Consumer trends have seen an ever-increasing number of tea drinkers switching away from cheap bagged teas and over to premium whole leaf tea. Supermarkets have noticed this trend with many major stores now stocking at least some loose-leaf teas (or at the very least premium branded tea bags) alongside their more traditional bagged range.
Online retailers however have perhaps been at the forefront of this revolution with an ever-increasing number of online tea shops appearing. While this growth has increased consumer choice, like most things online, occasionally it can be difficult to know where it is safe to shop and make your purchases. This guide has been written to give you some pointers to help when purchasing tea online.
When making any purchases online trust is always a major issue. When visiting an online tea shop, especially for the first time, precautions must always be taken. Before providing any information, or making a purchase, it is always prudent to conduct an internet search of the company you are buying from. There are a number of specialist sites that provide feedback and reviews of online retailers. It’s easy and quick to check to see what others are saying about the site you are planning on buying from. A simple Google search may prevent you succumbing to an unscrupulous online retailer.
Another method of gauging the credibility of an online tea shop is to see if they have a Twitter feed which is regularly updated. A Twitter feed that is active, followed by lots of people, and that provides relevant information – not just spurious ‘retweets’ – is a good indicator that people have been satisfied with their dealings with that company. You can also easily check if other people have interacted, or Tweeted, about the shop too.
You can often judge an online tea shop by the selection of tea they have available. Are they a company which has specialised in the tea of a particular country i.e. China, Taiwan, India or perhaps they specialise in a particular tea such as Chinese white tea or Taiwanese oolong? These specialist retailers, whom often only stock a dozen or so teas, can often be found to sell a much higher quality product. They should also be able to provide you with much greater information on their teas than the one-stop-shops that seem to sell hundreds of teas from all corners of the globe.
Without being able to see a physical product when visiting an online tea shop it is important that you get some idea of the teas you are buying. The next best thing to seeing the tea in person is being able to see it in a photo. Any photos used should be large and clear, allowing you to see the whole leaf and easily identify the style of processing that has been used. Occasionally online retailers will also show pictures of the tea leaves after they have been infused and the leaf has opened up giving you a better idea of that quality of the tea.
Perhaps one final check would be to email the company with any questions you may have. Any knowledgeable and trustworthy online tea shop will be only too happy to respond to any questions you have in a prompt and professional manner. Any company which doesn’t do this should most definitely be avoided!
James Franklin Bluth is a tea connoisseur with over a decade’s experience sourcing and selecting the finest whole leaf teas and is especially interested in online tea shops.