Talking Tea and Telecommuting

Working from home. Sounds like a dream-come-true for millions of workers. At the same time, it may surprise you to know there are a great many companies in existence today who provide opportunities to do just that. And it doesn’t always require a pay-cut, either: In fact, remote workers often earn more money than they did in their previous 9-5 office jobs.

It’s a typical misconception that all work-from-home jobs are scams—and in fact, many are…meaning due diligence is required on your part. Another myth suggests that you can only telecommute in specific industries like customer service or data entry, and the only jobs are lower-paying: nothing could be further from the truth.

According to a recent survey, 97% of respondents said a job with flexibility would have a “ huge improvement or positive impact” on their overall quality of life. Sound interesting? We thought so. But to make the most of a stay-at-home job, you’ll need…tea!

Going for the Right Effect

Workers have long used caffeine as a way to pump up their energy levels, and telecommuters are certainly no exception. If you feel you need caffeine to improve your mental focus, tea is a great way to get it.

Most herbal teas (“tisanes”) are totally caffeine-free, though a few may contain caffeine or other stimulants. Actual caffeine levels vary by the type of tea you’re drinking, as well as how it’s prepared: a typical cup of black tea has half the caffeine of your typical cup of Starbucks. And unlike coffee, tea is loaded with antioxidants and other various compounds that studies have indicated may have significant benefits for your mind and body. That takes the “My-morning-cup-makes-me-feel-more-alive” concept to a whole new level.

If you don’t need the jolt of stimulant, however, herbal tisanes are a great way to go. Beyond just enjoying the taste of a particular herb or herbal combination, these teas can have specific benefits. Many are traditionally used for wellness, mood improvement or as an aide to stress management.

Rooibos and honeybush, for example, are both great for soothing an upset stomach, plus they can help you overcome sugar cravings, since they’re both naturally sweet. Peppermint and hibiscus are beneficial in this way, as well, while Chamomile has historically been used for relaxation. Tulsi, also known as holy basil, has been shown to help the body cope with stress. You know, like deadlines …

These types of products are readily available and generally safe, but remember that some herbs can trigger allergic reactions. For all its positive qualities, Chamomile is in the same family as ragweed and might cause a reaction in someone with seasonal allergies. Herbs have also been known to interact with medications, so be sure to talk to your doctor about the tisanes that you drink.

Working with a Work-from-home Mentality

There are lists of best practices for working from home, but for tea-lovers, we have a few more detailed suggestions:

  • Use an oversized, insulated travel mug

Not only do these mugs keep a lot of tea hot for a long time, they’re safer to use around keyboards and computers: a wider base and closable lid means you aren’t as likely to spill a whole cuppa all over your work area.

  • Use an electric mug warmer

Tea warmers come in all types and varieties, from high-tech jobs with touch-controls and LED displays to ones designed to look like Mickey Mouse. The higher-end versions feature timers and temperature controls, but any will probably keep your cup warm.

  • …Or a tea light warmer

Good cast iron is very durable and it holds heat remarkably well. Simply keep the pot on the warmer and switch to new tea light candles when they burn out.

Telecommuting isn’t for everyone, of course, but it can be ideal for some. Just remember the next time you roll out of bed stumbling and bleary-eyed, a steaming cup of tea can put some much-needed pep in your step.

Is Hot Tea Healthier than Iced?

Maybe you’re out for a cool evening around the fire pit. Or kicked back in your recliner watching Lifetime movies. Or heck, even crouched over your computer, telecommuting. Wherever you take it, we know our readers well enough to know that when we talk about enjoying a spot of tea, most of you are thinking of a nice warm cup or mug. So it might surprise you to know that 85 percent of tea is served over ice.

If that freaks you out a little, here’s a confession: that statistic is for the United States only. In fact, the US is probably the only location in the world where an order for tea is automatically assumed to be iced tea; if the waiter asks “What type?” he’s wanting to know if you want it sweetened or non.

And while we’re on that subject … heavily sweetened iced tea is as bad for you as sugary coffee drinks, juice-ades, or soft drinks. Packed with nutritious compounds and natural caffeine, tea can serve as a nutritious and healthy alternative. A good portion of the world enjoys the mild flavors, at hot or cold temperatures. You’ll be happy to note, however, that drinking hot tea has advantages when compared to cold tea. They’re admittedly minor, but better is better, right?

It Tastes Better

Taste is subjective, we get that. BUT: if you actually enjoy the taste of tea—as with coffee, some undiscriminating folk drink it mostly for the caffeine—but if you enjoy the taste, you should note that you’ll get a noticeably stronger aroma and flavor when drink tea at hot temperatures. Your taste buds have a sensitivity trigger which is much more sensitive to warmer temperatures than cold ones…meaning your tongue has a better opportunity to enjoy flavors that are hot when they are introduced to the mouth. Drinking hot tea makes that taste bud sensitivity kick in, sending stronger electrical signals to the brain. The brain, in turn, interprets the hot tea as measurably more flavorful. Don’t blame us if it tastes better: this is science.

It’s Higher in Antioxidants

The steeping process used for making tea is fairly simple: the hot water infuses the tea leaves and draws the flavor and any nutritious compounds out into the water. We’ve talked about flavor in the precious section, so let’s take a look at those nutritional compounds. As it turns out, they include something called flavonoids, which are defined as “…a group of plant metabolites thought to provide health benefits through cell signaling pathways and antioxidant effects.”

In layman’s terms, they’re a natural compound with antioxidant properties, meaning they help fight cell damage. This is good, but note that the particular antioxidants in tea are highly reactive: they oxidize and dissipate once they’re exposed to oxygen. In other words, allow tea to sit in an open container (say, a pitcher) for very long, and the oxygen in the air will deplete the tea’s antioxidant supply relatively quickly.

So follow the logic here: antioxidants are extremely beneficial for the body, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, supporting good bone health, and boosting the immune system. The longer it takes to get from steeping to drinking, the lower the amount of antioxidants, ergo, drinking hot tea is more beneficial than drinking cold tea. In fact, if you’re trying for the maximum antioxidant content, you pretty much want to drink hot tea fresh from the kettle.

It’s Overall Healthier

Antioxidants are just one of the health benefits of drinking hot tea. One study showed that out of nearly 6,500 women tested, those who drank hot tea lost weight over the course of the study, whereas women who drank iced tea actually gained weight (possibly because it was more likely to be sweetened, but that’s beside the point.) Plus, research has demonstrated that drinking hot tea can lower your levels of unhealthy HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The same benefits are not found when drinking iced tea.

In the long view, drinking tea is good for you, regardless of how you prefer to take it. As long as you don’t pour in the sugar, the benefits are substantial whether you drink it over ice … or over a good book in front of a fireplace.

4 Pop Culture Tea Lovers

Some people like tea; some people LOVE tea. If you’re reading this blog, you probably fall into one of those categories. Then again, there are people who consider a day without tea a crisis of biblical proportions, and dunking a criminal offense. You might even be one of those—which is fine. We’re not here to judge.

The point is, there are tea people. From kings and presidents to writers and artists, plenty of folk have declared their passion for liquid happiness. So much so, that tea-drinkers have become a part of our popular culture. Here are a few examples:

1. Mary Poppins

Ok, let’s start with the obvious: in both books by Pamela Travers and movies, Mary Poppins taught us that a spoonful of sugar might help the medicine go down, but nothing calms the nerves like a proper cuppa. Our favorite flying nanny may’ve been a textbook example of sophisticated manners, but she turned teatime into an art form. — even flying nannies. Whether she was sharing a spot around an aloft table with her laughing, floating charges, or being served by penguins inside a chalk drawing, tea time was a priority for Ms. Poppins…which seems only proper.

2 Jean-Luc Picard

What better cure for an over-indulgence of Romulan Ale than a spot of “Earl Grey. Hot.”? Captain Jean-Luc Picard, commander of Star Trek’s U.S.S. Enterprise, regularly traveled where no one had gone before. When it came to teatime, however, his choice was much more down-to-earth. It’s oddly comforting to think that no matter big our universe is, people in the future could still find comfort in the second-oldest beverage known to man (the first, of course, being water … which we’ve heard doesn’t go nearly as well with a photon torpedo.)

3 Alice in Wonderland

The riddles are ridiculous, the dishes are dirty, and the host? Well, he’s stark raving mad. Still, it could be argued that Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter is the single most recognizable tea-lover in the world of fiction. The Mad Hatter’s tea party qualifies as one of the most colorful such gatherings in literature … enough so to leave readers wondering if perhaps the participants weren’t dropping more than their napkins. Alice herself labeled it “the stupidest tea party I ever was at in all my life.” That’s as may be, but you can’t say it isn’t memorable.

4 Dowager Countess of Grantham

Played to perfection by Dame Maggie Smith, the grand lady from PBS’s acclaimed drama Downton Abbey can often be seen enjoying a cup or serving some up for guests. This is the epitome of what we think of as Brits drinking tea…so much so that it could almost fall into a well-worn cliché. The writers are better than that, though, and use tea as a broader trope, giving it the role of historical time-stamp, as well as subtle commentator on class and food in the early 20th century. It also serves as a meeting place to exchange ideas and … observations: the origins of the modern-day water cooler.

Taking time for yourself has been shown to keep people healthy, more mindful and more productive. So take a cue from pop culture and sit down with a nice steaming cup of tea.

Tea and the Art of Dunking

In case you haven’t heard—although it’s hard to imagine a circumstance where you hadn’t—tea-drinkers are prone to have a bit of a snack with their afternoon drink, usually in the form of a cookie…or to use British parlance, a biscuit.

There’s something about the act of dunking a biscuit into a steaming cuppa that elicits the same level of comfort in the drinker as, say, curling up in front of a roaring fire with a warm blanket on a cold day: the end result is wonderful, but the act itself is cathartic all on its own.

There’s something almost instinctive that leads you to dunk a biscuit, which makes it hard to believe that humans have only embraced this rite comparatively recently. How did it start? Like many good things, it came about because of adversity.

Naval life in the 1500s was about as far away from a Carnival Cruise as one can get. No multiple restaurants on every level and free open bar: sailor’s existed on hard tack, simple flour-and-water crackers that bakers allegedly made as hard as possible to ensure they would last for long periods—years, in some cases—on the high seas.

Now, while that sounds good (or at least practical) on paper, one also has to consider the state of dentistry that existed at the time … or oral hygiene in general. Hard tack wasn’t nicknamed “molar breakers” for nothing. To save their enamel, sailors took to dunking their hardtack in brine or coffee to soften things up. And the world was never the same.

The Art of Dunking

There’s more to dunking than just, you know, dunking. There are a few important points to consider if you wish to ensure the perfect dunk. Do you have the right sized receptacle? Is the beverage at the optimum temperature? And most importantly, which is the best type of biscuit to dunk?

This is quite the serious matter for some folks. You’ll find people in the US who agree on abstract things like the effectiveness of government or the loss of personal information; ask 100 tea drinkers what to have with their tea, however, and you’re likely to come up with a hundred different answers.

Admittedly there’s very little in life more heartbreaking than a biscuit that crumbles and falls into your mug, ruining both the snack and the tea. We get that. That’s why we’ve rounded up our a few of our favorite treats and put them to the test. Here are a few good suggestions for the potential dunker:

Fortnum & Mason Piccadilly Salted Caramel

This wondrous butter biscuit is packed with salted caramel pieces and offers a satisfying salty aftertaste. The ultimate afternoon indulgence, these biscuits are sweetly smooth with an indescribable lingering taste. Best of all, after repeated dunks, it showed no signs of breaking. Dissolving, maybe, but not breaking.

Selfridges Oat and Honey Biscuit

Crisp and flavorful, these honey and toasted oats biscuits make for a delicious tea-break treat. Nutty toasted oats and high-quality honey combine to create a hearty, wholesome biscuit that is more than up to the task of dunking. Showing only minimal signs of crumbling after many (MANY) dunks, the honey made for a sweet accent to the taste of the tea.

Choco Leibniz

Choco Leibniz is really a cult biscuit that prides itself on its unique construction: essentially, Leibniz biscuits are dropped into molds filled chocolate just as that chocolate starts to set. These biscuits dunk surprisingly well, considering their thinness. Obviously, chocolate-coated biscuits have a slight advantage in terms of withstanding warm drinks.

Custard Cream

The traditional custard cream, a creamy custard-flavored center sandwiched between two flat biscuit layers, is undeniably delicious … but maybe not the best dunker. It doesn’t hold up well, and after just a half-dozen dunks you have custard cream debris floating in your cup. A more traditional ladyfinger might be a better choice.


Face it: when it comes to biscuits-and-tea, you just can’t go wrong with a traditional Scottish shortbread biscuit. The simplicity of the recipe—usually one part white sugar, two parts butter, and three parts oat flour—makes it both robust enough for dunking and just sweet enough to offset the tang of your tea.


9 Types of Tea Drinkers

There are tea drinkers, and there are non-tea drinkers, and never the twain shall understand each other. In a coffee-powered world, tea-drinkers are often seen as quaint and old-lady-ish. To be fair, there are some drinkers like that, but it’s hardly the only stereotypical tea-lover.

We all have our own ways of appreciating and interpreting the fine art of tea making In fact, those of us who enjoy our daily cuppa note our own various stereotypes within our ranks … such as:

The Strongs

These folks take an already robust tea with a lot of body and a bit of a bite, steep it for ten minutes or more, and add just barely enough milk to make it less cola-colored. This is normally considered a “breakfast tea,” but the Strong drinkers prefer it this way all the time.

The Weaks

The Weak drinkers are the ones for whom tea is practically a dairy product. They start with barely-steeped water and add a couple cows’ worth of milk. This is sometimes (inaccurately) referred to as a “light tea” due to the absence of anything that would give it a darker color. Like tea.

The Straight Blacks

This has nothing to do with racial or sexual profiling. We’re talking about those who take their tea black, straight out of the pot. This is for those whose sense of machismo demands that they drink one step above the Strongs. It’s also for people like students who can’t actually afford milk …

The Sweets

Three spoons of sugar in your tea? Hah! Amateur! These drinkers pour sugar right out of the bowl. For them, tea isn’t tea if you actually have to taste the tea. To each his own, I suppose, but it does raise a question: at what point does it stop being tea and start being stucco?

The Snobs

The drinkers who must have their tea Just. So. Using a clean, dry teaspoon, place exactly 2.5g of tea in a clean, pre-heated teapot. Gently pour 220ml of fresh, once-boiled water onto the tea leaves and leave for 2.24 minutes. Drink only from genuine Stoke-on-Trent porcelain mugs.

The Whatevers

These easygoing tea drinkers have no tea preference whatsoever: whatever you have is fine. Milk? Sugar? Either way. These drinkers can be very accommodating, but one has to wonder about their dedication: being able to go beyond a favorite is polite. Not HAVING a favorite seems sketchy …

The Biscuit-eaters

For this crowd, tea is first and foremost an excuse to snack. None of that finger-sandwich nonsense, either: if you’re not hauling out the biscuit tin, well then nevermind. Lavender honey cupcakes or a white chocolate toffee scone would work nicely, but they’ll settle for shortbread.

The Fancies

Only for the adventure-minded (or easily bored), selections for these drinkers can range from Lapsang Souchong or Taiwanese Formosa Red to any one of the million or so Celestial Seasonings flavors. Some of them might be quite tasty, but at some point ya gotta, you know, pick a freakin’ lane …

The Keurigs

The purists in the crowd just gave a collective gasp: Using a Keurig for TEA? Blasphemy! Well, maybe, but it happens. As one expert says, tech isn’t inherently good or evil: it’s simply a tool. While few people would suggest K-cups make the best tea, some busy people consider it a matter of necessity.

And then, as we said at the beginning, you’ve got those oddities that don’t care to drink tea at all. Tea drinkers have a tendency to ask what’s wrong with them, but I’ve always felt that wasn’t the question: It’s not a matter of “What’s wrong with you that you don’t drink tea?” but rather “You don’t drink tea: THAT’s what’s wrong with you.”

Of course, I may be biased …

The Priciest Tea You’ll Ever Drink

If you’re not a world traveler, chances are good that you’ve never heard of the Beijing Tea House Scam. If you do ever journey to The Forbidden City, however, be on your guard: this notorious fraud attempt could cost you thousands.

A High-Level Scam

Well beyond the tricks of your average pickpocket or street-corner hustler, the typical Beijing Tea House Scam starts with a friendly face: a fellow tourist or likeable local who strikes up a conversation with you, the intended victim. The bait-scammer is often an attractive-yet-innocent-looking young woman, for obvious reasons: women feel safer talking to another woman, and men? Well, men have a hard time saying no to a pretty face.

But your new friend isn’t all she appears to be. Her actual job is to ferret out unsuspecting tourists to the area, establish a rapport, and entice them into a local tea house: an Oriental version of “Can I buy you a drink?”

Inside the café are private rooms where you and your brand-new BFF can chat about the area, the history…pretty much about anything BUT the price of tea in China: all mentions of cost are deliberately omitted from the conversation. Before you get a chance to become restless, a hostess will provide light snacks and a variety of teas to sample. Oh, how pleasant…

… at least until it’s time to leave.

At that point, you realize that friendliness had nothing to do with the whole set-up: the proprietors expect to paid, and the prices are so high they make airport pricing look like chump change. The cost of your visit will commonly run into the hundreds of dollars … a “steep” price for even very good tea (and it probably won’t be).

It gets worse, too: whip out a credit card to pay, the hostess ducks in the back and guess what? Now they have your card number … who knows how much you’ll end up owing by the time the receipt is actually sent to the bank? One added zero squeezed onto a line, and you end up owing 10 times what you actually signed for (which was already likely 10 times more than the tea was worth).

What Now?

It’s not a stretch to say that tea-lovers like us are prime marks for scams like this. We love tea, and that often leads to conversations during and about tea. What could be better than authentic local tea in an authentic local tea house with an authentic local? We’ve got one foot in the door before the bait-scammer even shows up!

Afterwards, of course, we’re rethinking our position. Your best bet here is to contact the bank that issued your credit card and file a chargeback, which gives the bank permission to check into the situation. Sometimes they will simply take the money back and return it to your account. Sometimes the actual card network (Visa or Mastercard, for example) will get involved, and the tea house could lose their ability to accept credit cards.

In some cases, you may not be able to get the charge removed on your own, and will need to contact a lawyer or a chargeback expert. The odds are good you can get your money back, but it could take days, weeks, or longer.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is a far better remedy here. Be leery of strangers who seem overly friendly for no good reason. If you do follow someone into a tea house, avoid private rooms. Don’t partake of anything without a price discussion (although this has limited effectiveness, as the scammer could charge you just for being there). Never use a debit card, and if you feel you must (for personal safety) sign a receipt, take a phone pic of it before and after you sign—evidence for a later court case.

Putting the “Tea” in “Teamwork”

Teamwork is the silver bullet, the secret sauce, the thing that “makes the dream work,” right? Even a casual internet search will return over 100 million posts, from building teamwork in the office to actual college courses to Oh. So. Many. Memes

If teamwork is such a great idea everywhere else (and we’re certainly not saying it isn’t), why not with tea?

Mastering the subtle art of teaming (or more properly, “pairing”) the right tea with food is no different than knowing whether to go with a safe Riesling or a light Pinot Grigio for a delicious meal, or even knowing whether to add basil or cut back on the rosemary when cooking.

Picking the right tea to go with your meal can turn an ordinary dinner into a unique culinary experience; you don’t have to be a sommelier to tell the difference – all you need are your taste buds.

Having said that, however, if you’re just starting to discover tea pairing, it’s easy to feel whelmed by the sheer volume of aromas and flavors that you can choose from: picking the wrong type of tea to go with a specific food can end up being like serving tartar sauce with biscuits instead of gravy. So we decided to put together a (very) basic guide to get you started creating your ideal team-ups.

Pairing with Black Teas

Black tea tends to have the strongest and hardiest flavor, which means it can hold its own when paired with other full-flavored foods. Think spicy dishes or meats. The more rustic, natural blacks, for example, are natural complements to blackened meat, jerk chicken, or other robust dishes; the same holds true for more smoky black teas. On the other hand, a few fruity black teas pair nicely with desserts, particularly less sugary ones.

Pairing with Green Teas

Greens already have a slightly vegetable-like taste, making them an excellent choice for pairing with mild-flavored dishes, like chicken, fish, or salads. A fresh melon-based salad goes great with a green tea, as does rice. Just as the black teas, however, there is a range of green tea base flavors, and some pair better than others. Some offer a more grassy zing (perfect for seafood), while others are more fruity and therefore taste really well alongside chicken dishes, sandwiches, or fruit salads. Most greens, however, have that underlying tinge of smoke that can stand up to the taste and flavor of potatoes, light stir-frys or even deep-fried or greasy meat recipes.

Pairing with Oolong Teas

Oolong teas range from darker, more robust flavors that pair well with stronger foods, like grilled salmon or trout, smoked meat, or even heavy sweets (anything maple-flavored is yum). At the other end of the spectrum are the lighter oolongs, with a heavier floral taste that can be brought out by foods like scallops, rich seafood, or lobster. That sweet fragrant flavor also works well with saltier dishes or salted nuts or crackers. You can even try potato chips with oolong, because why not?

Pairing with Pu-erh

Pu-erh teas have a robust, earthy flavor that goes well with a chicken or stir-fry dish. They can neutralize the oily and greasy tastes that go with deep-fried foods as well. The silky smooth swallow of Pu-erh helps soften heavier tastes like dim sum oils, cleansing the palate without taking away from the tastes of the meal. And because Pu-erh teas offer digestive benefits, they’re a great finish to a large meal.

Pairing with White Teas

Last but not least, the delicate nature of white teas mean they don’t pair well with many foods. A light vegetable dish, lightly flavored fish, or even an undressed salad are about as much as you can do without losing the taste of the tea. Anything with a strong aroma tends to overwhelm the subtle sweetness of the tea. Think of whites as more of an aperitif, a little something before the meal to get the taste buds excited.

Finding the teas that best complement your own meals has to go beyond theory. Feel free to experiment until you find those marvelous combinations that can turn dining into a serious TEAm event.

Tea Shop Chargebacks and Return Policies

Let’s say you own a small online tea business. You buy bulk teas, mix unique combinations, and sell them at boutique prices. You have a good holiday season, bringing in enough profit to start thinking about expanding in the new year … that is, until you open your bank statement for February and realize that a huge chunk of money is simply … gone.

At first you think there must be some kind of mistake. An hour on the phone with your bank, however, and you realize that everything is according to Hoyle. The bank itself actually took the money out of your account to cover chargebacks.

Chargeba-who-what now?

A chargeback is when a customer asks their credit card issuer (the bank whose name is on their credit card) to reverse a transaction that has already cleared—sometimes months earlier. This is different from a refund in that the credits are returned to customers regardless of whether the cardholder returned a purchase … and sometimes, regardless of whether the reason for the return is legitimate.

Also, there’s usually a time limit on returns; most merchants want returns to happen in 15 to 60 days. There are time limits on chargebacks, too, but they are often much more flexible: banks are primarily concerned with keeping their customers happy, so they’re likely to work around their own rules. That makes chargebacks even more insidious, since you as a merchant can’t count on them to be consistent

While having the same percentage of returns would certainly not be welcome, merchants pay far more for chargebacks. As we mentioned, in a chargeback situation, the customer keeps the merchandise and the refund, including any shipping costs: those come straight from the merchant’s till. And to add insult to injury, the bank also charges the merchant certain fees to cover the administration costs of a chargeback.

So why would a customer call the bank instead of calling the merchant? Well, chargebacks happen for a variety of reasons. Some of them are valid customer concerns, such as an item not matching the description, errors in processing the transaction, the buyer never receiving the item paid for, or an unauthorized payment made with the buyer’s card (identity theft).

In these types of situations, it’s highly possible that the cardholder is innocent of intent; sometimes, they mistakenly think of a chargeback as being synonymous with a return. In other cases, they may’ve simply called the bank because they didn’t recognize a charge on a statement, and the bank took it from there.

Of course, there is also an increasing number of people who engage in what is known as “friendly fraud,” where consumers request chargebacks without legitimate reason … or in some cases, make a purchase with the specific intent of initiating a chargeback. Think of it as “cyber shoplifting.” There’s not much merchants can do to combat that until the chargeback is actually filed (by which point you’re stuck with the fees, regardless). While they can be challenged by the merchant, such cases are complicated and hard to win: again, banks are more likely to side with consumers.

In the case of consumer misinformation, however, it’s far better for the merchant to work to prevent chargebacks from happening by engaging customers. One of the best ways to do this, believe it or not, is to have an easy, effective return policy.

For example, check out the return policy of global retailer illy:

We offer a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If for any reason you are not happy with your purchase, you may return the products(s) within 30 days of receiving the order for a full refund of the merchandise cost.

Immediately below that, you’ll find simple, step-by-step instructions on how to claim your refund. This type of clear, concise, no-nonsense policy on returns can go a long ways toward mitigating the risk of chargebacks: if customers feel you are ready to work with them, they may not be as quick to turn to the bank for satisfaction.

Here’s another example, from

You can return any Tea product purchased on at any time for any reason. Sale items, too.

Not much to misunderstand there.

Having a no-hassle return policy increases customer confidence. But simply having the policy is hardly effective if no one knows it exists. Make sure your policy is easy to find on your website, on brochures, in emails and invoices, and even on your packaging, if possible. The more customers see it, the more they’ll remember it. And the more likely the are to work with you, the fewer chargebacks you’re likely to see in the future.

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.

A Beginner’s Guide to Appreciating Tea

OK, coffee, you’ve had your day: now it’s tea’s turn. More and more, even diehard coffee aficionados are finding themselves talking and learning about high-end teas. We’re talking straight loose-leaf tea: none of those little paper bags or premixed concoctions that smell more like potpourri than anything you would want to drink. These are folks who take their tea as seriously as they took their coffee.

It makes a certain amount of sense: tea, after all, has been enjoyed the world over for thousands of years in the making: that’s long time to learn how to get it right. It offers its own culture and history matched only by wine. And just like wine, there are people who live and breathe tea in a way that borders on obsession.

You think coffee can get complex? Tea is all that and then some. We’re not throwing shade at coffee–seriously, we understand that it can be an art form–but tea offers a vast range of flavors, aromas, and characteristics that makes the magic bean look like a one-trick pony. Not to mention the fact that the caffeine in tea is absorbed more slowly, so the kick is much smoother.

And have you ever heard of being coffee-drunk? “Tea-drunk” is an actual thing.

We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with coffee. Only that it seems unfair that here in the US, you mention tea and people start thinking of the Nestea Plunge. Anywhere else in the world, if someone asks what type of tea you want, they’re asking if you want it hot or cold. People in America asking that question want to know if you want sweet or unsweet.

In an effort to level the coffee/tea playing field, we’re here to offer a quick rundown on appreciating all that tea has to offer.

  • Skip the Prepackaged Stuff. You grind your own coffee beans? Same logic applies here. Buying loose-leaf teas generally means you’ll get a higher quality product. In addition, bigger leaves tend to have a fuller body and more balanced flavor, if properly prepared.
  • Flavored vs. Flavorful. To serious tea-drinkers, flavored teas are a little like barely-alcoholic drinks with cute paper umbrellas. Nothing wrong with trying out flavored tea, but it’s not the best place to start: drinking flavored tea by default is like trying to appreciate coffee by drinking white chocolate mochas. Tea doesn’t need a flavor; tea IS a flavor.
  • Understand What You’re Getting. Tea grows all over, from sunny lowlands to rocky crags to misty mountaintops. And just like coffee, a tea’s soil, environment, and growing conditions impact its ultimate taste. The minute the leaf is plucked, it starts to oxidize–a process which impacts the tea’s flavor more than where or how it’s grown. To a large extent, this can be controlled by applying heat; green and white teas, for example, are barely oxidized, while Oolong and black teas are allowed more time.
  • OK, the Brewing. When it comes time to brew your loose leaf tea, there are all sorts of detailed methods to try and specialized tools you can buy. Our advice: skip all that for now. Novice tea drinkers make the mistake of focusing too much on whether they’re brewing the “correct” way; go too far down that road, and start wondering if it’s worth making at all. On the other hand, truly good tea can give you different subtleties with different styles of brewing–all of them delicious. Instead of fretting technique at this stage, just start drinking. There’s always time to experiment later.
  • It takes some time to train your palate to pick up on a tea’s peculiarities. That’s why–like wine–you don’t guzzle fine tea. Take time to sniff. Appreciate the bouquet. Take a sip and let it sit in your mouth. As you keep tasting, you’ll start to differentiate between fruity and woodsy tinges, between a light taste on the tongue and a creamy robust body.

The bottom line is, you can’t pick up a bottle of green tea from a convenience store and really say you’ve experienced tea drinking. Schedule a little time in your hectic schedule (experts say that’s a good idea, just on general principle) to educate yourself and experiment. Like any fine food, it takes time and patience to learn to pick out all the nuances of tea. But the end result is worth the effort.