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Tea Reviews and Information
Tea Site Reviews 
23rd-Feb-2006 07:58 pm
YresimOwl

I ordered tea from five on-line tea companies last week, and thought that I would rate my experiences. The companies are Adagio, Republic of Tea, Royal Dynasty Tea, Stash Tea, and Tao of Tea. They are listed in alphabetical order. I will provide tea ratings once my stuffy nose has cleared up (any day now).


Company:
Adagio
Website:
http://www.adagio.com
Customer rewards:
Rating: 9/10
• You get a free "Guide to Tea" book with your first purchase, if you order $19 or more.
• You can send $5 coupons to any friend who hasn't ordered with them before.
• You get one point for every dollar spent. Once you get 100, you get a $10 reward certificate. You can use this to purchase a $10 item outright, or towards a larger purchase.
Selection:
Rating: 7/10
• They have almost any loose-leaf tea you can imagine.
• They have almost any flavored tea you can imagine.
• Only one kind of chai (called oriental spice), and no yerba mate.
• They do not have pu-erh in the cake, brick, or small bowl forms (only in leaf).
• They do not have matcha.
• They do not have very many pure (non-blended) tisanes.
• They only offer glass and ceramic teapots (no yixing).
• They have some very unique and useful teaware products, like a variable-temperature water kettle, and a tea pot that you can set on top of your tea mug (to drain the tea directly into the mug).
Ease of Purchase:
Rating: 10/10
• Despite a couple of flaws, this is the perfect tea web site. Other tea sites can only hope to be half as convenient as Adagio. Not only does Adagio offer a great shopping experience, they offer a great overall tea experience, with sub-sites that include forums, tea room listings, education, and cooking with tea.
Pros
• Teas can be ordered alphabetically, by origin, or by customer rating.
• Numerous customer reviews make it easier to guess which teas you will like.
• Once you create an account, your shopping cart is saved forever.
• Shopping cart is displayed on the right hand side, enabling you to check it (or remove items) without leaving the current page.
• You stay on the same page when you add items to your cart.
• There is a list of all teas in your category on the left-hand side of the page, allowing you to switch between teas with ease.
• Once the order is shipped, order tracking is displayed on the right hand side (above your shopping cart).
• Search function is available.
• You can set up auto-delivery.
Cons
• The "flavors" section is confusing, both because it only contains flavored black teas (flavored green teas are listed under green, flavored decaf teas are listed under decaf, etc), and because it doesn't even contain all of the flavored black teas: Earl Grey is listed under black. At the very least, they should put a note on the flavors page indicating that Earl Grey can be found on the black page, and that flavored greens/whites/etc can be found on their respective pages. They could also change the name to "flavored blacks" and move Earl Grey to that section (or double-list earl grey, just like they do with the display teas).
• There is no way to add to the shopping cart in-line. However, this is most likely an issue of practicality (each tea offers several buying options), and poses very little issue due to the pros listed above (list of all teas in category on left side of page, don't change pages when adding items to cart).
• You can not repeat your last order (unless it was an auto-delivery, of course).
Standard Shipping Speed:
Very Fast
My order was shipped out the same day, and arrived on the other side of the country one week later.
Outer Packaging (box, packing material)
Rating: 10/10
• Descriptive words I would use: elegant
• Box was a sturdy brown box with their name & logo stamped in green on the side.
• It identifies itself as tea.
• Some of the internal packaging was small-animal-compatible, and some was not.
Inner Packaging (the tea samples only)
Rating: 10/10
• Descriptive words I would use: sturdy
• The only tea company I have found thus far that distributes their samples in re-usable metal tins. There does not appear to be an appreciable mark-up for this convenience.
• The tins are not stack-able.
Re-sealable?
Yes
Air-tight?
Yes
Light-proof (protects tea from UV rays)?
Yes

Company:
Republic of Tea
Website:
http://www.republicoftea.com
Customer rewards:
Rating: 1/10
• No free stuff to speak of (I did get a single-use sample of green tea for requesting a catalog).
Selection:
Rating: 6/10
• A wide variety of loose leaf and bag teas.
• They have almost any flavored tea you can imagine.
• One yerba mate, and several kinds of chai.
• They do not have pu-erh in the cake, brick, or small bowl forms (only in leaf).
• They do not have matcha.
• They do have chai lattes.
• They do not have any pure (non-blended) tisanes.
• Numerous glass, porcelain, and ceramic (no yixing) teapots and tea cups.
Ease of Purchase:
Rating: 8/10
• While this site certainly could be better, it is designed to make it easy to find what you are looking for.
Pros
• All purchasing options are displayed on the product page.
• Adding an item to your shopping cart does not take you to another page.
• Search function is available, and seems to work particularly well.
Cons
• Even though all purchasing options are listed on the product page, you must click on the purchasing option you want, and only then press "add to basket." It seems like they should either add in-line ordering (since this is the case), or they should allow you to order any configuration directly from the main product page (rather than having to click twice).
• No in-line ordering.
• No auto-delivery
• You can not repeat your last order.
Standard Shipping Speed:
Fast
It took them one day to ship my order. Once my order was shipped, it took six days (4 business days) to arrive from within California.
Outer Packaging (box, packing material)
Rating: 10/10
• Descriptive words I would use: obvious
• Box is a sturdy cardboard box with "Republic of Tea" printed on all sides, and a tea pot on the long sides.
• The internal packaging is left-over tea bag bits (tea bag paper with circles cut out). In addition to being very cool for the packaging of a tea company, it is small-animal approved.
Inner Packaging (the loose tea samples only)
Rating: 8/10
• Descriptive words I would use: simple
• Their teas come in sealed paper-type bags.
Re-sealable
Not really (you can fold it closed)
Air-tight
Yes, until you open it
Light-proof (protects tea from UV rays)
Yes

Company:
Royal Dynasty Tea
Website:
http://www.royaldynastytea.com
Customer rewards:
Rating: 4/10
• You get a free e-book called "Pairing Gourmet Cuisine With Tea" with your first order of $20 or more.
Selection:
Rating: 7/10
• They have almost any loose-leaf tea you can imagine, including a particularly wide array of white tea.
• They have a decent selection of flavored teas.
• Nine kinds of chai, including a yerba mate chai.
• They do not have pu-erh in the cake, brick, or small bowl forms (only in leaf)
• They do not have matcha
• Several pure (non-blended) tisanes, including lavender and rose (but not including any kind of mint, for some reason).
• Yixing, ceramic, and porcelain teapots. Only one kind of tea cup (yixing).
• They do not have glass tea pots.
Ease of Purchase:
Rating: 8/10
• This web site is rather nice, with a shopping cart on the left hand side, and in-line ordering.
Pros
• In-line ordering is available per each category.
• Shopping cart is displayed on the left hand side, enabling you to check it (but not remove items) without leaving the current page.
• If you click on the tea from within the category, they give very detailed descriptions.
• Search function is available, and seems to work particularly well.
Cons
• Adding an item to your cart takes you to another page.
• No auto-delivery
• You can not repeat your last order.
• Only 20 items per page, and no way to increase that number or re-organize the list.
Standard Shipping Speed:
Fast
Order shipped out the same day it was placed, but took 4 days to get here within CA.
Outer Packaging (box, packing material)
Rating: 4/10
• Descriptive words I would use: small, cheap
• Box is a small, plain cardboard box.
• Makes it tempting to theives (not obvious that it is tea).
• Internal packaging is very cheap-looking: it appears to be ripped up newspapers. It is not small-animal-compatible, due to strong dyes. They could greatly improve the professionalism by purchasing unprinted newspaper (which, by the way, is extremely cheap).
Inner Packaging (I ordered both samples and full teas, and they were packaged identically)
Rating: 6/10
• Descriptive words I would use: different
• All of their teas arrive in ziploc bags.
Re-sealable
Yes
Air-tight
Yes
Light-proof (protects tea from UV rays)
No

Company:
Stash
Website:
http://www.stashtea.com
Customer rewards:
Rating: 6/10
• They throw in some free stuff, but they don't seem to base it on anything you bought. It does make you feel kinda special to find presents in your package, however, even if they are not compatible with you.
Selection:
Rating: 7/10
• They have a wide variety of teas, including loose-leaf teas and bag teas.
• They have pu-erh in leaf and cup (tuo cha) forms.
• They do not have very many pure (non-blended) tisanes.
• They have several varieties of chai. For some reason, they offer a decaf vanilla chai, but no regular vanilla chai.
• They have yerba mate.
• They have matcha.
• A gigantic assortment of tea pots, tea sets, and tea cups in porcelain, ceramic, glass, and iron/tetsubin. No yixing, however.
Ease of Purchase:
Rating: 6/10
• The biggest thing that keeps this web site from getting a good rating on their ease of purchase is the fact that there is no way to get a list of, for example, all of the different ways they sell kopili assam.
Pros
• In-line ordering.
• Search function is available
Cons
• Adding an item to your cart takes you to another page.
• If you select a tea from the list, you do not get alternative purchasing options for that tea. You only have the option to purchase the tea in the current form. And they don't do a great job of keeping the same name at all sizes, so it can be nearly impossible to find a larger size of a tea you liked, or a smaller size of a tea you want to try.
• Their search function is positively awful. You can't search for all "kopili assam" teas, because it will return not only kopili assam teas, but also any tea which lists kopili assam as a recommendation, as something other people bought, etc. And the actual kopili assam teas aren't given any preference, so they are just as likely to be on the bottom as at the top.
• No auto-delivery
• You can not repeat your last order.
• They don't list all of the teas included in their larger samples. Even when they do, they don't do a very good job of making sure the name is the same.
Standard Shipping Speed:
Fast
It took them two days to ship my order. Once my order was shipped, it took five days (3 business days) to make it from Oregon to California.
Outer Packaging (box, packing material)
Rating: 6/10
• Descriptive words I would use: expensive-looking
• Box is a plain cardboard box. The tape used was specialty packing tape with their name/logo on it.
• Unfortunately, their logo looks like one of those high-end stores, and there is nothing to indicate that it is tea, so it might be more tempting to theives.
• Internal packaging is small-animal-compatible (and rat-approved).
Inner Packaging (the loose tea samples only)
Rating: 3/10
• Descriptive words I would use: almost useless
• Their teas come in heat-sealed plastic bags.
Re-sealable
No
Air-tight
Yes, until you open it
Light-proof (protects tea from UV rays)
No

Company:
Tao of Tea
Website:
http://www.taooftea.com
Customer rewards:
Rating: 8/10
• You get one point for every dollar spent. Every item has a point redemption value, which works out to about 10 cents per point (more on some items, less on others). You can not use points towards anything: only to buy something outright.
Selection:
Rating: 10/10
• They have a wide variety of teas, including loose-leaf teas, pu-erh in all of its forms, and matcha
• They have a gigantic assortment of pure (non-blended) tisanes, including chrysanthemum blossoms.
• They have a wide array of tea pots, tea sets, and tea cups, including yixing, gourd, & ceramic.
• They do not have glass tea pots.
Ease of Purchase:
Rating: 2/10
• This web site is very clunky. It is neither particularly professional nor particularly user-friendly. This is someting I'd expect from a company in the middle of nowhere, not from a company in Portland. They need a good webmaster to fix it up for them (and, because they're in Portland, it should be relatively easy to find one).
Pros
• A large number of categories makes it relatively easy to find what you are looking for.
• If you find the categories confusing, you can "view all".
• You can repeat your last order.
Cons
• Adding an item to your cart takes you to another page.
• If you use the back button after adding an item to your cart, you lose the item you just added from your cart. This is probably their biggest flaw, as it makes ordering several teas within the same category far more difficult than it needs to be.
• No in-line ordering, despite the fact that they sell tea only by the ounce or by the tin.
• Because categories are only displayed in drop-down menus, and because some of these are so long, customers with smaller screens will have trouble accessing all of the categories. This could be resolved with nested categories, or with an alternative category listing.
• No search function.
• No auto-delivery (although you can log into your account & repeat your last order).
Standard Shipping Speed:
Fast
It took them five days (three business days) to ship my order. Once my order was shipped, it arrived in two days, but that was due to the fact that they are in Portland and I am in San Francisco.
Outer Packaging (box, packing material)
Rating: 10/10
• Descriptive words I would use: loud, obvious, pretty
• Box is a sturdy white cardboard with tasteful designs all over it.
• Makes it very easy for a passerby to tell that it contains tea (not CD's), which I like because I figure most people won't steal tea.
• Although the internal packaging is pretty, it is not small-animal-compatible, due to strong dyes.
Inner Packaging (the tea itself: they sell tea by the ounce, so this is how your tea would arrive)
Rating: 7/10
• Descriptive words I would use: standard
• Like many tea companies, their teas arrive in fold-up brown paper bags (you can also order them in tins, for a price).
Re-sealable
Yes
Air-tight
Not particularly
Light-proof (protects tea from UV rays)
Yes

Notes:

  1. Due to the fact that I haven't tried most of the teas yet, I do not feel comfortable providing overall ratings on the sites, as this may be deceptive. Therefore, I have only rated aspects of the sites.
  2. For selection ratings, you might notice that I rated primarily on teas and tisanes, rather than on tea ware. This is because tea ware tends to be easier to find locally than specialty teas, so I feel that tea web sites have a bigger duty to carry specialty teas than they do to carry tea ware. The break down is as follows: four points for regular teas, three points for specialty teas, two points for pure tisanes, and 1 point for tea ware.
  3. For sample packaging, the break down is as follows: 4 points for UV protection, 4 points for being air-tight, and 2 points for being re-sealable.
  4. Due to the fact that most people who have small animals like to "recycle" packaging materials by giving them to their pets, I have noted small animal compatibility. Please note that I am not an expert, so these are just my impressions of compatibility (in other words, YMMV).

Comments 
5th-Mar-2006 11:36 am (UTC)
I'm pointing people here from my page on oolong tea, because I keep getting emails asking me where they can get this stuff. I've never bought tea online, so it's good to have some reviews of online sellers to direct people to. Thanks!
5th-Mar-2006 01:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link. I hope at least some of them find this site useful. :)
22nd-Apr-2006 07:57 am (UTC)
(This is EvenOdd on teachat.com)

Thanks for the reviews you've written. At the moment I've only purchased from Adagio, but lately I've been venturing outwards to other places. I recently ordered some puerh from Jing Tea Shop to see what I like. But so far Tao of Tea looks really good. They like to tell the customers what exactly they're buying, where it's from, etc. I also like how you can purchase by the ounce, so I can easily get a few 1oz bags of many kinds to see what I like.
21st-Jul-2006 08:37 pm (UTC) - other tea sites
Anonymous
Hi, does any one have any comments about Jaya teas? Their website seems quite informational, but don't know how their service is or their products are. I think they are at http://www.jayateas.com
27th-Feb-2007 04:50 pm (UTC)
wow...I find I'm looking forward to your posts, you are wonderfully thorough!! This one and the one on presentation teas from that one company (bummer that, as I've only tried one presentation tea long ago with a friend and it was a wonderful experience and I've rather been wanting to do it again, though I have to brew in a glass bowl as I don't have a glass teapot!)

Thank for taking the time to type this all up and share this!
25th-Mar-2007 05:01 am (UTC) - Wu Long Sellers
Anonymous
I've also found a review of wulong sellers. wulongtea.org (http://www.wulongtea.org) and they review sellers such as wulongfor life and infusium tea (http://www.infusium-tea.com).

Hope this helps you find your Wu Long!
6th-Jul-2007 03:52 pm (UTC) - Re: Wu Long Sellers
Anonymous
Hi, I buy Oolong Tea from this UK Ebay seller, and their Oolong tea is great, since I know TenFu is quite famous in China ( I have seen their shops in China, many of them, like Starbucks in the US). Here is their Ebay weblink:
http://stores.ebay.co.uk/the-Art-of-Tea
Not sure if they post outside UK, maybe you could ask, they are quite helpful...
17th-Oct-2007 10:58 am (UTC) - Re: Wu Long Sellers
Anonymous
Also try All About Tea (http://www.allabouttea.co.uk/Oolong-Wu-long-p-1-c-2.html) who have some good oolongs.
25th-Feb-2008 06:27 pm (UTC) - Tea Reviews
Anonymous
Many thanks for your great reviews. We are looking at opening a new online tea shop in the near future and it is great to understand more thoroughly what other people appreciate when they order.

Happy tea drinking

wan ling tea house UK/China....the world??? :o)
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