I don’t blend all of my teas.  There … I’ve said it!  I haven’t been keeping it a secret.  I swear.  Anytime someone asks me via email or at a tea event, I am always upfront about the fact that I don’t create every blend.  So imagine my surprise when Joy’s Teaspoon got called out for it!

I was recently doing a little late night reading on Steepster.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a community of dedicated tea drinkers that sip together, chat together, and literally mail tea to one another.  I enjoy Steepster for a number of reasons.  As an avid tea drinker, I like to hear people’s opinions of new teas and products in the marketplace.  There are reviewers and contributors on the chat boards that make me laugh and I am always scanning for their latest posts.  As a business owner, the feedback from drinkers that have had Joy’s Teaspoon teas is invaluable and I read every single review.

A couple of months ago there was a post about Dethlefsen & Balk on the chat boards that caught my eye.  I have been working with them since the day that I launched Joy’s Teaspoon and still carry a number of their teas in my collection.  Long story short, the author was upset that there were companies reselling Dethlefsen & Balk teas and claiming them as our own.  I was indignant.  I was upset.  He called me lazy.  As you might have guessed, this was the first time I had ever read anything negative about Joy’s Teaspoon!

Once I got over my pity party for one (read: the next day), I started to reread the post and realized that he was really onto something.  I had never claimed those blends were blended by me – not on the site, not on my blog, not on my packaging.  However, I hadn’t posted anything on the site that said otherwise either.  In my personal life, I don’t feed my family anything with high fructose corn syrup or food colorings, we don’t eat anything processed, and we went vegetarian in January.  I want to know what’s in my food, where it’s from, and how it’s made.  In short, I think that the food industry in general is so shrouded in deception and lobbying that I don’t trust anything.  The best part – my own site wasn’t transparent enough!  Swallowing crow is so much more painful when you’re a vegetarian.

My action plan: Be More Transparent!

Step 1 – I do still purchase blended teas from Dethlefsen & Balk and a handful of others that I feel are consistent and good at what they do.  I buy many of my orthodox and unblended teas directly from growers.  At this moment, I am awaiting a shipment of teas directly from the Kenyan growers who have processed them!  And then there are a select few that I have blended on my own.

Step 2 – On that note, over these next couple of weeks, I will be adding a “Sourcing” section to each of my teas that will notate whether the tea has been sourced via a third party, is direct from a grower, or was blended in-house.  That “Sourcing” information will also include harvest dates where applicable and when available.

Step 3 – In the next month, via social media, I will be launching a chat with tea drinkers to find out what is most important to them, what they want to know, and who they think is doing it right.  Based on those findings, I will make changes to JoysTeaspoon.com.

In retrospect, I should have seen this coming.  The tea industry as a whole is an ancient one.  Here in the U.S., however, it is growing so rapidly that it’s hard to keep up with all of the information and new companies springing up.  Consumers are more informed and making decisions based on information, not just on pretty packaging.  Those same consumers are beginning to realize that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tea companies that are purchasing teas from larger wholesalers and reselling them under their own brand.  I would love to know who you think is doing it right?  What do you like to see when you are interested in trying a tea?  What information is most important to you?