Teavana

Teavana kettles

Pots at Teavana

By Amy Brozio-Andrews

My doc says I should relax and cut down on the caffeine, so I was especially looking forward to visiting Teavana, which just opened this weekend at Crossgates Mall.

So what exactly is "a heaven of tea"?

Teavana's an upscale store where the emphasis is on loose tea, teapots, tea sets, and tea-related accessories more than selling individual cups of hot tea. If you're already a tea aficionado, you'll probably feel pretty at-home; if your idea of hot tea is a microwaved mug of hot water with a supermarket brand tea bag steeping in it, you may feel out of your league -- and quickly.

The staff is really knowledgeable about the dozens of teas Teavana offers, seeking to connect tea drinkers with the blends that best fit their health goals. For example, the herbal infusions have lots of vitamin C and antioxidants; the Rooibos teas are said to be good for your skin and digestion and help with fighting allergies.

The teas are priced for 2 oz. of loose tea, which makes about 15 16oz. cups of tea; prices range from $3.30 to $18 or so per 2 oz. Hot tea samples were plentiful, giving customers lots of opportunity to try the different teas before buying any. The sales staff was enthusiastic to the point of hard-selling their products (it was a really short trip from "We have lots of different teapots available -- do you like this color better or that one?" to "So I'll wrap that up that whole tea set for you?") so I'd recommend picking up one of the Teavana booklets at the entrance of the store to get an idea of what you're interested in before walking in feeling like a deer in the headlights.

I'd already picked out the 13 oz. Joli Mug and Infuser ($15.95) so I was kind of prepared. The infuser sits in the mug and has little slits in the glass instead of holes, which seems to cut down on the loose tea bits that drift to the bottom of the mug (a pet peeve of mine with loose tea, what can I say?).

There are beautiful and understated china tea sets for sale that run about $90 and up. There are also full Japanese cast iron sets (teapot, five cups, coasters, teapot warmer, bamboo mat, and black lacquer tray) for $380 and up. The china sets are sold at sets but the cast iron pieces may be purchased individually (the small cast iron teapot was $69.95, cups $12.99 and up, coasters $9.99 and up). You can also buy mugs that include the infuser, tea tins, individual teapots, kettles, books on tea ceremonies, German rock cane sugar, and more.

Hardcore tea drinkers are more likely to find the store a tea heaven; regular old tea drinkers may find the whole experience a bit intense ( I left with my new mug and then went and relaxed at Starbucks with a decaf skinny caramel latte). If you're looking for someplace more relaxed and low-key (read: low-pressure) to try out new tea, I'd recommend The Good Leaf on Lark St. in Albany.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Tea from The Good Leaf
+ Tea time on Lark

The Bottom Line

Shopping tip: Get one of the Teavana booklets that lists all the teas and many of the tea-related products available before you shop.

Find It

Teavana
Crossgates Mall
Albany, NY 12203

teavana.com

Comments

As a tea lover with shallow pockets & disdain for sales reps, I can't tell you how disappointed I am after reading your review. I was hoping Teavana would resemble the now defunct Tea Laden instead of an uppity boutique for the Capital Regions most enlightened snobs. I don't know which is worse. This, or the kids who purchase their own rebellion at Hot Topic.

Pantaloons, I didn't know Tea Laden was defunct! That's so sad, and it does make the report of bad service at Teavana much more disappointing.

This. Hot Topic has fewer honey whisks.

I was disappointed at the high cost of pots and accessories, but I'll definitely buy tea there...which I'll then brew in the teapot with wire mesh infuser that I bought at the Asian grocery on Colvin.

Tori- Unless they moved somewhere else? I went there last month and the store was closed, dark and completely empty. The only thing left was the overhead sign.

I'm as disappointed as Pantaloons. A store that requires research before you can even go in? I thought the whole point of shopping in a mall was to browse and stumble upon new things. Researching is for online shopping (which, incidentally, is where I'll continue to get my loose leaf tea).

I'd question any niche shop that opens up in a mall -- malls are for mainstream items that passersby might have a casual interest in. Anyone really into tea (or any other niche item) would be willing to find a standalone shop. I'm guessing many of the customers at Teavana will have accidentally stopped in only to be immediately turned away with a new stereotype of tea drinkers as a bunch of Snooty McSnobbingtons.

Pantaloons - I haven't been to Tea Laden a while, but when I've driven by I still saw the sign, so I had no idea they were gone. I just tried calling and the number is disconnected.

I was excited for Teavana, too, when I first heard about them, and I had a chance to go and spend some time in one of their stores in another city. Unfortunately, my excitement died pretty rapidly. The store is very, very overpriced, and the sales people exude pressure - the opposite of what you want in tea. (Of course, after reading up on the company and the fact that the sales people are on a very strict commission, and expected to sell X amount per month - a number set by management - "or else", I can understand the staff's need to sell sell sell. That said, it still doesn't make for a nice shopping environment.)

Like Amy noted, I really can't strongly recommend The Good Leaf tea company enough. It's an independent store run by a local woman who's very passionate and knowledgeable about tea. She has a great selection of loose teas, a "sniffing bar" where you can smell the different tea blends available, and a relaxed and low key, low pressure atmosphere to hang out in. And as a bonus, you're supporting a local businesswoman, and a local business.

Tea Laden just moved out of the area. They're now located in Texas. They still sell all of their stuff online. My mom found this out during their going out of business sale. Their web site, www.tealaden.com still sells all of their awesome goodies.

just thought I'd put that out there.

I was excited when I walked by tea samples, and at first was really digging the yummy teas and knowledgeable staff, however when the saleswoman was hard-selling a cast iron pot (which, though it would be nice, is out of my price range right now), which definitely made me want to hightail it. I would have rather relaxed, tried some more teas, and let them sell me slowly (i.e., some teas and an infuser).

That said, I grabbed a brochure and then logged onto the website, where I was able to surf and learn in peace. I have decided to give up coffee for Lent (*inhales sharply*), so I figure I'll do it up right with some loose teas and infusers. They've got a nifty starter set, and I've already surfed the site and amassed a wishlist.

And, I note, I third the recommendation for A Good Leaf. That place is fantastic!

Another Local Tea Vendor is right out of Schenectady, and available for purchase at their Sunday GreenMarket..
http://www.divinitea.com/about.cfm

I too got the feeling of being scammed in there. Most of the samples in the stores are blends, meaning you'd have to buy two or three teas in order to get the same drink. The hard sell is insane, and when they tried to force me into buying a pound of tea (at $6 an ounce no less), I balked and left. I like tea, but that store was insane. I'll never step foot back in there if I can help it.

Commission for selling tea!? What is this place, pre-WWII England? The only reason England conquered the world for more tea. Maybe that's what Teavana is going for... world domination. No seriously, that is very disappointing. I would much prefer A Good Leaf- a casual yet knowledgable tea place. I love tea and I want to go somewhere that appreciates the art in tea.

We would like to express our thanks for all the great comments about our former Delmar store and assure you we are still in business shipping out of Texas. We miss our customers and absolutely love it when we get a call from the Capital Region. Thank you all and keep enjoying your tea no matter where it comes from. J&K

I went in last week, I actually appreciated the salespeople being so helpful (as opposed to most retail stores where
no one even bothers to say hello)
The tea quality and selection is amazing and I think Teavana
is a huge plus for Albany

I didn't visit the store but their web site looks unimpressive. They have just 8 (eight) varieties of unflavored black tea (my favorite store has 281 of them).
Surely Teavana guys aren't selling teas. Bluff is their product.

Terrible place. Tea samples are served up Kool Aid style (lots o sugar) and the sales people talk you up from the second you walk in to the second you swipe your credit card.

There were about 6 or 7 people working on Saturday! The place is tiny which is fine, but when you can't browse without being hawked by a salesperson it is rather unsettling.

My wife bought some small amounts of loose tea. First she asked about black tea, the girl at the counter promptly busted out 15 dollar an ounce tea. Wife said, "nah too expensive". Then the girl brought out the 8 dollar an ounce tea. No no no. Then the cheapo 3.50 an ounce tea was trotted out, along with an attempt to upsell to 1 pound in their special tin.

We can definitely say that we miss Tea Laden and will send an order their way. Also going to check out the Good Leaf.

This Teavana place however will not get any return business from us.

I'm a long time Teavana customer and I have to say that a lot of you are terribly misinformed. Teavana employees are NOT commissioned, they do have a bonus structure (and why shouldn't they?) but are far from "strictly commissioned". Any retailer has goals and numbers to make and who else than the management would make those? I find the comments here outrageous.

I normally shop in many Teavana's throughout the US as I travel a lot. The teams are very knowledgeable and provide great customer service. The product and tea is top quality. The cast iron comes only from Japan and the tea is the from the top 5 percentile of the tea crop. Everything is natural and yes- of course there is sugar in some of their samples. We are in America, and it takes a tea sweetened with (natural) sugar to get most Americans to drink tea. That is far healthier than soda or coffee. If the price point scares you, it is important to note that quality carries a price. If you don't care about what is in a product or if an 8 year old with no shoes helped manufacture it, then you probably SHOULD go to Walmart.

Sometimes you get what you pay for. Sometimes you just get ripped off. At Teavana you get what you pay for. It's an investment in your health and well being. And for everyone who listens to all the negative comments, I suggest making your own decisions. Go into the store yourself. If you don't like a sales culture, buy the tea online.

I've always found Teavana stores very pleasing and their sales focused customer service impressive. It's one of the few places that you can go and speak to someone who actually knows or cares about their product. I'd take that any day of the week over some apathetic kid sitting on a stool reading a book acting like the customer is a bother.

Sincerely,
A loyal customer

In response to the previous post... no one is against the employees of Teavana trying to make sales or a bonus for that matter. What I think all the comments are trying to say is that the high pressure tactics are un- necessary and that the sales staff needs to know when to back off. Sometimes customers just want to browse or would like to start small before making a big purchase, especially with such a new type of store for most people. If the quality of the product is so good, the merchandise will sell itself.

Currently I work in an upscale retail store, and in a recession I have to work for each and every sale. I also find that when I present the facts to the customer and let them make their own decision based on the information I have given, 9 out 10 times they will come back and spend the money despite the lower prices of a competitor. The hard sell doesn't work and it is not the way a company should do business in these hard economic times. Each and every sale and customer is important no matter the size of the purchase. Teavana would do well to learn from this. This will allow them to build a loyal following which in time will spend more money.

My advice is to do your homework and form your own opinions. Teavana is a speciality store that is not for everyone!

"Teavana employees are NOT commissioned, they do have a bonus structure (and why shouldn't they?) but are far from "strictly commissioned"."

Then perhaps Teavana shouldn't tell you, when you're filling out an application, that there are two employment models for the store - the people who make tea behind the bar, and are strictly on an hourly employment basis, and the people who surf and sell in the store, who are working off of commission and sales goals.

I agree that the hard sell is usually counter productive. I'm a member worker in the Cheese Dept. of the Honest Weight Food Coop where we regularly sample out an array of imported and artisan cheeses, some quite expensive. We never do a hard sell when we give out samples. In fact, I usually will tell people where in the case they can find the cheese they just tasted "for future reference," thus getting them off the hook if they don't want to buy right then. Also, if they seem to be hesitant, we'll tell them we can cut a larger piece of cheese in half if that suits their budget. Fancy cheeses with foreign names is already intimidating. We let people learn about different cheeses in a no-pressure way and it works--a lot of people buy a lot of cheese. And some people may just sample and never buy and that's okay, too. They are all customers of the store who get the same courtesy.

I love the old saw trotted out here, that just because I don't like being pressured into buying way too much tea, accessories I don't need, and all the additional accouterments, that somehow I don't understand quality. No, quality is such that if your product is good I don't need to be sold within an inch of my life to buy it. If your product is that good, it should nearly be selling itself. No, I don't need a pound of tea, or overpriced cast iron pots, or enough honey whisks to choke a horse, I wanted to buy a small amount of tea to take home and enjoy. I never got a chance to do that, because I was having "high quality items" being stuffed down my throat until I bolted.

Somehow that post from Colette Yip supporting Teavana sounds very similar to the one that ended up on my blog supporting Teavana. Smells like a corporate drone paid to type out propaganda.

Haven't been to the Good Leaf yet, but I can assure you Teavana doesn't have good tea, not at those prices anyway. And don't even mention the teaware.... thanks but no thanks.

Er, okay, hi. I work at Teavana in Albany, went through the whole training process, all that stuff, and here is my two cents:
a) I don't think I'm supposed to really comment about how we are paid, but it isn't solely commissions. However, there is serious pressure to sell.
b) Most of us who work at the store understand that we sell an expensive, quality product, and that buying a pound of tea and a cast iron teapot is not for everybody. If someone tells me specifically that they want to browse, I tell them to let me know if they have any questions, give them a menu, and let them be. We have a great deal of tea knowledge crammed in our brains, and love to share, but if you tell us plainly to shut up, and don't mind repeating yourself to the pushier people, we'll leave you alone, guaranteed.
c) A large, large part of the job is explaining to uneducated passerby why they, too, can enjoy loose leaf tea. Many of them never knew anything like this existed. Many of our policies that you are taking umbrage at are designed to help a less knowledgeable mall walk-in, not hinder them. I would never say that we are tea snobs- our tea is something everyone can enjoy. As my boss put it, we start with the highest quality items because that is what we should assume everyone wants- the best for themselves. I understand we can be pushy, and I don't like it. But we're a corporate entity. It's hard for us to survive as a niche market, and our goal is to become more mainstream.

My personal feelings are this: I like working for Teavana. It's a fun job, the people are great, and the tea is awesome. If you are bothered by our inability to stock more than 8 kinds of straight black teas (although how the logistics of shipping more than 108 teas to a single store would work out, I do not know), or if you don't like us, go somewhere else. But I don't see the point of being so very critical, because most of the people who I help leave Teavana happy and excited to try something new.

I'm not going to comment much further than this, because I'm not sure, really, how much I'm allowed to say on the interwebs. But Teavana, while of course faulty, is not a bad place. I love it.

Haha. If anyone really cares to see what its like at Teavana - google "My experience at Teavana" and read the story. Really eye opening about the entire company, including the owners themselves. It's a horrible corporation.

Seems like most of the comments here are said in spite.
I don't understand...why are so many upset that a company would want to survive and push for sales, especially during a reccession, which, quite frankly doesn't seem like a thing to bring so much flak to. Maybe this place doesn't fit the "laid-back" paradigm of a tea house -- so what; why do all the posters here find the high quality first push so darn repulsive? Do they feel belittled? Bowled over? What? I've never seen so much unneccessary venom spewed. I've been, and a number of times. I've met people I liked and people I didn't like. Doesn't seem fair to spew so much garbage about a place. Whatever. I like em.

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