocking my uninformed beginnings in the tea world, I’d be much less likely to stick around and maybe learn something.

Is there a local tea-house in your area? If you’re looking to venture into more traditional or “pure” teas, I’d recommend visiting a tea house where you can talk with someone about your preferences. If you can tell them about the flavored teas you already know you like, they can make suggestions for you.
Some tea houses even offer classes and tea tastings. Those are can be really fun, and since they’re usually tasting things in a series (IE: 8 Indian blacks, Green teas from China and Japan, All about Oolongs), you’ll be able to try a wide variety and learn about what you can look for in that particular kind of tea and whether or not those are flavors you’re interested in.

I really love Chinese black teas, for example, because Keemun and Yunnan (golden buds / Dien Hong) taste like they have tons of honey and cream already in them. Super cool! My favorite green tea is a hearty northern green called “Lao Shan.” That makes sense to me, because the first more traditional tea I liked was Japanese Genmaicha (green tea with toasted brown rice); sweet and vegetal but also comforting like soup or home-cooking. If you like flowery flavored teas, you would probably enjoy green Oolongs like Tieguanyin/Iron Goddess of Mercy or Dan Cong or Ali Shan, because they are already incredibly floral by themselves (and sweet!), but also more complex in their textures and aftertastes.

One more thing to keep in mind: flavoring tea is actually quite traditional. Tea was originally ground up and boiled with fruits, scallions, ginger and garlic. Back then, it was loved for its health benefits, but was so bitter that they covered it up with other things. Sounds familiar, huh? Jasmine tea and Earl Grey are world-favorites, and shu/cooked pu’ers are traditionally paired with chrysanthemum.

Here are some of my favorite no-fail intro-to-“traditional teas”-tea:
Laoshan green (great iced, too!)
Yunnan Black (or Golden Buds or Dien Hong)
Unroasted Iron Goddess of Mercy (Tieguanyin)
Orchid Scented Dong Ding

I personally recommend staying away from most Indian blacks are anything that says CTC, just because I find so many of them bitter. This is not to say there aren’t fantastic Indian blacks out there; there are! It’s just a little more iffy for folk starting out (unless you’re a fan of “BOLD” flavors).

Pu’ers can also be really really fun and delicious, but proceed with caution! Much of the stuff you find in America is really strong and can be super bitter/metallic (sheng/raw/uncooked) or heavy with a love-it-or-leave-it taste (shu/shou/cooked/ripe). This is best to try at a teashop you trust, and be aware that if you don’t like the first few, there is still probably pu’er out there for you. If you’re ever interested in venturing into this territory, there are lots of reviews and threads and folks on Steepster who can offer good recommendations. But that’s for another time….

Katiek said

Thanks, Spoonvonstup! Definitely some helpful suggestions in your post. I don’t have a tea house near me, but I can get into NY every so often, so I should be able to find something there.

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I guess most people involved in the hot debate must be enjoying it :-) Triumph should be congratulated for building such a big discussion thread over night, on his (?) third day on steepster. I haven’t yet managed to initiate such a big discussion after (?) 1.5 years on steepster :-p

Doug F said

Yep, I’m a he. What was the give away?

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Megs said

I have to admit, when I first joined, I too was a little surprised that the large majority of teas rated on here are flavored teas. That being said, I think this may be reflective of the tea industry right now – because I remember when the first high quality tea house went in locally here, they focused mostly on the unflavored teas (they especially focused on Darjeelings). Then they changed and started incorporating more and more flavored teas and the unflavored teas were much harder to get (as you’ll see by my reviews, they’re mostly flavored teas). However, I noticed lately that they’ve started adding back more unflavored teas, so I’m wondering if they’re going to a more balanced (50/50) approach.

I’ll admit that when I first started drinking the higher quality teas, I was a huge snob (I’m not saying that Triumph is, I’m just saying this was my experience) towards the flavored teas. But, as the local supply changed, I started experimenting with the flavored teas and gasp I actually liked them! (Granted, the flavored teas that I’ve been experimenting with have a fairly high quality tea base to start with). Now, some of my favorite teas are flavored – for me, I find I enjoy both types, though unflavored Darjeelings will always have my heart of hearts ;-).

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I have to admit, when I wandered over to this post, my blood started to boil a bit. Unintentional or not, Triumph’s words were combative and I know they gave me a bit of a twitch. In the words of the Southern friends I’ve been spending too much time with, “them’s fightin’ words!” Perhaps it could have been phrased a bit better? Perhaps a bit of thought could have gone in to the post? Triumph was even warned that the post would offend, but I guess he didn’t realize he could edit their post to make a much more favorable first impression. Or he simply didn’t care.

Just for the sake of my sanity, I want to point something out. To some, Journey is, in fact, better than Beethoven. Hell, Beethoven was a pop star of his time, and I’m sure there were naysayers saying he was pedestrian. Regardless, there is a popular opinion of what is good, and there is personal opinion. Personally, I prefer a good vanilla black to an amazing unflavored black. That doesn’t make my preferences wrong or “pedestrian”, it makes them my opinions. If I’m happy with a good flavored tea, then I’m happy. I’m not going to judge you for preferring unflavored teas, and I would hope you would extend that courtesy to the others in this forum. I enjoy looseleaf, and I enjoy using my metal infuser. I’m not above making my own tea bags, and if I’m cold in a restaurant, I won’t let the fact that it’s bagged tea keep me from ordering something to warm me up.

I could have a priceless work of art hanging in my house that critics say is worth untold amounts of money. However, if I do not appreciate it and my intent is to have a piece of art that brightens up my home and makes me happy and not to make money, then I don’t care how much a critic says the painting is worth monetarily. It is worthless to me. Worth is decided by more than just popular opinion.

I’m babbling. What I wanted to say was that if your intent truly was to simply share your opinion, next time you share said opinion, you might consider doing so in a less combative way. I agree with what many others have said: review the teas you drink, follow people with similar tastes, and keep in mind that what we are judging is the teas, not peoples’ preferences.

On a side note, if I come across a tea company that has rated their own teas here on Steepster, I won’t buy from them. It’s shady and underhanded.

Just adding: Steepster convinces me to try new teas I wouldn’t otherwise look at more than it has ever convinced me not to try a tea I had been eying. I follow people with similar tastes and can kind of judge if I’m going to like something based on their reviews, but I still usually give the tea a try anyway. The key is simply to read the reviews of others and then form your own opinions.

Isn’t that really the point anyway?

Sara said

Agreed on all points, aisling. Well stated.

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Pithy said

I’m with Triumph on both accounts, especially the latter. And everyone is being way too reactionary! I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying that flavored teas are not really tea. You’re allowed to drink what you want, obviously! But don’t jump at peoples throats just because they like the taste of tea.

I think the problem is that most people just haven’t tried that many unflavored teas. There’s not that much out there to try and most of it isn’t that good. Not to mention the marketing on tea is skewed towards health instead of quality.

Though, when you see things like Monkey Picked Tieguanyin & Scented Jasmine Pearls being really popular (both are usually somewhere in the top 10 here), I think it shows that a lot of people are in transition from flavored to unflavored. Most of the people here, if you could just sit them down with a good cup of tea, they’d get it, but until then you have to wait for them to do it themselves.

Spot52 select said

Your perceptions/assumptions are a little skewed. There is no hierarchy of tea. We are not all on a journey towards a particular taste profile.
-Flavored tea is still tea. This has nothing to do with preference of opinion. It has everything to do with chemistry.
-Flavored tea can still taste like tea. Some flavored teas are made to compliment the flavor of the tea. Just because I milk in tea does not imply that I am covering the real flavor of the tea. Milk can be a compliment to the existing flavor.
-Many people have tried unflavored teas, and like to drink a variety of teas. Just because someone defends a flavored tea does not imply that they have not tried unflavored tea.

Pithy said

Lets be real, flavored teas are the lowest common denominator. Tea shops can make a larger margin off of low grade, flavored teas than they can from high grade teas that have to stand on their own flavor and tasting notes. No one is going to take an expensive tea and doctor it with oils or flowers just like you’re not going to use your best wine for sangria.

Also, I wouldn’t necessarily call adding milk to tea, a flavored tea. Some strong black teas are meant to be brewed strong and offset with milk. I’m totally for it. But a blueberry tea meant to be iced with added sugar or a mango/passionfruit flavored oolong – that’s just juice, plain & simple.

I also add stuff to my tea, don’t get me wrong! I love early harvest dragonwells and a part of that is every now & then squeezing half an orange and a ton of honey into a big mug of the stuff. But if you’re at a tea shop with an orange flavored green, I can guarantee they added that flavoring to mask a bad tea.

Spot52 select said

Ah, I see. So you do like to flavor your tea. For you, it is just a matter of degree. Adding milk changes the flavor, and I can assume there is no natural rule about certain teas requiring such embellishments. Teas have been flavored for ages. We have different processes to bring out different flavors, that is why we have black, oolong, green, yellow, and white teas.

And your assumption about flavors added to cover low quality tea is not universal. There are shops, many shops, that flavor low grade tea. But there are also quality shops that add flavor to good tea. Just because I butter my popcorn does not mean that I used poor quality popcorn.

You let is slip out that you flavor your tea, does that mean you will rise to the pinnacle of tea drinking…flavored tea? Maybe if you give it a chance. (I’m just joking around with ya) I think the tea journey is all about the experience ebbing and flowing. Experiences change the way we appreciate things. What is the best today may not be the best tomorrow…and that is ok.

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