Adagio Teas

Pros: Great teas, free gift certificates, nice people behind the system
Cons: Mild account system annoyances
Rating: 4 out of 5

First published 12/13/2000

I can’t help it. I love tea, even though I don’t drink it every day. I love black teas, preferably Darjeeling. I like the occasional oolong. Green tea is what I use for daily iced tea – not too caffeinated for bulk drinking, soothing, wonderful. Herbal teas are great for when I’ve already had my daily caffeine, and they come in such delightful flavors! I’ve been known to enjoy subtly flavored black teas: vanilla, strawberry, raspberry. I even have a cannister of white tea somewhere around here. Subtle, but delicious.

Internet Junky Frustration

I like to buy online. I work from home. I’m a hermit. I don’t like long shopping trips when I could be sitting here working on another writing contract, a newsletter issue, a web article, that next roleplaying game. I hate shopping mall crowds. I particularly loathe getting to a shop and finding that after all that, after negotiating the subway and breathing everyone’s smoke, they don’t have what I want. I also hate phones. Something about talking to someone on the phone makes me freeze up. And people who answer the phones for a living are often constantly grumpy – kind of understandable, I guess. But that doesn’t mean I want to deal with it. So I like to order online.

This is a royal pain with tea. There’s the Republic of Tea, my previous favorite. Just try ordering from them online, though. They use asp pages, which often give you problems if you aren’t using Internet Explorer and Windows (I’m on Linux). So I’ll add things to my cart, and it’ll drop most of them by the time I’m ready to check out. And last I saw, it wouldn’t help even if it didn’t drop my items: you have to then print the form and mail or fax it to them. You can’t actually order online.

So I found Dreamship. But although I could submit most of an order online, I had to call them to deal with the credit card part. And I was none too happy when they accidentally left the decimal point out of the charge – good thing I was getting close to my limit at the time and the charge bounced and my credit card company called me.

There are other companies out there, but of the ones I found, either they didn’t have all the teas I wanted, or they couldn’t do online ordering, or they could, but if you paid attention you’d notice that the ordering system wasn’t secure. Ick. I’d rather go to the mall. I’d resigned myself to making up Republic of Tea orders on a spreadsheet and faxing them. But then I stumbled across Adagio Teas.

Discover Adagio Teas

First of all, they have online ordering! Wheee! And it’s secure (gasp!), and in my experiences it works.

They have lots of teas. I have a big tin of caramel-flavored black tea now, and raspberry-flavored tea for my fiancee. They have greens, oolongs, blacks, herbals. They have tea-pots. I got these great little glass one-cup infuser things from them (called “minuets”), perfect for steeping a single cup of loose tea without need for disposable filters. They even enclosed little samples of other teas with that order.

Teas come in metal canisters to protect them and keep them fresh. They have a sort of equivalent of a tea of the month club, if you just want it all to keep coming. You can put together a wish list of teas that other people can view, so they’ll get you exactly what you want. There was even a little hand-written thank-you note on both of my invoices.

They also have a reorder page, so it’s simple to find and reorder teas you’ve bought there that you really like. And they have refills, so you don’t have to pay for more cannisters and trash the old ones.

The Little Perks

Every time you order you get points, one point per pre-shipping pre-tax dollar of your order. When you have 100 points, you get a $10 gift certificate. You can send free $5 gift certificates to anyone with an email address. I went nuts sending them to everyone I know. Lots of sites have a “tell your friends about us,” feature; this is the coolest and least sleazy version of this I’ve ever seen. Oh, and if they redeem them, you get 5 points for each one redeemed.

Shipping is surprisingly inexpensive, and even the slow shipping goes by FedEx ground, so you can track it.

Account System

They have a pretty good account system with only a few flaws. You can check your points total, send more gift certificates, check your tracking codes on orders that haven’t arrived yet, and so on.

I’ve only found two, minorly annoying flaws. One, every time you want to do something new with your account (like you’ve just sent a gift certificate, and now you want to check on the progress of an order), you have to enter your password in again. On the other hand, it isn’t like I’m going to spend a huge amount of time playing with my account, so this isn’t a big deal.

Two, their password thing doesn’t seem to record capitals. So I put capitals in my password, and then when I tried to log in I couldn’t, because it expected lower-case letters. Luckily this is one of the first things I tried when I couldn’t log in, so it wasn’t a big deal. It’s good to know about, though.

Adagio Teas is my new favorite tea site. Drop by and stock up on your favorite loose teas!

[Note added later: almost all of the web sites mentioned have certainly changed systems in the years since this review was written, so individual details about flaws and features may well be incorrect. I’d tell you about my newer experiences except, umm, I kind of got addicted to coffee instead…]

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