Buying etiquette at a shop. . .


One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

Buying etiquette at a shop. . .

Postby Drax » Apr 15th, '09, 07:53

For those of you that have experience buying pu'erh in person, I have a question for you --

What's the etiquette of buying pu'erh (or maybe tea in general)?

Are you allowed to touch and examine the wrapper? If it's not sticker-sealed, are you allowed to open the wrapper? Examine the leaves? Smell? Lick? (okay, maybe not lick).

Seriously though, how much interaction are you allowed? I have no clue if it might vary by the shop, or if there's a standard protocol? Certainly if you konw the shopkeeper, I would imagine they might be more willing to let you be more... thorough.

I thought about this when auggie mentioned in another post about somebody selling a cake with some untrue comments. So it seemed like it might be prudent to get more interactive with a potential purchase, but then I wondered whether that would be allowed.

Further, I wondered if the etiquette is any different at a North American Chinese tea shop than one in Asia?
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Postby MarshalN » Apr 15th, '09, 09:13

It depends on the shop. Some shops are anal retentive. Most, however, let you do pretty much what you want. Usually if they don't let me touch/look at the cake carefully, I walk. It's not like there's a lack of pu out there.
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Postby Janine » Apr 15th, '09, 12:02

If you can try it brewed, do so. Depends on where you go I guess
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 15th, '09, 13:08

True what Janine said. Most of the "good" tea shops I've been to will let you sample a tea if you look serious, and if the tea is at all pricey. If they have a tea table and cups and pots out, and they don't ask you if you want to try it, it's probably cool to ask them. Depends on your feeling of the place though, I guess...! Go with the flow.
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Postby tony shlongini » Apr 15th, '09, 13:13

Buying etiquette? It's all I can manage not to pass gas in the store.

I would think that since tea is such a specialized field, store owners would go out of their way to develop a rappport with potential customers, since a relatively few steady, if not heavy, buyers will be the bedrock of their business. Alas, this is usually not the case in the business world, which has more of a "let's soak the next poor slob who passes through our doors for all he's worth" mentality. Ultimately, it's up to them. They can be as helpful as they want to be, and they will be rewarded accordingly, at least with my dollars.
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 15th, '09, 13:28

tony shlongini wrote:Buying etiquette? It's all I can manage not to pass gas in the store.
:lol: I am a total sucker for flatus humor.
On that note, I've just semi-inadvertently taught my 2-year-old to say "Did somebody step on a duck?" at the appropriate moment (in honor of the late Rodney Dangerfield, of course).
Ok, back on topic now. Sorry about that. :roll:
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Postby Janine » Apr 15th, '09, 14:32

tony shlongini wrote:I would think that since tea is such a specialized field, store owners would go out of their way to develop a rappport with potential customers, since a relatively few steady, if not heavy, buyers will be the bedrock of their business. Alas, this is usually not the case in the business world, which has more of a "let's soak the next poor slob who passes through our doors for all he's worth" mentality. Ultimately, it's up to them. They can be as helpful as they want to be, and they will be rewarded accordingly, at least with my dollars.


I so agree with you Tony!

Dizzwave wrote:On that note, I've just semi-inadvertently taught my 2-year-old to say "Did somebody step on a duck?" at the appropriate moment (in honor of the late Rodney Dangerfield, of course).


LOL! (Semi-inadvertently, of course) ;-)
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Postby sp1key » Apr 15th, '09, 21:53

in asia, you'll mainly observe two types of tea stores...
one that targets the general public, restaurants, eateries etc
these store generally do not let you try them, you can buy and try it at home.

the other that targets 'more serious' tea drinkers.
usually these stores have more pu that you'll be interested in. Now in most cases upon asking, you may inspect the wrapper, cake, the whole thing etc.
Some will offer you to try them; some will wait for you to request; some will invite you to join them for some tea.
Those who dont allow this, you may request to buy a sample (sometimes they give it for free eventually)
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Postby Herb_Master » Apr 16th, '09, 07:30

sp1key wrote:in asia, you'll mainly observe two types of tea stores...
one that targets the general public, restaurants, eateries etc
these store generally do not let you try them, you can buy and try it at home.

the other that targets 'more serious' tea drinkers.
usually these stores have more pu that you'll be interested in. Now in most cases upon asking, you may inspect the wrapper, cake, the whole thing etc.
Some will offer you to try them; some will wait for you to request; some will invite you to join them for some tea.
Those who dont allow this, you may request to buy a sample (sometimes they give it for free eventually)


I found one branch of a KL store in a Petalling Jaya backwater, it was run by the owners father. (in his late 70s I would guess)

I spent 2 hours drinking tea with him and trying to decide which teas to buy. After carefully considering which ones (3 plus a tea tray) to buy he threw in the other 2 (I had examined most) for free!

A week later we visited him again and bought a few more items, he was about to throw something in for free, BUT his wife (whom had not been there on the first visit) stopped him, with a sound 'Tut'.

This year, I visited the store twice, his wife was there and not him, I did not buy anything, mainly because I had better sources in KL, but if he HAD been there, I suspect I would have bought something.
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Postby Janine » Apr 16th, '09, 10:33

Great story, Herb_Master, thank you.
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Postby Odinsfury » Apr 16th, '09, 15:41

I found one branch of a KL store in a Petalling Jaya backwater, it was run by the owners father. (in his late 70s I would guess)

I spent 2 hours drinking tea with him and trying to decide which teas to buy. After carefully considering which ones (3 plus a tea tray) to buy he threw in the other 2 (I had examined most) for free!

A week later we visited him again and bought a few more items, he was about to throw something in for free, BUT his wife (whom had not been there on the first visit) stopped him, with a sound 'Tut'.

This year, I visited the store twice, his wife was there and not him, I did not buy anything, mainly because I had better sources in KL, but if he HAD been there, I suspect I would have bought something.


It's shop owners like him that you come to truly appreciate. I've been in this situation, although not with tea, several times. The people I like to buy from often throw in a little something extra and make you feel welcome by allowing you to try things out.
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Postby Dizzwave » Apr 16th, '09, 15:47

Odinsfury wrote:It's shop owners like him that you come to truly appreciate.
I second that. It's also kind of telling, whether the freebies they throw in are cheap stuff they're trying to get rid of (or somehow make you think you're getting a deal), or nice stuff that will get you to come back for more.
p.s. Odin'sFury, are you an Amon Amarth fan? :)
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Postby Janine » Apr 16th, '09, 17:02

Odinsfury wrote: I've been in this situation, although not with tea, several times.



Yep, me too. The minute I read the spouse was there I knew what was coming. I'll never understand merchants who'd rather hang onto inventory than keep it moving.

BTW I'll take this opportunity to congratulate Adagio on its excellent customer service.
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Postby Herb_Master » Apr 16th, '09, 18:00

Dizzwave wrote:
Odinsfury wrote:It's shop owners like him that you come to truly appreciate.
I second that. It's also kind of telling, whether the freebies they throw in are cheap stuff they're trying to get rid of (or somehow make you think you're getting a deal), or nice stuff that will get you to come back for more.
p.s. Odin'sFury, are you an Amon Amarth fan? :)


I don't think it mattered to him whether it was cheap or not, it was the teas that I had identified earlier as being interested in, one I had tried, one I was offered to try but declined.

This is a shop that occupies the external fringe (open plan) of a large hypermarket - called 'Giant' - and custom was not brisk - I often passed by on my way to the Chinese Foot Massage parlour and he frequently seemed a little bored - whenever a customer walked in you could see a sparkle in his eyes.

The purchase was completed after a few visits, and I opted for ( as well as several teas, and a few accessories) a splendid wooden tea tray which probably had a decent margin on it.

Margins had been pared though, I may not be a great buyer in Asian Shops because I am totally unaccustomed at bargaining the prices down, but my Malaysian Girlfriend was with me and the prices that were settled upon had come down a fair bit!
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Postby Herb_Master » Apr 16th, '09, 18:05

Janine wrote:
Odinsfury wrote: I've been in this situation, although not with tea, several times.



Yep, me too. The minute I read the spouse was there I knew what was coming. I'll never understand merchants who'd rather hang onto inventory than keep it moving.

BTW I'll take this opportunity to congratulate Adagio on its excellent customer service.


I doubt if the spouse was totally out of order, the tea trade was slow (his son owns / runs the main shop in a Kuala Lumpur Mall) and it would be difficult to see the tea sales generating a much income. However it did seem that his wife was generating a decent custom from her tea eggs!

If you went past about 11am you would see this huge cauldron simmering away with about 60 or 70 eggs in it, by 8pm it was usually nearly empty.
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