There’s nothing more exciting for the tea lover than receiving that big haul of tea ordered from a new tea vendor. And nothing worse than not getting what you expected and hating it.
Though not starving, as a writer, blogger, and artist my tea budget is finite. Like most people, the funds I have for buying new tea are precious and something I don’t want to squander. Each of my purchases is scrutinized for maximum value and the place to start is with the reputation of the company selling the tea. Blogs like this are a great source of information when trying to determine if you should go all out and buy everything that strikes your fancy or if a new vendor should be treated with reservation and limited to a single offering.
Do you’re research!
The key to getting the best tea for your buck is to do your research. It’s easy when only one particular tea is in question – and less risky. But when everything looks enticing and your just itching for a big box of new tea you’ve never tried, the risk factor of getting a bum haul increases.
Here a few things you “Should” check for that can help you identify higher quality vendors.
Do they specialize?
Vendors that specialize in only one type of tea such as pu’erh, oolong, or green tend to know their stuff. Typically these vendors are scouting out the best of the best to provide customers.
Are their product reviews balanced?
Product reviews from purchasing customers “CAN” also be helpful. However, a top-notch vendor has balanced reviews that show a range from liked to dislike. If all the reviews are four and five stars, expand your research. If the reviews are balanced, they should be your first source of research.
Has the tea been independently reviewed?
New, popular, and unique teas get snatched up and covered by sites like Tea Gong-Go. Always do a web search for the particular tea you are interested in. Tea Blogs now come in a variety of formats from Youtube videos to Instagram stories like mine. Cast a wide net and don’t shy away from social media – a good blogger will be active across multiple platforms.
Has the vendor been independently reviewed?
Another good indicator of quality tea is vendor mentions and reviews. Researching the vendor is crucial if you don’t want to risk a big purchase being an even bigger disappointment. If a vendor is mentioned on lots of tea-blogs and they’re not horror stories, you might consider that big haul as posing little risk.
Are their teas well sourced?
Knowing the actual tea grower or gardener is another strong indicator of a good vendor. Well documented single source teas are better nuanced and present the uniqueness of their local terroir. When a vendor cannot nail down more than a broad geographic local, you’re getting a “type blend” produced by multiple growers and typically end up with those so-so purchases you can get just about anywhere.
Other things to consider in a good tea vendor.
Getting it perfect every time is rare. Once you’ve found a vendor you like, good ones will do everything in their power to build a relationship that lasts.
As a tea blogger, I love free samples. Teavivre and Upton Tea Imports send small samples that keep me coming back for more. It also demonstrates the confidence they have in their products and worth noting. Vendors that don’t send samples may lack confidence in their product.
Packaging is also important. When you’re buying a pound or more of tea you want that tea protected when shipped. I’ve actually received tea from China in those padded envelops and try to stay away from vendors who don’t use a good box for shipping. It doesn’t stop their either. The packaging your tea remains in once it arrives is also critical. A recent order came with inferior mylar bags. The seals have come away from the sides of the bags and resulted in a few teas sitting open in my cupboard until I discovered the problem. Unless rectified I probably won’t order large quantities from this vendor again.
What you can do.
Review the teas you purchase on their websites and share what you found. Unfortunately, some vendors filter these and don’t always let bad experiences through. In cases like that, post a review about the company and their products on independent sites like Google or Yelp.
Finding a good tea vendor presents is own unique set of challenges, but when you do the rewards can be long and lasting, so share that information and do your research.