High snobbery

Learn about tea-related establishments open across the world.

Jun 8th, '05, 18:04
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High snobbery

by teachat » Jun 8th, '05, 18:04

I happen to serve as the Pennsylvania state coordinator for www.Teamap.com. Simply put, I like to visit tea rooms and drink tea. I have no formal authority, nor am I compensated by Adagio in any way, notwithstanding a cute little space for my picture. I yet find myself in a uniquely uncomfortable position.

Tea Map is a great resource for locating a decent cup of tea. It has an efficient design with handy organizational features, while users have the freedom to maintain the site from the bottom-up with their additions and comments. With all this freedom for user input, Tea Map can be many things to many people. I therefore have a hard time understanding how any user could feel like s/he is being misled. Amazingly, this is the case.
I encounter many reviews that complain that a particular establishment is "not a real tea room." I would like to point out that Adagio is not visiting each of these establishments, certifying them as "authentic tea rooms," nor would any one entity be capable of doing so. I feel lucky that so many businesses that serve loose-leaf tea are surfacing, and there is one website where we can locate them. As long as it's in a room, that's tea room enough for me, although I would be eager to visit any open-air establishments also. I would love to see some "authentic tea room" purists battle it out over a set of standards. Does an authentic tea room have to serve flavored Earl Grey with blue flowers? Must there be pink wall paper? I am sure they would all agree finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off must be presented on three-tiered etageres. This is starting to sound dangerously similar to debates of other contemporary social issues, but this narrow conception of what a tea room must be is by no means rooted in historical necessity.

We are all to be forgiven our foibles and prejudices, but it is important to realize how they do not serve our interests. In my function as "Pennsylvania state coordinator for Teamap.com," I have been directly contacted by the proprietors of several Pennsylvania tea rooms, and they all have the same complaint. They encounter negative, snippy reviews of their tea rooms (or even other tea rooms!) and subsequently want their listing removed. Apparently, users of Tea Map are so undesirable that free advertising targeting them is not worth it. I would hate to hear how many of us it takes to change a light bulb. Because of our poor behavior, the amount of tea room options available to is is diminishing. For all our complaining about Starbucks coffee, I imagine there will come a time when a large tea room franchise engulfs the market, settling our squabbles once and for all.

Before that time comes, let us be generous to our tea room owners and ourselves. Please support your local tea rooms by posting reviews highlighting their unique strengths. If there is something you do not like, be specific; those who do not share your tastes can respectfully disagree with your opinion, rather than being assailed with your indignation. Better yet, speak with the tea room owner directly. Their presence might prevent you from saying the kind of snippy things that can easily crop up on anonymous chat boards.

Evan Draper
Last edited by teachat on Jun 8th, '05, 18:05, edited 1 time in total.

Jun 8th, '05, 18:05
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by teachat » Jun 8th, '05, 18:05

And to that most eloquent and truthful post I say "Amen!" What you’ve written here, Evan, is 100% true in every single word. It is a topic that desperately needs to be addressed in the tea enthusiast community.

Your experiences mirrored the ones I had from when I was a tea room coordinator for Oregon last year, and I’m willing to bet other coordinators have had the same experiences. During my brief tenure as a "tea room coordinator" I was getting emails from people from all over the state 'demanding' that I fix whatever tea room related problem they had. I also had tea room owners that were angry at me for “letting” people write negative things about their businesses. I found it pretty overwhelming, but I think the thing that absolutely astonished me the most, and made me lose enthusiasm for coordinating, was how many tea people tend to have an extremely petulant "junior high school" or rabid fandom kind of mentality when it comes to their reviews of the various tea rooms.
From Victoria, BC all the way to Northern California, I would hear people dismissing various tea rooms with the phrase "oh, NO ONE goes THERE anymore" as if they though you were some loser if you liked a particular tea venue that they did not.
When it came to the negative tea room reviews that I was reading, I couldn’t believe how mean-spirited some of those folks could be with all that unleashing of their claws and making sweeping statements they'd NEVER say to the owner's faces! Most of the comments had nothing to do with the quality of the food or the service. Some of those critics think nothing of calling friends to “gang up” on a specific tea room owner and then completely tear her and her business apart online just because of some real or imagined slight or petty trifle. Unfortunately, this tea room owner slamming seems to be an epidemic in the entire tea community, not just here at this particular site. Another tea website had several reviews that completely eviscerated a Salem, Oregon area tea room because the owners had fur coats there for the guests to playing “dress up” with. Apparently that group is run by an animal rights group who had never even been to that tearoom. Tea reviews should be based ONLY on the quality of the food and the service, and not on someone’s personal non-tea related biases, some political agenda or other issues.
Don’t these people who write bad trollesque reviews realize or care that their stinging and hurtful comments have the very real potential to do irreparable damage to the tearoom owners and can cause that tea owner to go out of business? Don't they know the loss of small business like tea rooms can hurt their local business community in the process, and indirectly damage our national economy?
It seems to me that part of good tea etiquette is behaving like mature ladies and gentlemen…and that includes in written correspondence and in making fair judgments, too. I’m not saying no one should ever give a bad review (especially if it the food or service was truly shoddy) but I am in total agreement with you in saying one should THINK before one makes the kinds of sweeping disparaging posts I’ve read here and at other tea review websites. Enjoying the tradition of tea should be about bonding, not snobbery or cliquishness.


Jun 10th, '05, 01:12

Tea Snobs are useless anyway

by Alchemy » Jun 10th, '05, 01:12

First off, I commend both fine posts. Thank you. As a tea shop/tearoom owner, I am struck daily by how closed minded some "tea" people can be. At our shop, we tout, nay, celebrate the fact that we are a no frills, laid back, unpretentious tea spot. From our overall concept to our advertising, we make it clear what we're all about...the tea. Yet, nearly everyday, some "tea snob" will walk in the door, look around and say semi-aloud, "Oh!"..."Thank you"...and walk quickly out the door. I guess we're either too real or bohemian, or perhaps just not good enough for their royal palate. But, then again how would they know? And every time this happens, I think quite snidely, something to the effect of, "So sorry, the bone china, silver tea sets, and three-tiered etageres, are out for polishing today," which really bothers me, because I find they are dragging me down to their level.

Aren't tea lovers supposed to love tea for tea, not the tea shop? If Bayou Billy's Tea Shack has the best cup of Golden Butterfly in the world, should we not all stand knee deep in muck to enjoy it? So, to you tea snobs out there, "Get a clue!" Fortunately, the people who matter love our shop, not because of pomp or pretention, but because we offer a fabulous cup of tea, everytime, all day, everyday, and from a large variety of teas. That's what's important to us.

I dream of the day when great tea is available on every corner, and there's a new shop on going up in the parking lot of the first one, just to meet the demand. But, until then...let's drink some tea, and be kind to those who are serving us!

Jun 24th, '05, 01:46
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Re: Tea Snobs are useless anyway

by Daniel S » Jun 24th, '05, 01:46

Alchemy wrote:I dream of the day when great tea is available on every corner, and there's a new shop on going up in the parking lot of the first one, just to meet the demand.

I agree - I would love to see tea shops commonly available. Love or hate Starbucks, but at least you have no trouble in finding a coffee shop. Shame I can't find a place nearby that serves a good cup of hot tea. And based on the posts above about tea rooms, I don't think I would ever want to visit one. It sounds like the tea snobs are worse to the industry than those who've never had anything better than Lipton bags.

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Jun 24th, '05, 09:59
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by chris » Jun 24th, '05, 09:59

Don't lose hope Daniel!

There are actually good tearooms out there that don't play into the "high snobbery" that you've been reading about.

Please check out our online directory of tearooms across the US for some examples. It can be found at www.teamap.com. Probably the best way to tell the "needles from the haystack" is by reading the visitor reviews of the different tearooms. We also encourage you to write your own review after you've visited!

Tearooms are popping up all over the place -- tea is currently one of the quickest developing markets in the US! Starbucks, here we come!


Adagio Maestro

Jun 27th, '05, 20:35
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by Tracy » Jun 27th, '05, 20:35

Chris, I love your optimism and energy! :)

I'd love to hear from other owners on their experience regarding this! When I read the first two posts in this thread I thought "Hear hear!!," because, I too have been a bit disturbed by some of the cat-tea reviews!

We're opening our new Asian-influenced, contemporary tea house this Fall, and I wonder about how these so-called "tea snobs" will react to our democratic approach to tea. We strongly believe that tea is one of the true cultural bridges that connects us, and is one of the few universal symbols of hospitality, friendship, and warmth. Just as I'd hate for someone to ding us for catering to "beginners" because we don't carry 100 yr. old pu-ers (I actually read something to this extent on a tea blog), I'm also wondering how I'll deal with people expecting three-tier trays, frilly china, and doilies. Of course we have a defined target, but we want all to feel welcome and special when they come. I'm resigned to the fact that you cannot please everyone...

Sorry 'bout the length of this! If you are a tea house/room owner, I'd welcome your thoughts on this! :)

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Jun 28th, '05, 10:21
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by chris » Jun 28th, '05, 10:21

It would be great to have documentation (on TeaChat) of a tea room as it develops -- it would be like our own little realiTEA show! Definitely keep us "posted"!

Will be glad to answer any questions or lend any hands!

The best of luck,

Adagio Maestro

Jul 9th, '05, 13:36
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by Tracy » Jul 9th, '05, 13:36

Thanks, Maestro Chris!

Will try to keep you posted. We're all anxious to see how this "grand experiment" turns out!

Jul 10th, '05, 14:47

Tearoom Snobbery

by Shari » Jul 10th, '05, 14:47

I am so pleased that it is not just myself who has had a bad experience regarding people who do not really want to review a tearoom, based upon food and tea, but rather slam the owner personally. I have only had my tearoom for 5 months now, but have learned that one needs to develop a "tough outer shell" in order to survive some of these "tea snobbs".
I am one of those tearooms where you will find three-tier trays, tablecloths and Royal Doulton China, but having been brought up in England, am very well aware that this is not what makes a "good cup of tea". The only advice that I can give is that you carry on doing what you are doing and enjoy it. I always believe that enjoying ones work is most important, and try not to let these "unhappy individuals" ruin your quest for providing good food and tea.

Sep 12th, '05, 13:56

I agree completely!

by ellae » Sep 12th, '05, 13:56

My mother owns a tearoom and it has been slammed multiple times by the same person(s) in a sad attempt to bring our "ratings" down. I agree with the many previous posts stating that unhappy customer should direct their displeasures with the owner specifically. Don't go on and put a horrible review (more than once) and personally attack the tearoom owner and her/his family. Many of these tearoom owners are doing this business for a living or they may just be doing it for fun, but either way I'm pretty sure that 210%+ of their heart and soul is in this business and although constructive criticism is always wanted, rude negative attacks on ones choice of decor or assumptions about ones silverware origin, in my opinion is completely irrelevant to the food or service. I know from experience that my mom and her family would do anything and everything to satisfy the unhappy customer, but if the customers are unwilling to address such problems with her before leaving the establishment, then in my opinion they should not go and bash the tearoom and the owner. If it was that bad, then just do not come back and if you must leave a review just say...it was not as I expected, I prefer not to return or something to that nature. When I read some of the reviews left on my mother's tearoom review page, I simply thought.... my goodness have we all returned to high school again? These “snobs” as they are referred to, need to get a life. These negative reviews really put a damper on a business that one loves so very much. The other thing that seems to always get me is, although my mom has multiple bad reviews, I cannot begin to tell you how many individuals have come into my mother’s establish and praised the food, service, appearance, etc. and said there is nothing like it in the world…it is the best food around etc. This is what those who read reviews online are missing…those who thoroughly enjoy these establishments. I would have to say…my family and I are by far one of the most pickiest families I have ever seen and we would never in a million years write such a disturbing review about any establishment no matter how displeasurable our experience was. We would simply say…see that is exactly how we do NOT want OUR customers to be treated in our business establishment. So to all those “snobs” out there…. step up to the plate, be and man or woman and express your problems or whatever with the owner directly, because more than 100% of the time, I guarantee that the owner will do everything in his/her power to make you comfortable, satisfied or in any way more happy, and if they seem uninterested in your comments then by all means leave a terrible review…because if they are not willing to please you then they are not interested in the business, but do NOT leave such disturbing reviews if you have not first tried to resolve a matter with the owner!
Thanks for letting me post my opinion and good luck to all aspiring and new tearoom owners. Keep that “tough outer shell” as stated before and keep you chin up, because I’m sure your place is EXCELLENT!

Sep 27th, '05, 21:43


by ARTZCREATIVA » Sep 27th, '05, 21:43


Dec 30th, '07, 16:19
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by Theo Sinensis » Dec 30th, '07, 16:19

What I'm curious about are the rankings. In one area there are two places where you can be served tea bags in a paper cup by a kitchen worker, that are ranked higher than another place where that cannot happen and the greatest care is taken to present and explain each tea to the customer.

How does that happen? I'm happy to explain the specifics to a mod; those places are not bad restaurants by any means, and I have been there often, but they really don't come close to their currently lower-ranked competition.

Aug 15th, '09, 18:06
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Re: High snobbery

by marlena » Aug 15th, '09, 18:06

I'm a tea snob, but not a tea room snob. All I want is my tea hot and prepared well, the food good and nicely presented, the service likewise and for it to be clean. I am open to any sort of tea room from the corner pub to the most sophisticated. Tea rooms should be for tea and if looks are all that matter to people, they should drink coffee! LOL

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Aug 18th, '09, 23:21
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Re: High snobbery

by horsencl » Aug 18th, '09, 23:21

Here here! I get tired of seeing my favorite places trashed. For example, I checked out the listing for my favorite local tea house. Someone posted that they think they should have music playing. If you want loud blaring background noise go to starbucks! The place is made for great tea and conversation. Another place is more of a restaurant but they have good tea, amazing food and even better service. I've actually seen people sit down at a table with starbucks in their hand and complain that they couldn't get lipton :shock: . I work in retail and many of the reviews I read are your typical crazy customer trying to get revenge. I think if TeaMap required a full registration to post reviews it might be a bit better.

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Aug 20th, '09, 02:52
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Re: High snobbery

by chamekke » Aug 20th, '09, 02:52

I think that a tea room should be judged on how well it does what it sets out to do, rather than what it isn't. For example, if it tries to be a Victorian-style tea room that serves Ceylon teas and cucumber sandwiches on fine china, then it should be rated on how well it delivers that. It's not fair to give it a poor review because it doesn't, say, provide live jazz or offer a selection of sencha-s.

The film critic Roger Ebert once said: "I [rate] a movie according to its 'generic expectations' ... [which] might translate like this: 'The star ratings are relative, not absolute. If a director is clearly trying to make a particular kind of movie, and his audiences are looking for a particular kind of movie, part of my job is judging how close he came to achieving his purpose.'" I think that applies to tea rooms, too!

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