Tea Companies Rating Their Own Teas

94 Replies
Angrboda said

I’m of the very firm opinion that there should be a very clear and very visible way to tell whether an account represents a company or a private person. A post written to represent a specific company will unavoidably have a different bias than a post written by a private person.

A company, however much they truly and honestly like the product they’re posting about, is trying to sell their product. It’s borderline advertising.

A private person is posting about their tastes from a personal point of view and from the consumer’s point of view.

This will never ever be the same thing ever.

A private person can be critical of the product they’re posting about. A company cannot. If I see a post on an account representing a company with a less than stellar rating, I do not think “oh what an honest and sympathetic company!” I think, “they admit to their product being mediocre and still want me to pay my hard-earned money for it? WTF?”

I think a company should be totally allowed to have an account to represent their company, but it should have a clear distinction from the account of a private person. I don’t think it’s enough that it says so in the bio, because that requires me to actually visit their page. It should be visible even when I’m just seeing a post or a comment from them on my dashboard. Nobody should EVER be in doubt of whether an account represents a company or a private person.

I also think that of course a person working for or owning a tea company can have an account as a private person about the teas that they drink in the privacy of their own home. All it takes is a little discretion about the affiliation with the company. I don’t know what everybody does for a living and it’s none of my business anyway.

Personally, I’ve stopped following accounts I know to belong to companies. I’m not interested in advertising.

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I am grateful for the discussion here. I am new to steepster and so far only made 3 tasting notes, and 2 are about my own tea. I am glad to learn what most people think, so that I won’t do what people hate :P

I also want to take this opportunity and voice my confusion (very small confusion) about tea records. Many tea products (and all ours in Life In Teacup) are directly from tea farmers or tea factories. We haven’t started carrying any puerh yet, but most (or every?) prestigious puerh product comes with a factory name, if not a specific name of tea master. The same puerh products can be sold by many sellers. Then when a user add the tea to the tea list, should she record the source as factory name or seller’s name? So far I’ve seen puerh products listed on steepsters based on sellers. Then it could happen (again and again when there are more puerh drinkers here) multiple listings are actually about the same tea.

Then back to other teas. All our tea products are processed by tea farmers, and all the rest of the trading chain simply pass it on to consumers, without value-adding processing on the tea products. Of course, the shorter the chain, the lower costs to consumers. So for many tea products, the sources are simple, just the tea farmers or local factories. When I record the tea on steepster, it wouldn’t make much sense to anybody if I put tea maker (like, Luo Shengcai) as the source. Although I put Life In Teacup as the source, we didn’t really “make” it, but simply carry it.

Then I started eating a chicken roll and forgot what else I had to say :P

Edit: I guess I wanted to say is, when I rated my own tea 100, I didn’t feel I was bragging for myself (well a little bit, because I “found” it). A respectable tea farmer made a respectable tea. It’s that simple. And I won’t hesitate to applaud it. Well if it makes people happy, I can consider listing all my tea as from “unknown” sources, or “known by me” sources? :P

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I really appreciate this discussion. But I also feel sad to see personal attack here (I mean the second line of Pithy’s post). Whoever the target is, however much one means it, it’s sad to see personal attack on a TEA forum.

Cofftea said

well said!

Shanti said

Hi Gingko, I’m sorry if anyone made you feel uncomfortable. By the way, would you consider changing your display name so that we can tell you are a representative from Life in Teacup? That way your reviews can be seen as not “secretive” or hiding anything, and you’ll also be able to promote the name of your company.

Cofftea said

Shanti, please don’t apologize for others- that isn’t something you’re responsible for:)

Hi Shanti, I agree with Cofftea. Don’t apologize for others.
I didn’t register as “Life In Teacup” mainly because I have been using the ID “gingko” in all tea forums I participate (since before Life In Teacup exists), except in one forum I’m “biloba” :p But I think your suggestion is very good, because this is the first tea forum I’ve been to that has tea ratings and active participation of tea sellers. So I’ve changed my ID to gingko (manager of life in teacup).

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FYI: I have asked Jason to remove my ratings from the system. I don’t know if they will be able to do that or not, but either way, I will not be rating any of my own teas in the future.

Cofftea said

Please keep doing tasting notes though. I like to know why you created the blend, what are your favorite aspects of it, and any future changes (like you said you were considering adding salt to the bacon one).

fcmonroe said

I second Cofftea!! Please keep doing tasting notes.

Jason admin said

I’ve gone ahead and explained how ratings can be removed from tasting notes in my post below :)

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Based on the direction the discussion here is going, I shall also voluntarily cease to rate my teas as well. I shall also look into removing the ratings I have already made, as 52Teas has done, but will continue to post tasting notes as those truly can be subjective without influencing what many wish to be an objective rating.

EDIT: I have sent an email to the steepster team asking to remove my tea ratings to date.

Jason admin said

I’ve gone ahead and explained how ratings can be removed from tasting notes in my post below :)

Thanks again Jason. I’ve already removed the ratings. I apologize to those who were upset by Cloudwalker rating our own teas, and as noted above will stick to strictly doing tasting notes. I wish to abide by the best practices of merchants who communicate on steepster and as some others have mentioned, am primarily here because I love tea!

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Well 52teas and Cloudwalker, I appreciate your initiative and your honesty, and I’m sure many others do.
From my point of view you could let your ratings at 100.
Whether the ratings is something you use to buy your tea or not should be your own decision.
Everyone here knows that the ratings are completely subjective, from what we use to brew our tea : tea bag, big teapot, small teapot, yixing teapot, zhong, etc to what we use to drink it : with sugar, with milk, etc, everything here is subjective, and we all know that.
Moreover, one day or another, tea companies with little thought about the users on steepster will rate their own tea, and if it’s not from an account of their own, they will create fake user accounts to give good ratings to their teas.

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Thank you Gingko and 52Teas for the other side of the story

i do love your comments and ratings

I think it’s fine for companies and sellers to be here and rate things

i think we need 3 types of people markers
Sellers (sell others teas)
Makers (blend own)

and have each account indicate that

i think sellers and people should have nothing weighed against them, after all i could go buy that same blend somewhere else.

i think blenders should be able to rate their own blends but it should not count into the overall equation – i am very interested to see what they think, but when i am surfing for input i don’t want them in the weighting

did that make sense?

it would be hard to police and would be a honor type thing (after all couldn’t i have one of my employees create an account and rate everything highly?) but it might help people feel less advertised at

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Jason admin said

Alright, it took a while to get through that but I wanted to go ahead and respond to some of the comments so far (as a rep of Steepster).

I want to start and say how happy it makes us to see so many people taking something we built seriously and really putting significant time and effort not only into using it, but also thinking about how we can improve it and make it more useful for everyone. This makes us very happy :)

Moving on, the point of our ratings is to provide a quick sense of how the Steepster community feels about any particular tea. This is no easy task. People enjoy tea for different reasons and while a tea might be a 100 for one person, it could be a 0 for another – both completely justified. However, we do our best to consider the many factors that go into determining the rating of a tea. For details you can check out our ratings blog post here (http://blog.steepster.com/post/247562587/brewing-a-better-rating-system-the-2nd-steep). But in general, we wanted to make outliers affect the rating less and to account for the number of times a tea has been rated. While we’ve seen good results so far, this doesn’t mean we won’t consider making adjustments to make the ratings more relevant and useful and we will consider all of these points when that decision comes.

For tea companies on Steepster, our hope is they can interact with users not only as representatives of their company but as passionate tea drinkers (hey, if they own/work for a tea company they probably know a thing or two about tea). However, while I’m not going to assume the intentions, altruistic or promotional, of a company rating their own products we do recognize there is a conflict of interest. This concerns us because we strive to achieve objective opinions to help everyone better understand tea and drink more of it.

We have and still do encourage employees of tea companies on Steepster to identify themselves as such and many have done so with things like their username, avatar, and the info on their profile. We have also addressed people with suspicious behavior in terms of trying to “game” the system by creating fake accounts and have deleted those accounts. In addition to this, we have also considered a different class of account specifically for tea company employees. This could potentially solve these issues by restricting their actions on the site and making the connection to their company more clear. It is our hope that companies can conduct themselves in responsible ways, just as we ask of the users, until we are able to implement such features.

Another factor into this is that we encourage people to get to know other users on the site so they can truly understand their ratings/reviews. Without the context of a person’s tastes, their thoughts on a specific tea are not necessarily helpful because you can’t understand how they relate to you. This is one of the core features of how Steepster is setup and I think it’s also why this hasn’t been a concern until recently; since people usually investigate who is giving the ratings/reviews and discover they come from a tea company rep. However, as the community grow and we have more companies and users interacting on the site, we will do our best to accommodate people who are using Steepster for quick recommendations and not looking to spend much time exploring the community.

As more time passes, we’ll be able to implement more features (which will help) but we will also continue to get more and more ratings. With this, the Law of Large Numbers will help even out some of the more drastic ratings effects people are seeing. At 15k+ ratings on 9k+ teas, that’s less than 2 ratings per tea. While that’s not a realistic distribution, as we get more ratings for each tea these problems (to a certain extent) will naturally work diminish.

Regarding multiple ratings on a tea…that is how we originally had it setup. We decided to make it a single rating per tea because we believe it makes the overall experience (usability-wise and technically) more simple. It also helps prevent additional gaming of the system since someone could leave multiple outstanding ratings in order the skew the overall rating.

If you want to delete your ratings, here’s how:
Go to your tealog to the teas for which you want to delete the rating and click the “edit” link there. That will pop up the tasting note form. Next to where it says “Your rating” is a little “x” you can click. If you click that, it will clear the rating and then you can just save the note. That will delete the rating by save the tasting note.

Sorry if this is ranty or confusing…quite a long topic and several points along the way made it hard to keep track. If you have any questions or concerns about this or specific users you can contact me directly ([email protected]).

Thanks Jason for the information and clarification on a number of issues. It is much appreciated!

Ricky admin said

(side note) I never thought I would see bayesian probability…

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I didn’t know one can take tea notes without rating. In the tea note window, before you rate it, the rating stays in about 50. I wouldn’t mind not rating my tea, but wouldn’t want the little face stay at 50 either. I just tried it out by picking up a random tea and opening the tea note window. Then I couldn’t figure out how to leave notes without rating it, so I closed the window by clicking the x on top right corner. Then oops I found the tea shows up in my tea notes, without notes or rating, just an icon. I’ve deleted the icon, but I thought by closing the tea note window I didn’t make any notes about this tea. Does it mean once you click open the tea note window, you won’t be able to cancel it unless you delete it afterward?

Jason admin said

Yea, if you don’t move the slider on the ratings bar no rating will be recorded. That’s why the bar is gray before you touch it but becomes colored when you move the slider. If you move it but want to clear the rating, you can also click the little “x” next to where it says “Your Rating” and that will clear the slider.

Got it. Edited my notes. Thanks!

Jason admin said

If you click the “x” or the “write something later” link on the tasting note form, that tea will still be added to your tealog (with no tasting note or rating attached). You can see this because the “add a tasting note” button on the tea page will have changed to say “Tealogged!”

If you want to delete this tea completely from your tealog (if you accidentally clicked the “add a tasting note” button, you can do this by editing the tasting note form and clicking the “delete this note” link in the bottom left. That will clear the tea from your tealog.

Jason, I am in the process of removing my ratings. I have a few that I rated, but did not log. I’m wondering how I remove these ratings. Any thoughts?

Nevermind, I figured it out. Just created tasting notes for each, then removed the rating from there.

Jason admin said

Ha, true. Good work! :)

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Okay. I just finished removing all of my ratings for our teas. I sure hope our competition follows suit and doesn’t just find a sneakier way to do the same thing.

I apologize if I offended anyone. That was never my intention.

nope not offended at all, love your teas :) and i think your prompt action might sooth anyone who was upset

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