Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Tea on a Budget

Here's our FIRST EVER GUEST POST. Informative, and fun!
-L

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One of the best things about the world of tea is that there are hundreds of tasty teas, from “true teas” like whites, oolongs and pu-erhs, to tea blends and even herbal teas, to explore. The fact that there are so many different types to try is one of the things that make tea fun, as it is likely you will find at least one that you enjoy. The downside is that purchasing all those teas can get quite expensive. However, if you are willing to put a little more time and consideration into your search and seek out samples and tea swaps, you can alleviate some of the cost.

Read Reviews

Besides tasting teas yourself, one of the easiest ways to learn about new teas is by reading the reviews of others. The tea community has a huge online presence, so there are a variety of sites (such as this one, as well as Rate Tea and Teaviews) that are frequently updated with reviews of different teas. After you have tried some teas based on the reviews you have read, you may even be able to narrow down what bloggers seem to have similar tastes as you so you can rely on their recommendations.

Another option is to read the reviews of a particular tea on the retailer’s site, and see what other people who have bought the tea thought of it. However, it is important to keep in mind that customer reviews can be slightly biased, since they are most likely to review a tea if they either really enjoyed it or completely disliked it. On the other hand, tea bloggers generally will share their opinion on any tea they try, even if it was only mediocre, making them a more reliable source.

Watch for Sales

One way to get tea at a cheaper price is to wait for a sale to purchase them. If there is a certain brand you like or are interested in trying, keep an on their site for sales or promotions. You can also try following the company’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or joining their mailing list to find out about special offers, promotional codes or flash sales.

Seek out Samples

The nice thing about samples is they are a great way to try various teas with little or no monetary investment on your end. Better yet, there are a variety of ways to get samples of tea to try.

One way is to attend tea related events, like local tea festivals, where not only can you get samples of both loose leaf and prepared tea, but can also attend classes taught by industry experts and suppliers.

Retail stores will often hold regular tastings where you can sample tea in the shop or even take some home and brew it yourself. However, when you are sampling teas that are already brewed (whether at a festival or in a store), make sure to ask a lot of questions about how the tea was prepared. Some vendors flavor their teas with sweeteners, like sugars and syrups, or brew it with a higher concentration of leaves to make the tea have a stronger or sweeter flavor. Although this is a bit misleading, it is a practice quite a few stores participate in, which (as I have learned from experience) can cause your tea to taste very different when you brew it at home. While some retailers can be tricky with how they flavor their tea, other sellers will sometimes include a sweet surprise when you purchase tea from them. These gifts are usually samples of teas or a discount on your next purchase. Both of which are great ways to try something new!

You can also utilize the online tea community for samples. Many bloggers wind up getting more tea samples than they can drink, so they often have contests or drawings to give away their extras. In addition, there are several tea review sites that are always interested in finding new people to review teas to in order to gain another perspective. If you enjoy writing or blogging, this is a great way to receive free samples since many of the sites will send you the tea they want you to review. Finally, there are some bloggers that are just kind-hearted and excited to meet fellow aficionados who will happily send you samples they come across once they get to know you. 

Swap/Share with Friends

Again, this is a good time to explore the online tea community, and check out sites like Steepster, to see if there are any people who participate in tea swaps in your area. If you aren't familiar with tea swaps, they are prearranged get-togethers (it’s best to do these in a public place until you feel comfortable with the people in your group) where people swap, and sometimes even taste, teas. Usually people swap teas that have discovered since the last time the group met, extra samples they may have lying around or teas that they tried and didn't like.

If there isn't an in-person tea swap in your area, there are also tea groups that swap samples through the mail and “meet” online via Skype to chat and review teas. Another option is to start a tea-swapping group yourself. If you love tea, it’s likely you know at least a few other people (such as friends, family members or co-workers) who enjoy it as well. If your friends aren't as into tea as you are, this is a great time to introduce them to it! Start by sharing a couple of teas you like, and even ones you don’t, since you never know what will appeal to other people. As your friends get more comfortable with tea, they'll likely return the favor and share their finds, or be willing to swap teas they dislike, with you. If they end up having similar tastes, your friends may even be willing to split a large package of tea so you don't need to shoulder hefty costs alone or worry about getting through a ton of tea. Besides, tea is always more fun when you have someone to share it with you so can compare notes.


Brenna Ciummo is a writer for Seattle Coffee Gear and enjoys sharing her knowledge of all things coffee and tea. An avid tea drinker, she is always on the hunt for new teas to try. 

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