How do I judge thee, oh tea merchant? Let me count the ways. Oh, never mind. There are actually a few ways that I judge your tea Web site, but one of the first and foremost is by your selection of black tea. More about that in a moment.
If you’ve read any of the articles I write here and at my own tea site, you might have come to the conclusion that I really like black tea. Which is true. I’ve written about this subject so often that I’m starting to bore myself. So I’ll just say that with all the fuss about green, white, puerh, and oolong, let’s not forget that there’s some really great black tea to be had and leave it at that.
In the seven-plus years I’ve been writing about tea, I’ve run across a lot of tea merchant Web sites. I still run across quite a few, even after all this time, and I never miss an opportunity to look them over. Way back when I used to spend quite a lot of time clicking around and exploring every nook and cranny of each site, but there are only so many hours in a day and these days I almost always go straight for the black tea.
Which obviously isn’t going to work for a company that specializes in Japanese tea, almost all of which is green, but in general it’s a pretty good way to get a handle on what a merchant is all about. What I look for first of all is the selection. Black teas from India, China, Ceylon, and Africa are good for a start, and if there are several varieties each of Assam, Keemun, Ceylon and the like, then I’m even more impressed. If the selection is large enough that there are single-estate varieties represented and the gardens they came from are identified and discussed, then that’s a very good situation indeed.
But the lack of all the aforementioned might not mean that the merchant is lacking. Perhaps their focus is on other types of tea. There are also other factors to consider when judging a tea merchant’s site. Such as the layout and appearance, to some extent, since that’s the first thing anyone sees when they visit your site.
It might be enough to have a great selection of tea and related stuff at great prices and with great customer service, prompt shipping and the like. But, just as you probably like to take a bath occasionally and comb your hair and generally aim for a good first impression as you go into the world, so should you strive to make a good first impression with a well-designed Web site that’s easy to look at and simple to use (don’t make the user untangle riddles to find what they’re looking for).
Having said all that, I’ll still continue to judge a tea merchant’s site first and foremost by their black tea. So sue me.
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