Oh Teavana :(

So i had yet another conversation with a customer who used to be a Teavana customer about how to properly steep their tea. I realized something was off when they told me they were going to add sugar to hide the bitterness of my Silk Dragon blend they were about to drink it for the first time. Confused i asked why they thought it would be bitter, and that some astringency is good, though bitterness is not.
Apparently Teavana was telling this customer (and a few others) too steep their Oolongs at 207*F. No wonder his tea has been bitter requiring sugar to drink! So is this why they add sugar to their samples? Is this what they tell all their customers?
When you are shopping for tea do you like recommend the steep temperature and steep times on your tea label or at least shown by the tea or is this something that should be brought up in a conversation? What are your thoughts on this Steepster?

33 Replies

Oolong at 207? That would be terrible. I like tea steeping temp/time recommendations clearly marked on labels. Makes things a bit simpler

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Hang on. I just checked the steeping instructions for oolongs on one of my Teavana bags, and says 195*F, not 208*F (which is the recommended temp for blacks). Who the hell told him 207? It should say 195 right on his bag/tin.

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momo said
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Nik select said

Seriously. While they’re not helping customers by disseminating inaccurate information, I can’t believe that every store has such ignorant people. Also, everything they sell comes with the instructions printed on it, unlike a lot of other tea from other, smaller vendors. With the ‘net on nearly every device these days, people can Google if in doubt. It’d be nice if we could all take some responsibility for our tea education and stop pointing fingers. All the Teavana pouches I have (and I have quite a few) say 195, too.

A word of advice from a customer to every tea seller with a presence on Steepster: no matter how great the temptation, don’t point fingers. It only reflects poorly on you and will dissuade me from buying from you.

It sounds like it was a verbal miscommunication by the employee. If the labels have the appropriate recommended temp then that’s what really matters. Always go by the what’s on the label. It keeps the company accountable for the product.

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I have actually never purchased from teavana but i know he buys from their brock and mortar stores. I was under the impressions (rightly/or wrongly) that they just put the tea in a bag for you. He only told me that they told him to steep at 207F as he only buys from in-store.

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I’m not sure why everyone complains so much abou Teavana. Maybe I just have a good store. They never try to sell me things I don’t want. I would assume they add rock sugar to their in store stuff because it appeals to more people, especially thise new to tea.

All the steep times and temps are on their bags, and they’re the same as everywhere else.

Sare said

Im glad you have had a good Experiences there with your store, Unfortunately every time i go in they dont have what i want and try to sell me something different or More expensive .. It seams whenever i go in for a smaller dollar amount item they never have it …

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Babble said

Even if they do give the correct steeping times, they definitely do push adding a lot (maybe even too much) sugar to your tea.

I do agree with that. Every time I go in there and actually buy something (although, I must admit that I’ve not bought anything from Teavana in a long time, as I have moved on to better tea pursuits), they are always trying to push their rock sugar on me.

That’s funny, because I’ve never had it happen. I use rock sugar, but if I’m not buying it, I’ve never had someone tell me I need it or tell me I should sweeten my teas.

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Alphakitty said

I feel like Teavana is the black sheep of the tea family. Sure, they have high prices, but then again… they are in malls. It’s a mall store. The drinks are sugary-sweet to appeal to the average person, and the health benefits are what they play up because it’s what the average consumer probably is interested in. To be totally honest, the people here on Steepster are NOT the average consumer. I think we, generally, care more about quality because we know more about tea.

The average person who walks into Teavana probably doesn’t know the difference between light and dark oolongs. And honestly, they also probably don’t want a 15 minute lecture on tea manufacturing. This isn’t a fault, and I’m not saying it makes them stupid, I just mean that Teavana aims for the lowest common denominator which we are… well, not. I don’t mean we are fancier or better, we just generally know more about tea! There are some things, of course, that are annoying no matter what (pushy sales tactics, high prices) but hey, they introduce people to loose-leaf. In a way, they are very important for the tea industry as they bring many people “into the fold.” How many posts have you seen saying “I started out drinking Teavana, help me go from here!”

I guess things like incorrect steeping info are inexcusable, in a way. But at the same time, I have gotten really odd steeping instructions from very respected tea stores. I think we’ve all brewed a tea at a temp that was too high, so worst case is that person uses water that’s too hot and then finds out how to do it right. I get where the hate is coming from, but I think there’s just SO much of it at this point.

Babble said

I see what you are saying, and I agree to some extent. Teavana has definitely made tea drinking commonplace, which I respect and appreciate.

I know they are trying to appeal to the masses when sweetening drinks. But my local tea stores only lightenly sweeten their tea samples, and some don’t sweeten them at all (which I was very surprised). I do wish Teavana would lighten up a bit on the sugar.

Alphakitty said

I think a lot of beginning tea drinkers do add a lot of sugar. I’ve recently been introducing my mom to loose tea, adding a bit less sugar every time I make it for her (which she knows, it’s not a placebo thing haha). It takes a few tries to appreciate lightly sweetened and unsweetened tea if you’ve grown up on Snapple and Arizona and Lipton (though nothing wrong with that, I will freely admit that I still love Snapple!), so Teavana is maybe trying to go for the very beginning tea drinker? It can be overkill, it’d definitely be nice if they offered different sweetness levels and unsweetened samples.

Babble said

Oh I definitely added sugar to my tea in the beginning, and I’m not looking down on those who do. I just think it’s hard to get people to really appreciate the flavor of tea it’s so over sweetened. Teavana has 4 heavily sugared samples and then an unsweetened monkey picked oolong. After the average customer tries the 4 overly sweet samples, and then they try the unsweetened, they are not going to like it because it’s such a dramatic change.

It seems to me like the samples have gotten sweeter over the years, and I’m sure this is not by accident. It definitely does draw in the Snapple/Arizona crowd, though.

I agree that Teavana just does what they have for their business mode. At the end of the day, they are still better and less ripping-off than most other stores in the mall.

I think what I dislike Teavana and Starbucks the most is not their quality or knowledge level, but they try to hypnotize their customers to believe their tea/coffee is top-notch. And indeed they are very successful in hypnosis and there are many people who readily believe they can get top-notch stuff from the mall or the chain store like Starbucks.

But all in all, I don’t think it’s any ethic problem with Teavana or Starbucks. I believe they are still much better than most other chain stores. Good or bad, always depends on what the benchmark is. If there were no Teavana, many people wouldn’t have been tea drinkers now.

For myself any sugar is too much. But every person has a personal preference. I won’t drink the samples in store because they are way too sweet for me. However there is still less sugar in those samples than in most juices, which makes it a much healthier alternative for my children. Who love Teavana’s teas, so gradually I will reduce the level of rock sugar and they’ll learn to like it with no additives.

Nik select said

“…but hey, they introduce people to loose-leaf. In a way, they are very important for the tea industry…”


“How much sugar would you say is ‘too much’?”

Pfft. I have a sweet tooth. Plus I’m Indian and the only people who rival our thing for sweets are those in the South with their syrupy sweet tea. I use 1-2 tbsp of sugar in my 16oz. mug after I take a few sips of unadulterated tea. I refuse to be made to feel bad about that. =)

@tattooed_tea – MOST juices? Are you just thinking of fruit juice? Most juices have substantially more sugar than Teavana’s samples, simply because of the amount of sugar fruit naturally contains. I suppose (I haven’t checked this, mind) that vegetable juices might have less than half a teaspoon per 8oz cup, but I highly doubt that you could convince most kids to drink carrot juice straight up. And then you also need to consider the amount of sodium in vegetable juices.

I’d really like to know if anybody calling Teavana’s samples “heavily sweetened” drinks fruit juice.

@Nik – My feelings exactly. The anti-sugar thing gets old sometimes.

Babble said

@Daniel – I only drink fruit juices that are 100% juice – i.e., only fruit and no sugar. And I find fruit juices a little too sweet for me. I used to have more of a sweet tooth, but I’ve toned in back a lot over the years for health reasons.

My original point was that Teavana sweetens their tea MORE than my local tea shops do for their samples. I have nothing against Teavana sweetening their tea, but it makes it hard to distinguish the flavor when all I taste is sugar. I know I am not their target audience, though.

Rachel, 100% fruit juices have a ton of sugar. Feel free to look this up; the amount is actually pretty shocking even to me.

And yes, I’ve had the samples at DAVIDsTEA, and they don’t sweeten the samples. I “get” that they are offering the tea “pure” so that people will drink only the tea and know what it tastes like unsweetened…but I personally put sugar in just about everything besides genmaicha, including the best/top-quality teas I’ve ever had, and I hate DT’s samples. If that had been my introduction to tea, I wouldn’t be drinking tea now.

Babble said

I agree that with you that fruit juices have natural sugar, but 100% fruit juices have no ADDED sugar – it’s sweet enough as it is. And I don’t drink fruit juices very often, anyway.

And two of my local tea shops do sweeten their teas, but very lightly. As a non-sugar drinker I can still taste the tea. In fact, there’s no place that I know that sweetens quite as much as Teavana does. I know it’s a mall store and the rules are different, though…

“And two of my local tea shops do sweeten their teas, but very lightly.”

Huh, I’d have to wonder why. The smallest amount I’ll use is half a teaspoon in a cup. Below that, the point escapes me because the amount of sugar is so low that it’s not really sweetening anything much anyway. They might as well not bother.

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darby select said

I’ll never become a Teavana hater. If it hadn’t been for Teavana I would never had become such a big tea drinker and been led to all you wonderful Steepsterites!

I am glad they add sugar for the samples, that’s how I got drawn in. In the past I had tried to add splenda and such to tea and it was horrible. Now that I’m more in to tea I try to only put a touch of sugar in. But hey, I love tea and a few extra calories won’t ruin me.

It is true – all the temp recommendations are on the tins and bag. Even from day one I knew this and they’ve never changed.

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Uniquity said

I almost never follow brewing guidelines on the tins (from any stores) but that’s because I know my tastes enough to have an idea of what temp and steep time I want. As for sweetener, I don’t want any (except a hint in matcha) but that’s just me. On the sugar front, just let consumers we aware it’s there and you should be good to go – that way those who are worried about sugar can avoid it, and those who aren’t can enjoy it! : )

Angrboda said

I do this too. I know what level of strenght I like best and it might not be the same level as whoever worked out the guidelines, so I routinely ignore all recommendations unless my own way isn’t working out for me. Then I seek inspiration.

As for sugar… it has no business being anywhere near my tea. At all. How anybody can actually taste the tea when having first loaded it with sugar or milk or other such additives is completely beyond me. I can’t.

I’m the same with the steeping/temp & leaf amounts.

I always add 2-3 perfect teaspoons of leaves to my tea. I like a lot of flavour in mine.

I’m in the same boat as well, however I think The Tea Merchant brought this up as people who got introduced to tea or at least oolong were misinformed by Teavana. But being another former employee it must have been an individuals mistake or a misunderstandings as Teavana trains their employees to to recommend brewing whites and greens at 175, oolongs and blacks at 195 and herbals, rooiboses and mates at 208, pretty safe parameters in my opinion. Through Verdant I have learned to up the temp on some blacks, dark oolongs and certainly pu’er especially when doing seconds long infusions. Still this is one case where I wouldn’t blame Teavana as a company for this error, unless you use the logic that they are so big that they hire people that didn’t know much about tea in the first place and failed to learn (they are tested) and spouted out misinformation, but it could have been that the customers bought an oolong and rooibos or mate in the same trip and they only remembered (or mentioned verbally) the temp for the latter.

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Even if someone had advised a water temp of 207 it sure is incredibly precise. I guess disaster would ensue if you went with 206 or 208. I’ve always gone with guesstimates of water temp and my tea turns out okay.

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