I have been closely associated with the tea industry for 17 years now. The change in the speciality tea industry has been one of the most noticeable new achievements for our small tea world.

I have been especially impressed with the new tea shops, boutiques, and tea parlours springing up in every nook and on every corner. These establishments have changed the mindsets of people, exposed them to a tea culture that they never knew existed, and taught them that there is an alternative to Lipton and other tea companies which sell low quality/common teas at obnoxious prices. The tea shops and tea chain owners, on the other hand, have travelled to the tea producing countries and have a good idea about what they buy.  They are conscious of serving only the very best teas to their customers. These tea entrepreneurs deserve a big hand from the whole leaf industry because they have achieved an important milestone in the history of tea in a very short short time span. We owe them a lot of credit. I am actually thinking of writing a book featuring some of these eminent tea chain owners – that’s the level of success I feel they have achieved from their hard work.  Maybe they don’t make a lot of money, but they have the highest level of satisfaction from doing what they love! Their work ethic and dedication to quality control is commendable.

buyer bewareAt the same time, I am disgusted and saddened at many of the new online tea companies springing up everyday – especially in the tea producing countries. Many, if not most, have no idea of the tea industry in any aspect: they have no taste training, educational qualifications, nor do they have infrastructure to run a tea company. Many of these online tea companies are run by computer professionals who believe they are changing the tea industry. A tea’s true value is not determined at any point by these online tea resellers – their motive is to photoshop the tea so their profit mark ups are in excess of 500%. This online bubble has disturbed the quality supply of teas, has upset the speciality tea industry in so many ways that we need to be very careful when buying teas online.

The source of these teas is questionable.  What you see is not what you get.  A lot of online vendors are mixing and selling Nepal teas as Darjeeling teas by using novel names like Himalayan teas, as well as many others.   Many of these online computer professionals who have converted into tea sellers are selling teas that are two years old or more. For the indian tea scenario, our teas have a shelf life of 12 months.  It is neither safe nor ethical to sell tea – or any other consumable – that has passed its shelf life.  These untraceable, in-the-air companies rely on hype, stories that aren’t true, and misguiding the customers. Many of these companies boast of offering teas from 200 estates, but their inventory is absent. There is no foundation for these companies. Nothing on the ground exists – a big farce. They are causing serious concern for the tea industry.

Trust me friends: it’s better to see and smell the tea before you decide to buy it. Reliable and correct value for a product and consistent quality standards is the customer’s right and which should not be compromised. I would advise my friends –  tea lovers – to be very careful in buying teas from these unprofessional tea companies. We need teas from tea people who know their product – not from computer people. Support the honest tea movement by buying the best teas from the tea professionals. It’s unfortunate that new customers who want to drink quality teas have to go through such uncertainty when they opt to buy teas from these computer tea companies that are only interested in figures, numbers and scores!

The online tea shop bubble is very dangerous – beware friends!

Ankit Lochan sells authentic Darjeeling Teas at Tea In India.

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