I think that the big thing will be to know your target "audience." Portland is big on culture, especially Asian culture, and so places like Tao of Tea offer an experience more than a product, even in the retail store. Other places around town are mostly tea houses and they either go for an Asian atmosphere or a comfortable atmosphere that is very "Portland."
Something to keep in mind:Consumers Stop Buying As Number Of Options Increase
(There's lots of other great articles if you search the site for "consumer choices.")
One of the problems that you have here on the site is that we're enthusiasts, and you won't make money by catering to enthusiasts. It's the same way that software that caters to geeks doesn't do well. We want to try it all, so sensory overload is great, but most people want simple and familiar. There was an old marketing book that also talked about that, and pointed to a gourmet pizza shop that got around it by offering a guarantee: if you get a slice of gourmet and don't like it, they'd give you a free slice of your normal standby.
At one point I gave my mom a big bag full of samples that I had accumulated. It was so much that it overwhelmed her, and she didn't know where to start. At some point she just pulled one out at random per day and actually started to really love it.
Something that the guy that started Stash and Tazo is doing now
is to do blends of small batches of high quality tea that will sell quickly. So you will go into the store and they will have a limited supply of a handful of unique blends of higher quality tea than they're accustomed to, and it will be a different selection each time; that would certainly keep it simple for those that get paralyzed by too many choices, and keep the obsessive types coming back regularly
Of course I imagine that some
paralysis could be avoided by splitting types of teas up into different areas of the store. Tao of Tea does some of this: they have a big set of shelves in the back, but all the better stuff is in little islands throughout the rest of the store, among teaware and decorations. That way you're never looking at too much stuff at once.
I'm guessing that this goes without saying, but if you're going to give lots of info, I would put simple info that's easy to visually parse up front with more detailed info on the other side. I can sit on the computer and read tea info for hours, as a geek, but I wouldn't have the patience in the store and I imagine that the average consumer would quickly feel overwhelmed.
As an aside, I think you should package the puerh in small paper bags
With the right label it could even make it look neatly rustic
(That's in addition to making it taste better.)