A Look at Tea Subscription Services

Not so very long ago, the word “subscription” referred almost exclusively to some form of communication media: you signed up for a magazine or newsletter, or you joined a book or record club, and automatically received some item on a regular basis. Accounts were settled at regular intervals, and the process started all over again.

Today, subscription services can bring a wide range of diverse products to your door, from intangibles like access to internet or software…to razors, pet supplies, and even wine. So it makes perfect sense that a number of companies now allow you to subscribe to receive tea. Is one of them right for you?

What Am I Subscribing to?

Subscription services have come a long way, to the point where it’s considered a legitimate business model. In the case of more tangible consumables like tea, subscribers are signing up for a recurring delivery of actual product. Accounts are still settled regularly–almost always on a monthly basis–but now involves a credit card: the card is charged every month for the product shipment, which offers convenience to the customer and a steady cash flow for the merchant. Nothing wrong with that, but it can cause problems, as we’ll see.

Tea for Me

Tea subscription services send hand-picked, high-quality brews to tea lovers every month. Instead of making trek to your local grocery or café, you’ll enjoy high quality teas in the relaxing atmosphere of your home.

What kind of tea? Well, most services give you plenty of options. The prices for these services start under $10, and go as high as $40 or more monthly. What you get for that money varies, of course, but most boxes will include a sampling of teas and some sort of extras. Shipping is often but not always free; be sure to check.

Subscription Tea Options

Some services, such as Teabox, offer a tiered price plan where you can get anywhere from 12 to 150 cups worth of tea every month. They work closely with farms across India and Nepal, so you’re assured of the best and freshest teas. You don’t have a lot of say-so in what you receive, however: new subscribers take a short online quiz, then Teabox creates a set of teas for your particular tastes.

Teas-selected-by-quiz is also the model of Sips By, an Austin-based company founded by a small group of tea lovers who “want discovering tea to be fun, personalized, and affordable.” You’ll create a free tea profile, including a quiz that will help them determine the types of teas you’re interested in.

Simple Loose Leaf, as the name implies, brings you a nice selection of loose leaf teas from around the globe each month. As one of the more cost-effective services, this company will typically send a box filled with a tea from different categories (black, green, etc.). This is a good option for subscription novices…as long as you’re ok with loose leaf!

If cost is a serious consideration, take a look at Hello Tea Club, which actually lets you subscribe for free. Each month’s box will include teas, prices, and samplers. You’ll have 10 days to try the sampler for each tea; if you don’t love it, simply send back that tea. Naturally, you’ll only charged for the teas you keep.

A Great Idea…but…

Overall, tea subscription boxes are a wondrous idea for tea lovers. There are a few things to watch out for, however.

For one thing, make sure you read the fine print before you sign up for the service. Pay special attention to policies concerning shipping and returning, including the cost and who covers it.

Also, you need to keep in mind that the subscription service will go on indefinitely, automatically renewing until you cancel it. If you’re out of town one month, the shipment still comes. If you forgot to return a box, you still get billed. And if you decide to cancel on the day after the automatic payments went out, you’ll most likely still see the charge on your credit card statement.

The good news here is that any company that has been around at least a couple of years with good reviews is NOT trying to scam you. You can almost always get a refund for that first honest mistake. Merchants don’t want you calling your credit card to complain: if the credit card decides to credit you directly, the merchant will still be out the money, plus they’ll be hit with hefty chargeback fees. If you do encounter any push-back from the merchant, usually just threatening to call the bank and demand a chargeback will get you results.

Ready, Set, TEA!

In our fast-paced, non-stop world, it can sometimes seem impossible to squeeze in enough “me-time” to read a book, hit the gym, or take a nap. But a 10-minute tea break could be just what the doctor ordered…and signing up for a tea subscription box is a simple way to sneak a little self-care into your daily routine.