What's most important for you when buying Tea?
Direct sourcing is another important factor. Most of the vendors I buy from now – Teavivre, Verdant, YS, TTC – have a relationship with the farmers who produce their teas. There’s no middleman involved like with commercially produced tea. It also means fresher tea, a more artisanal product, and smaller markup.
There is also the matter of the integrity of the vendor. If the vendor conducts him/herself in a sleazy manner with the tea community and their clients, I will never buy their tea, regardless of how good it is, and I will caution others to avoid it at all costs. A few vendors come to mind.
For example, lying about their product and/or representing it as something that it is not.
Attempting to manipulate the tea community. This takes place in many ways. Sometimes vendors will join chats or discussions under an alias and will proceed to slander their competition.
Or straight out misrepresentation and manipulation for self-interest as in the example below.Putting on a sham tea-winning contest; giving the impression that participants will be randomly selected in a draw while, in fact, cherry picking the winners to ensure maximum viewership of tea reviews.
Vendors can get their product reviewed without taking advantage. There are various ways to do so while being honest and straightforward.
One vendor has a monthly random draw of five new teas. Every time a reviewer posts a review of their tea, a new ballot in their name is entered into the contest draw.
Many vendors approach individual tea reviewers and bloggers with offers of free tea for honest reviews. Perfectly legitimate.
Several others will post offers here of free tea for reviews to the first twenty or whatever or to all who sign up to the thread. Also, perfectly legitimate and this goes a long way to foster goodwill in the community.
These are the first things that come to mind. I hope they is helpful.
Oh yeah, super helpful, thanks for indulging. I’ve gone the blogger route when I started last year. Will perhaps revisit that soon.
I’ve been keen on having the teas reviewed here by providing samples for free. Probably something I will do shortly.
I’ve seen allegations of slander, fake accounts, and some of the other unsavory tactics you speak of. Ultimately you get found out though it doesn’t necessarily mean you lose business. Not that it is something to be proud of…
You are very welcome.
I would think that vendors who entertain such practices do lose business. The tea community online has a long long memory: of the good and of the bad.
Personally, I go to considerable lengths to appreciate and support unknown vendors, and their products, when they have reached out on steepster and conducted themselves justly and honourably. A recent example of a newcomer would be teabento.
A longtime favourite would be Teavivre.
Both blasted the tea community with samples for reviews. I would think that they recovered their costs many times over. Both have a solid reputation and carry a quality product.
That’s very good to know. I will definitely contemplate sending samples for review, as it has been on my mind off late. I’m always looking for feedback on the teas I carry (thus far all feedback has been positive), so this sounds like a wonderful option!
And its nice of you to support small, unknown vendors. Speaking from personal experience, it is quite a tough ask to gain a following and have repeat customers. The market is fairly saturated and a lot of consumers have their favorites they buy from. In spite of the challenges, it has been wonderful to interact with customers through sites like this, the tea sub-reddit, etc. And extremely rewarding to read/hear positive things about the products!
is there a meaningful distinction between taste and quality? if an oolong isn’t rolled very tight, and there’s some stalk, and the leaf is a bit broken, but it tastes amazing, isnt that still high quality?
To me personally, if a tea tastes good, that’s enough validation. There is a lot of “perceived high quality” tea that may not do it for me. So if you like something, the way it tastes, the mouthfeel, the way you feel after you consume it, then the quality works for you. I wouldn’t care how the quality is perceived by someone else.
Taste is subjective. I once spent a considerable amount of money on a tiny sample of tea that was highly rated and supposed to be of exceptional quality. I got my little packet of gold, brewed per recommendation and was totally underwhelmed by the taste. It was very smooth and quite nuanced. It was too smooth for me! It was like being in grandma’s house. The room is warm, the chair is soft, the food familiar but before long the room feels stuffy, your back aches from too soft of a chair and that food just tastes bland.
I bought the tea from Yunnan Sourcing so I know I received what I paid for. The fine quality was undeniable. I had to conclude that I just don’t like such superior tea! It was just too easy and sweet. “Unforgettable” though!
I think for me, the thing I focus on is innovation actually.
I have a few tea staples I LOVE and will buy again and again, but for the most part I enjoy trying new teas and weird flavours and new methods of blending and cultivation. Weird flavour combinations. Even if I dislike it I feel like the risk is half the fun?
I am also the kind of person who has looked at a restaurant menu and said “oh that looks disgusting I have to try it!” though haha.
Another thing I focus on is that I try to avoid artificial flavouring. Partially because I think it usually overwhelms the tea, and partially because I think it is cheating! ;)
There is no doubt that the quanlity of the tea is the most important.
I try to find teas under $.15/gr that I really enjoy. Not an easy task. So far only managed to find Chinese teas this cheap worth drinking. But when I build up a good stock of this stuff then I can more freely splurge on pricier teas.