Sell-by dating on teas


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Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Charles » Mar 13th, '10, 13:22

I've written an article covering the pros and cons of including sell-by or use-by dating on Adagio tea packaging. (http://www.tearetailer.com/article_48.html) I would appreciate your thoughts on what you've seen from other retailers and what the customer expects.
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Chip » Mar 13th, '10, 13:30

This is big big big peeve of mine ... sell by dates, best by dates. They are so completely useless when it comes to tea, bogus! Your article points this out.

I want harvest information!!! Easily accessible. Right on the site and if possible on the packaging. This gets rid of all the ambiguity surrounding package dating and hopefully product freshness ... for an educated tea consumer.

I want to know when it was harvested and what flush in addition to other info.
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Charles » Mar 13th, '10, 14:39

Chip, since each day's harvest is sold as a unique lot in many regions, and many teas (even single estate teas) are blends of multiple "harvests" is harvest season sufficient? For example, Darjeeling First Flush, Spring Harvest 2010?
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Chip » Mar 13th, '10, 16:56

Thanks for responding. Yes it can get convoluted quickly. The more info the better for the more educated tea drinker. I like to know the info just like a wine collector/connoisseur wants to know for various reasons.

In more Japanese tea terms ...

I know when dealing with particular vendors, that they often have certain practices. For instance, Ippodo will fully blend throughout the year(s) in order to create a continuous homogeneous brand name taste for a particular selection.

Many other Japanese vendors remain more pure in their approach.

So, it gets complicated. But certainly the flush, harvest year are minimum requirements. For most other types of teas (Japanese are often prefecture specific in what they sell), the origin is very good to know since this will set up an expectation in its profile and quality.

Much like wines from one specific area will differ from those of another.

The breed or varietal is very helpful for certain teas such as Japanese as they are coming up with awesome clones such as the venerable Yutaka Midori. Most vendors of Japanese teas will post this right on their site with each selection. Each clone has its own unique profile as well ... often the product name will bear the clone name.

:shock: steam level should also be disclosed for Japanese teas., is it true shincha or is it ichibancha ... the more info you share, the more interest and knowledge you are showing in the tea you sell. This will impress the educated consumer, but it should be presented in an orderly fashion and also in a way for the more trusting buyer who just wants your best sencha.

This type of info will likely impress me much more than flowery descriptions that have none of the pedigre.
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Chip » Mar 13th, '10, 17:07

Here is an example from a vendor. In addition, they provide a few paragraphs of information on their site that would be TMI for a product label. But this info below is the nuts and bolts of the product. I can usually skip the paragraphs and glean the info I need from this list.

(name) Organic Kagoshima Sencha Saemidori
First Harvest? Yes (100%)
Harvest Year 2009
Steaming Process Deep Steamed
Tea Bush Varietal(s) 100% Saemidori
Brewing Suggestion • 1 gram of leaves per 1oz of water at 70°C for 1 min.
• Second & third infusions at 70°C-80°C for 10-30 seconds.
Origin Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan
NET Weight 100g (3.53oz)
Certified Organic By JAS

Since this is an online store, they do not have to place all this info on a label. We can reference it easily and we buy from the site, not the label.

(Vendor is Yuuki-cha)
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 13th, '10, 19:09

I think for many teas, harvest season with supplemental information will be good enough. For example, for Long Jing, if it's current year, then the consumers know it's fresh. If it's spring season and not summer, then the consumers know its good. Then additional information such as early April can give people an idea what flush it belongs to. And very often the photo tells more than the label about which flush it is from.

Expiration date on tea package drives people crazy :D
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Herb_Master » Mar 13th, '10, 19:16

mmmn, as I posed the question, I feel duty bound to make a contributory response, but your analysis is too detailed for me to provide (due to time restraints) a comprehensive response.

I note that you have weighed arguments for and against - are likely to come down on a packaged date - even though

There is a risk in holding ourselves to a higher standard, but someone has to start the trend and show the customers that its OK to expect a little more transparency from their local Specialty Tea Retailer.


I think there is indeed a signifcant risk (of being hoist by one's own petard) , and would think long and hard before introducing it.

Regarding some of your other thoughts, and some of Chip's desries on labelling - without any concrete best solution in mind, I would offer my own musings.

3 years does not seem uncommonly long for the CTC bagged black teas from Kenya, India and elsewhere - we have sell by dates on the tea products in local grocers that get close to those.

The analogy to wine is very apt, We have sell by dates and / or use by dates on nearly all products in the local convenience stores Food, Confectionary, Pharmaceuticals, Beer, Cider and Lager, even most sugars and vinegars - But nothing on wine, whether the vintage is identified or not.

When wine is purchased from a wine merchant or knowledgeable member of a sales team at a supermarket outlet then advice can be obtained as to whether the wine can be laid down, is best consumed now, later or within a suitable time period. This surely has resonance with Pu Erh, Higher roasted Oolong and the like. Other than great white wines the advice would likely be that it is best to consume within a certain shortish time period this seems to have a bearing on Green Tea and Greenish Oolongs.

Many products (general food supply) have batch identifiers (sometimes even an ID for the packer)

If

It will be the responsibility of the sales staff to explain the harvest cycles of tea and the fact that while tea is best consumed quickly it never really goes bad.


the staff are to be trained, along lines similar to knowledgeable staff in a wine merchants, why not control your inventory with your own batch labelling - that allows the sales staff to identify any salient data needed to interpret where abouts in the tea cycle this particular packet may be!

Whilst allowing Inventory control at the same time

This will allow our staff to enforce a FIFO (first in first out) method of inventory and give the customer a sense of how old the teas in their cupboard are


Notwithstanding my observations above, I agree wholeheartedly with Chip, that your premium products should disclose as much information as possible about year, harvest time, region, varietal, variations in production (levels of oxidation and roasting and whichever features are most sought after for the tea type in question.

Let us imagine that I walked into one of your stores knowing a little about the teas in question - and a sales representative examining 3 or 4 teas that I was interested in buying could give me differing advice on each of them and explain why his advice was different - I think I would be impressed.

There are many wine enthusiasts who research their product who do not want advice from the sales operation, if they see a vintage for a known appelation they will think they know as much as the sales staff and will make their purchases according to their knowledge of the appelation and their knowledge of the vintage amongst other considerations, therefore for high end products I concur with Chip that the product labelling should display as much information as possible for the tea enthusiast to make his own unaided decisions.

:|

Possible Petard
Some teas and some wines are expected to get better with age, many do but some don't.

Some teas and some wines are expected to fade after a short time or a slightly longer time, some do but occasionally they live on and get better.

If your inventory is spread over numerous locations, it may be slightly more onerous to implement, but a method of feedback on how teas are progressing through their life cycle with any surprises fed out to the various locations - this could prove beneficial - special eyecatching promotional material for those unexpectedly improving, and early addition to your process for
will have to implement policies for discounting teas

edit - those which are deteriorating early
The trick is how to gather trusted information - staff who love thiss type of tea? Customer feedback? Tea Chat forum ? I would leave that to you
Last edited by Herb_Master on Mar 13th, '10, 20:36, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby gingkoseto » Mar 13th, '10, 19:30

Herb_Master wrote: This surely has resonance with Pu Erh, Higher roasted Oolong and the like.

Yeah this happened to puerh. The Chinese law required all food packages to bear an expiration period which is no more than 3 years. Many puerh products a few years ago were labeled to be "expired in 3 years" :P This drove puerh people crazy and eventually they got puerh exempted from this regulation.

Herb_Master wrote:The trick is how to gather trusted information - staff who love thiss type of tea? Customer feedback? Tea Chat forum ? I would leave that to you

It could probably be easy. If consumers are demanding more of the information and vendors are willing to take the responsibility to show more product information, it's time to tighten the string for suppliers, importers and manufacturers and require them to provide all this information.
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Chip » Mar 13th, '10, 20:08

... the more premium the tea, the higher the price, the more pedigree should be shared ... IMHO. :mrgreen:
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Re: Sell-by dating on teas

Postby Herb_Master » Mar 13th, '10, 20:39

gingko wrote:
Herb_Master wrote:The trick is how to gather trusted information - staff who love thiss type of tea? Customer feedback? Tea Chat forum ? I would leave that to you

It could probably be easy. If consumers are demanding more of the information and vendors are willing to take the responsibility to show more product information, it's time to tighten the string for suppliers, importers and manufacturers and require them to provide all this information.


I meant information that a tea is unexpectedly performing far better or far worse than it's normal longevity :)
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