Well, I currently have a negative opinion of this company, but in the old days I was a BIG fan. This shift in attitude is due both to a my own maturing and refining as a tea drinker (and tea snob, I suppose), and Teavana’s fall from more pure teas into the retail and sole emphasis on flavored… well, crap.
In the beginning, Teavana was really a haven of tea for me. I’ll give them that – they create an atmosphere with their store. Their variety of teaware, and huge tins of tea really turned me on, and made a big impression on me at the time. I’d literally spend hours a week in that store, just absorbing. But alas, we must grow apart.
Even in my earlier, more accepting months of drinking tea, I was never a huge fan of their blends. Finding half an orange slice amongst other large chunks of fruits and whatnot in my tea is just… not especially pleasing. What I did like, was that there were a few good, untainted teas in their selection, as well as, I’ll admit, a rather good rooibos selection. Over time, though, they started eliminating the good stuff and supplementing more dreck.
I also dreamed at one point of tasting their “Monkey Picked Oolong”. When I finally went in and bought it, a year or so after discovering the store…. It just didn’t compare to the really good oolongs I’ve had. I didn’t even finish the two ounces. To the buyer beware: It’s just regular Ti Kwan Yin (what they call Iron Buddha), mixed with a bit of higher grade stuff. And even their regular Iron Buddha is overpriced. Buy your TKY elsewhere in the mall or Santana Row.
I’d definitely suggest not buying any real tea their, unless you know they just got a shipment in. This is because of the way they store and sell their tea. While the large tins may seem kind of cool, every time they open that tin to waft the smell over to someone, or scoop out a couple of ounces, the tea is being exposed to light and air, thus decreasing the value. You’re better off at Lupicia, Puripan, or even Peet’s, where the tea is prepackaged and airtight. I would think that herbals should be fine, as well as their rooibos, which, again, I have a good opinion on.
As for customer service… as Suzi mentioned, it depends on who you’re working with. Some people will try to pressure you into buying what you really don’t need, and some people are more laid back. I’ve seen quite a few employees come and go, and even regreted as a few passed. Especially the guy that made me free drinks all the time.
If you plan on going to this shop frequently, I’d suggest right of the bat expressing a superior knowledge of tea – that should deflect them a bit from trying to con you too much. Also, it’s very good to develop a sort of buyer-merchant relationship with specific employees, so you can get a bit more bang for your buck – an extra fraction of an ounce here, a free cup there. It’s also good to keep in mind that they’re working on commission – and they make money on the tea and merchandise, but not making drinks. You can use this to your advantage, especially with people more comfortable in their positions, by striking a deal. “I’ll buy this tea [which I was planning on buying anyway] if you hook me up with a free drink.”
I’d say, it’s worth checking out. If you’re still feeling your way around the tea world, it’s a great doorway, and if you’re more experienced…. well, there’s free samples at the door! It’s a nice place to be in, and sometimes they hire cute girls. Overall, though, not a truly great tea experience.