Cup of Tea and a Blog

Welcome to my spot for musing about all things tea. Here you'll read reviews of quality teas, click through comments on tea rooms and shops I've visited, and see photos of leaves and cups. You’ll also find things I might talk about over a cup of tea, like philosophy, literature, current events, or fun ways to pass the time.

Location: Pacific Northwest, United States

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05 May 2005

Review: Teavana Store

It takes a lot to get me to big indoor shopping malls, since they’re just about my least favorite of all public spaces. So, when I read that a new tea store had opened in a nearby shopping mall, I groaned a bit but still decided to head over and check it out. Teavana, was. . . well I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth my visit, but it certainly didn’t do anything to make me want to return to the mall. The shop, one of a chain of stores, really is geared toward people who are just starting to try loose teas, especially those who are interested in the health benefits (aside: why is it that so many teashops are touting health benefits first and taste/comfort second?).

The quality of the tea leaves was just okay, and it was not even close to the quality I get from online vendors and other smaller local tea shops. Employees wore lab coats (?!?) and seemed to have a passing knowledge of tea, or at least of what they’ve been told about tea – again, all great for a new loose tea person, but not for someone who’s already a tea-phile. For example, when I asked to look at the puerh, their eyes went big and in hushed tones they said, “this has been aged for 15 years” and “people drink this for weight-loss.” Sheesh, is that really all they’ve been taught about what some think is the most royal of all teas?

Teavana does have a large selection of pots -- actually more pots than tea. The yixing are about what you’d find in online stores like decent quality for being mass-produced, and in an interesting variety of shapes. They also carry tetsubin and other Japanese pots, along with a few electric kettles.

In the end, that is what made my trip to Teaveana worthwhile – I bought a new electric teakettle (see related post). I’d been pricing them online and in other shops, and Teavana’s cost was as low as any I found online (minus the shipping).

Would I recommend Teavana? I think it is probably a nice place for those who are just starting out. The staff is pleasant, and the store is very open and clean (even hygienic). The store is obviously geared toward high-end mall shoppers, and it’s an appropriate target consumer. However, for those living in the Seattle area, local tea shops stock MUCH MUCH MUCH better quality tea and are owned and staffed by very knowledgeable and friendly tea lovers.

Here are my favorite places in or near Seattle:

The Tea Cup (on Queen Anne hill just north of Seattle Center): assams, oolongs, greens, darjeelings, and a few flavored teas. Saturdays at 1 there are usually informal tea tasting and learning opportunities.

Floating Leaves (currently only online, but coming soon to the Ballard neighborhood, Seattle): oolongs, golden yunnan, puerhs, greens. They’ll have Asian-styled tea service as well as selling their gorgeous leaves. I attended a tea gathering at the owner's house this past weekend and am really looking forward to becoming a regular at their tearoom. :)

Everything Tea (north of Seattle, in Snohomish): quite a large stock of many types of tea, plus a good selection of tea paraphernalia. Snohomish is a tea and antique lover’s paradise. There are about 450 antique vendors, 2 tearooms, and 1 tea shop all in a 3 or 4 block stretch along the riverfront. It’s a great place to spend a Saturday or Sunday!


Blogger Stephane said...

There is my answer why they emphasize health benefits instead of taste first.

Floating Leaves seems to be a good place to discover Taiwanese tea. But I recommend you learn gongfu cha with a gaibei/gaiwan. It is taste neutral and lets you better see the leaves and the color of the tea while brewing.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Cindy W. said...

Stephane, thanks for the link to your post regarding health benefits vs. the pleasure of tasting tea. It's not so much that I mind all of those wonderful benefits, but the last thing I want is for tea to be viewed as only medicinal.

Floating Leaves has been a nice place for discovering Taiwanese tea, and I'm really starting to take advantage of having them nearby (feel like I've got a personal purveyor of tea). :)

Most of my learning, especially about the brewing of oolongs, has come from the Internet. I am especially indebted to some of the vendor sites that provide detailed instructions (Imperial Tea's Classroom, for instance).

When you suggest learning gongfu cha with a gaibei/gaiwan, I have two questions:

1. Is this as opposed to using a yixing pot?

2. is there a physical difference between gaibei and gaiwan? (or is it a language/dialect distinction?)

Thanks for your comments, and many thanks for your wonderful blog (now a regular stop in my web-surfing time).

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Myles said...

I just visited a Teavana Store at the Garden State Mall in NJ. I was new to the store and asked for guidance on how they sell their teas. Mind you, I'm more of a coffee drinker, but I'm always looking for a new good tasting tea. The salesperson, Naoko was so good at her job she never mentioned there were different tin sizes (at different prices), therefore when I went to buy two scoops of a Chai tea I liked she put it in a large $6.00 tin can. The two scoops could've fit in a small tin easily with room for more! I wasn't even aware I had a choice. I was so overwhelmed with all the information she was throwing my way regarding the teas and teapots...I couldn't think clearly. I thought the final bill was expensive, but I didn't think anything of it...until I got home and realized I paid more for the tin than the tea.

I decided to visit their website and became furious (at myself as much as with them) when I realized I HAD A CHOICE. I should've known better! When I called the store to speak to the manager, he told me that they may have been out of small tins. Well, why not tell the consumer??? When I told him him how disappointed I was and told him what I thought of Teavana's little operation he hung up on me right after he said for me to come in so I can get my $1.50 back. The $1.50 was obviously not the point.

I just want others to be aware of their tactics. Ask questions, request for prices beforehand, and don't let them confuse you with all the information they throw at you. Better yet, go to your local tea vendor or buy online. Teavana is definitely NOT WORTH IT!

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would love some recs on other online tea stores.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed Teavana tea, the tropical fruitiness of the one I sampled is quite refreshing, a real treat that my wife and I enjoy on occasion. I was at the mall and decided to purchase some tea, and was pleasantly surprised when I was told for only $1 more I could purchase the larger tin which holds a pound of tea, great deal huh!

The person who served me spoke knowledgeably and constantly about how great tea is, while mixing and weighing, and carefully filling my large tin. Then I got the shock of my life!!

"Heres your tea, that will be $80"

WHAT! are you insane!!! I was dumb founded by the barrage of information about tea that was thrown at me, so without even thinking I handed over my credit card. I walked out the door in a daze and almost had a mental breakdown over how much I just paid for tea! I must be out of my mind!

Turns out it was $10 plus an extra $1 upgrade just for the large empty tin can! And of course the receipt said they don't give refunds!!! I am furious about this I feel as though I have been robbed!! I can't even drink it with out feeling sick at the thought.

If I had actually found the holy grail then I would be quite happy to pay $80 to fill it with this tea, if I was promised eternal well as the ability to see through walls.

Honestly no drink is worth $80!! Take my advice, go to Walmart and spend $1.50 on some tea bags you'll enjoy it more!

7:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently purchased some of the Formosa Nut Oolong in store. The sales person was very nice and knew a good amount about the teas. I'm not an expert but I could tell when I was taxing the salespersons knowledge in a few areas.

Anyway, the store was nice had some cool things but the tea was very expensive and I has very displeased with the amount of fannings that I ended up with in my purchase.

I'll stick with my current websites and local stores and skip this one in the future.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I entered Teavana #70 in Annapolis today with a friend. The energetic clerk, Amanda G., engaged me in conversation about tea and surprised me with this comment, "Oh, all Teavana teas are organic!" Believing I was purchasing an organic tea product I bought 4oz. Black Dragon Pearl tea. When I arrived home I discovered, through the company catalogue, that the tea I bought is not organic. I am now seeking full refund. I am fully aware of the "Final sale" note on my receipt. I purchased the tea in good faith believing it to be the organic product the clerk presented it to be. Either she make an error or lied about the product.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Danica said...

You know I feel like you are being very snobbey about Teavana I have been a tea drinker my whole life I have had teas from all over the world and I feel Teavana has beautiful tea great prices and unlike most private shops they are really bringing tea to the masses maybe there staff doesn't know everything but they try they are young and I am sure learning everyday. They may have many locations but they are not your typical chain if you know anything about the company they are all owned of by the creator of teavana ,who also goes and hand picks the teas from the tea farmers she tried to franchise but was so unhappy with whatthe people were doing she bought them all back because the quality of what people were drinking was so important to her. All I am saying is maybe you should look at everything before you judge so harshly. Thank you

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please, learn to type with punctuation. You're not talking, you're typing. Your post is very hard to read with the missing periods.

12:39 AM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Ive had nothing but wonderful experiences in my
several years shopping in the stores in Boston and Atlanta. The tea is always fresh and high quality.
The health benefits are just a plus.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

Just came back from Teavana, not a bad store. I have to agree that this place is for first time tea drinkers. The seem to push a lot of flavor blend like "Hazelnut" or "Passion Fruit." These stores are actually perfect for the mall. To me, it seems they are doing to tea what Starbucks did to coffee.

4:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found this blog after searching the internet "review about Teavana." I had similar experience with Myles. I just purchased a black dragon pearl tea from the teavana store in atlanta. the sales person told me that i had to purchase at least 0.5 pound for this tea. As a new customer i thought that was the minimum i had to purchase. As i look through the brochure, i pointed out to her that i could buy 2 ounce. She told me that to be effective, i have to keep drinking and that 2 ounce is too little/not enough. After arguing & telling her that i just want to try it first, i ended up buying 3 ounces of the tea with extra-large tin. (extra-large tin for 3 ounces???) I was just too tired to complain that i did not need the tin. I felt like i was getting robbed. I told myself that it would be my first & last shopping at teavana. I don't like the way they do sales there but i guess it is the only way those sales people do to make the sales.

10:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happen to work at a Teavana store and have no problem telling anyone that Teavana is not perfect. We go through training about tea which puts us ahead of the average consumer and also tries to maximize company sales. In no way are employees trained to be dishonest so far as we know. However, employees do work by commission in a competitive environment. Can you expect much more from retail in a mall? I for one will never lie to you, but if it makes me a better salesperson to promote the higher price tag... sheesh. I'm sorry. Retail sucks but tea is delicious.

Teavana tea might not be the best you've ever had, but it is the best I have ever had. I've noticed that freshness is compromised in the sales process by opening tins repeatedly to show customers the tea. Also, digging into tea to measure it produces more fannings. I don't think that's changing any time soon.

1:42 AM  
Anonymous Ian Taber said...

I ventured into the Teavanna store in Somerset Mall (Troy, MI) where I had the worst (and far beyond insulting) customer service experience of my life. What appalled me the most was that no store manager or area manager chose to communicate with me directly but told me I was unable to make a return (I was 3 days past the deadline) even though I had just broken my right leg and was legally bound not to drive.

6:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I work at Teavana and I would really like to clear up some things. Teavana gives discounts when you buy large quantities of tea. A pound you get 10% off, 2 pounds you get 15% and 5 pounds gets you 20% off. With the tins, the larger tin holds about a pound. Those tins are a one time purchase and like a reusable shopping bag. You can spend $7 on a tin and put as much as you want in it and bring it back if you like the tea and get your discount, or come back and put another 2 oz in, whatever. If you get the $6 tin that holds half a pound, you'd have to get at least two to EVER get a discount (which most people want) and that would cost you at least $12 just for the tins. We stopped selling the really small tins because once you got to your pound of tea, you ended up saving no money because of what you were spending on the tins.

AND, as most people (rather rudely) insist that they do not need the tins, tea goes bad if it is not stored in an air-tight, light-tight container in about 4 days. You are spending $60 on a pound of a high quality loose-leaf tea and you really can't spare $7 to keep it fresh? Yes we have sales goals but ultimately, $7 wont kill my sales, I'm really trying to satisfy a customer and make sure that their $60 investment doesn't taste horrible.

Most of us really do enjoy making our customers happy and will gladly work with people and their budgets to get them what they really like. I've seen too many of my coworkers, and even myself, get verbally berated by customers who don't take time to ask questions or watch the scale as we scoop. NONE of us are going to lie to you about tea. To truly see the health benefits of tea, you need more than two ounces. Usually, if someone wants to try two and tells me that, fine, but if they come in raving about the health benefits, I'm pretty quick to make sure they get ENOUGH to actually see the health benefits and not come back angry that their two ounces didn't make a change.

All I ask of every customer is to remember that we ARE all human beings and deserve to be treated as so. I have NEVER had a job where I literally have been yelled at and treated rudely by customers EVERY day. Yes, the tea is expensive, but the customer controls how much they pay, we're just trying to get you a good deal.

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Denise said...

I feel like I was totally ripped off from Teavanna. It is a really cool store and the sales people were helpful but Lozenzo at the Willow Grove Mall in PA was VERY sneaky. We ordered teas and he never told us about buying the tins nor did he let me pick out the 5 tins that I got. I thought they came with the tea or I would have liked to have picked them out or I would have only gotten 2 tins instead of 5 tins. Our tab was over $200.00 and when I got home I asked for a little bit of the one type of tea, I have a huge tin of it and now I don't like that flavor. I found out from one of my friends that you can buy it by the bag which was never offered to me by the ounce instead of a huge tin. I have lock and locks at home I could use to store it which are free since I already have them. The teas are good but I will NEVER go back due to being ripped off the way that I was.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous ruchita said...

The sales person tried to fool us with similar strategy at the Stoneridge Mall, Pleasanton ,CA. Thank God common sense trimphed and we walked out of the store spending minimum amount possible. I hate the staff's approach- they were very supercilious highbrowed types. About the quality of the tea- well we got Teavana's White Ayurvedic Chai which I think is bit too overpriced. I would never ever go to this place full of wierdos.. who just want to rip the naive consumer.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

in our jobs we are all asked to do a task,or provide a service. the job of an employee at teavana is not to "rip you off" the job of a teavana employee is simply to sell a product that they believe in. i challenge customers to listen for a change to what a salesperson tells them,ask questions, take your time, and make an informed descision. i beg of you, stop yelling at people doing a job that they were asked to do by someone who is providing them with a livelyhood and remember that if you stop for a minute, relax a bit and open your ears you may find out;that cups this company sells are keeping family kilns in japan alive, that a small tea plantation may not be able to pay the united states government the ghastly fee that is charged to become a usda certified organic plantation, and you might just learn something new from someone new. please as a salesperson and a fellow consumer i beg of you stop for a minute relax a bit and look at life from a new perspective. in this life we all think from our pocketbooks from time to time, tea is a pleasure and quality is something too often comprimised in modern culture. would you like to enter a jewelry store and be shown the lesser quality diamond first? of course not. you deserve the best and that is what we are here to provide.

11:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today, I bought a good amount of tea at Teavana and I am more than pleased! At the Roseville, CA location in the Galleria Mall, I was treated with great respect and all the clerks were willing to educate me even though there were many other people in the store. (I just want to make sure that people know that everyone's experience is different and most of those who have a bad experience are the ones to write about it.)

I purchased the Perfect Teamaker, German Sugar Cane Rocks, and some lovely teas. Although this may not be the best quality on the planet, I am excited to jump into the world of tea. Without Teavana, I don't know if I would have be introduced.

I would love to know which online stores many of you like. I'm excited to learn more about tea and other teas to try.

Thank you!

12:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's funny is the fact that everyone is complaining that they were ripped off by Teavana about the tins and the price of the tea. If you would actaully listen to the saleperson, they explain the cost of tins and why you need them. They also explain that the prices of the teas are on the storage tins per two ounces. The problem is that customers just don't listen and don't ask questions. The salespeople actually have a presentation they have to go through where they explain about the teas and tins. No one is trying to rip anyone off, they are just doing their job and selling a product. So next time you open your wallet and buy something without asking questions or being unsure of what exactly you are getting, don't blame the salesperson, blame yourself. You are the one handing over your credit card, not them. Plus, you are not forced to buy, you are allowed to say no. Be an adult, be in control of yourself.

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As tea shop owner, I can tell you that I am getting many many customers fed up with Teavana and I am glad for the business. The same complaints as mentioned here. One customer mentioned they were laughed at because they didn't pronounce Rooibos correctly. Many of the other complaints posted like a broken record; bait and switch pricing, rude or arrogant employees. Sometimes there is no control over what employees say or do but because I get multiple people with the same complaints, it's obviously a cultural problem at Teavana. Teavana is simply getting more people turned on to tea, and when they find out about us, they switch. No lab coat gimmicks, prices clearly marked with no hidden upcharges, no-pressure staff. Thanks Teavana!

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at all the negative comments about Teavanna. I've purchased tea in both the San Diego and the Sherman Oaks store. The staff was willing to discuss their teas with me, even though both stores were quite busy. They were kind and courteous.
While I did spend quite a bit, that was my choice. I'm the one who wanted the teas.
The cost of the tins were explained and the choice was given to me.
In addition, I was advised of the discounts available.
Overall, I am please with both the quality of the tea and the service.
I am interested in finding other tea shops in the LA area or online. Looking forward to recommendations.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Teavana employee and i tell every customer the price of every single item they are purchasing as they ask about it yet they act surprised at the total. People just don't listen. Having said that, I have numerous complaints about how the company works and I try my best to keep out of it. My sales are high but that is because I build a rapport with customers and they return to purchase
tea from me. The management needs to be properly trained, however, because the GMs do not know how yo run a store.

10:40 PM  
Blogger PandaBear said...

Teavana is not meant to be the best quality tea it is meant to be the best tasting tea. Sure, the mate or the black teas might not be pure tea, but the chocolate and nuts and bits of coconut and flowers make the tea TASTE GOOD, which is all I care about. And the tins are a one time purchase which keeps the tea fresh for up to one year. If you already have other tins then you don't need to purchase them, but the tins are not even that expensive. Although the tea is on the expensive side, I have paid more for "higher quality" "pure" tea and it just did not taste as good. The rooibs and black tea blends taste like candy, and prevent me from munching on chocolate or sweets, no other tea I have ever tried, and I am an "experienced tea drinker" as the original poster stated, even comes close.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Cindy W. said...

You know, it has been 5 years since I originally posted this (does no one check dates?????). It amazes me how the comments about Teavana still keep coming. Obviously, Teavana gets people riled up.

I'm about to turn off comments on this blog, retiring it to the vast web in the sky.

I do want to make one last comment, though. Teavana is a corporation, and like any chain the quality of the product is not always the best. I appreciate that so many people begin their journey of tea exploration via Teavana -- that's great. It bothers me that the teas are so marked up in price, and that a lot of misinformation is given out by the workers.

11:41 AM  

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