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Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Living Tea?
Living Teas are seed-grown in their native environments, free of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or weed-killers. These trees have room to grow in biodiverse environments (rather than clear-cut mountainsides) and are maintained without irrigation, thus preserving soil and land health. We continually refine our offerings and operations to create sustainable, supportive relationships among Living Tea, the farmers, and members of the supply line. "Living Tea" is a double entendre, referring both to these attributes of our teas, as well as living what we call a "life of tea," inspired by these values and the ancient traditions of the Way of Tea.
Which tea is right for me?
Are all of your teas organic?
We work exclusively with farmers who do not use pesticides, however not all of these farms have been certified organic by a governing certification agency. Futher more, some of our teas are aged and were harvested before the use of agrochemicals. While our teas are not all USDA-certified organic, they are all clean and free of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or weed-killers. We take our tea sourcing very seriously and believe that tea is a healing herb. Therefore, it is fundamentally important that our teas be free of chemicals.
How much caffeine is in your teas?
While caffeine content in different types of tea can be approximated, there are variations based on how the tea is prepared. Refer to this blog post for an easy-to-read chart as well as more nuance on caffeine calculations.
How do I brew a Living Tea?
Each individual product page has brewing recommendations so that you get the best flavor and most value out of your tea.
Living Teas can be re-steeped many times in a variety of ways. Visit our Brewing Methods page for guidance.
How should I store my Living Tea?
It’s best to keep your tea in a dedicated area away from the kitchen. Ideally, this place would have minimal lights (like in a drawer), no aromas, climate controlled with humidity between 50-70%. Huge temperature fluctuations are not good for tea, and we recommend avoiding strong aromas like resinous incense, sage, essential oils, and cooking smells. We recommend ceramic jars, but some teas that are not fully oxidized like to be kept in airtight containers for further aging, whereas Puerh teas age nicely with a small amount of exposure to oxygen.
What comes in the Seasonal Tea Club?
Each installment of the Seasonal Tea Club includes four hand-selected and seasonally-appropriate teas (approximately 150-200 g total) and a written booklet containing brewing instructions, seasonal guidance, and literature on the Way of Tea. Click here to learn all about the Seasonal Tea Club, including shipping schedule and other FAQs.
How do I clean my teaware?
All the fine ceramics we carry should be hand-washed. Since unglazed ceramics retain the oils and flavors of the tea brewed in them, they also retain the flavors of anything else put inside of them, including soap. Therefore we recommend cleaning all unglazed ceramics with hot water and a neutral rag/sponge only, no soap.
What is the difference between a teapot and a kettle?
Kettles are used for heating water only, and are designed to be put directly on a heat source. (If you have an electric stove, refer to each individual product description for recommendations on keeping your kettle safe over this type of heat.)
Teapots are for brewing tea only and should never be put directly on a heat source unless they were made specifically for that purpose. (These are called "boiling teapots" and are rare.)
Are your teapots good for any kind of tea?
Certain pots, like zisha (purple clay gongfu pots), should only be used for one type of tea. As you drink tea, your taste buds will become more discerning, and you will naturally want different pots for different categories of tea, as they absorb the oils and tannins from the leaves. If a pot has an unglazed interior, it will absorb flavors and eventually add to the flavor of your tea. Therefore, a tea connoisseur will only use Shou Puerh in one sisha pot, Sheng Puerh in another pot, etc., to prevent the flavors from mixing. If you are starting out, we suggest a side handle pot with a glazed interior because it will retain any particular flavor and you can easily wipe it down (without soap) between different teas.
Are your tea bags compostable?
Yes! Our teas are packaged in compostable bags with compostable labels.
Once you've enjoyed your tea, please add the bag to your home composter or find a composter near you.
Is your shipping material sustainable?
Nearly all of the materials we purchase for shipping (boxes, paper fill, paper tape) are recyclable. Occasional exceptions are made when plastic products are the most durable option for protecting your products during shipping, such as bags to protect aged tea cakes and plastic tape to maintain the protective padding around teaware.
In order to reduce our landfill impact, we also often reuse packaging that we receive from our vendors, such as bubble wrap and foam. If you receive this packaging from Living Tea, please be assured that it is on its second (or third, or fourth) life, and we encourage you to pass it along to one of your local small businesses to continue the cycle!
When will my order ship?
Our Chicago-based distribution center ships 3 days per week. Expect your order to ship within 1-3 business days, at which time you will receive automated tracking updates via email.
Do you ship internationally?
We ship to all 50 states and internationally. If you have trouble receiving shipments to your location, send us a message.
Where is my order? I need more tracking information.
The most reliable tracking tool, especially for international shipments, is 17track.net. If your UPS/USPS tracking has not shown new activity for some time, please enter your tracking number into 17track.net for more detail. 17track may also indicate that your package has been transferred to another carrier (such as GlobalPost or your local postal carrier), in which case there may be more information directly on those tracking platforms.
We do not have access to any more tracking information than is available on 17track.net or your shipping carrier's website. If your package is delayed, missing, or lacking tracking updates, begin by submitting an inquiry directly to the shipping carrier.
How are shipping costs calculated?
Within the U.S., orders over $100 ship for free. Outside of the U.S., shipping costs are automatically calculated at checkout based on the weight of your purchase.
While different shipping speeds may be available to you at checkout, our fulfillment staff may choose a different service at the time of processing at their discretion, since large and/or heavy packages often cost 2-3 times the fee you see at checkout. A different shipping service may be chosen so as not to pass greater costs on to you.
Can I get expedited shipping?
While not always a default option at checkout, expedited shipping may be possible. Request expedited shipping by leaving a note in your shopping cart in the "Special Instructions" box.
Please note that our distribution center does not fulfill orders 7 days per week, and choosing an expedited shipping service does not mean that it is possible to fulfill your order the same day is placed. Even if we expedite a package, we have no control over what happens after it leaves our warehouse, and your expedited shipping carrier may still incur delays.
Taxes and Customs
Do you collect sales taxes in the U.S.?
Sales taxes are applied at checkout for orders shipping to destinations in Colorado and Illinois, where we have physical locations.
Do you collect international taxes or import duties?
Living Tea does not collect international import duties or taxes at checkout, and the buyer is responsible for any additional taxes or fees associated with delivery in their country. Please expect typical delays related to customs inspection and/or international shipment processing.
Some packages are returned to us even after arriving in the destination country due to unpaid fees, inability to contact the recipient, or incorrect addresses. In this situation, please contact us to have your order re-shipped, in which case we will invoice you for additional shipping costs. If you would not like the package resent to you, we will issue a refund minus shipping costs and a 10% restocking fee.
Returns and Refunds
Can I return a tea I purchased?
All consumable items (tea, herbs, tinctures) are final sale. We are more than happy to answer further questions about tea you have ordered, but unless it is incorrect or damaged according to your invoice, we do not accept returns.
While we take issues regarding subjective defects (smell/taste of tea and teaware) seriously and will investigate, refunds or replacements are provided at our discretion. We are extremely proud of the teas that we carry and the farmers who work so hard to produce them. If you are uncertain about teas that you have never tried, such as Puerh or aged teas, we recommend contacting us beforehand so that we can help guide your purchasing process.
Can I return teaware?
Refunds will not be issued for used teaware.
If you are dissatisfied for your unused teaware, please contact us immediately upon receipt with your concerns. If we are able to accept a return for unused teaware (at our discretion), the buyer is responsible for shipping costs back to our distribution center. Upon receipt of the item(s) in original condition, a refund will be issued to the original method of payment, minus shipping costs and a 10% restocking fee. Refunds will not be issued for shipping costs.
My order arrived damaged. What do I do?
Products are packed with care to prevent damage in shipping, yet breakage is still possible when shipping across great distances.
If you open your package from Living Tea and your teaware is damaged, immediately take detailed photos of the product(s) and all of the shipment packaging and send to email@example.com so we can file a claim with the shipping carrier and make sure you receive a refund or a replacement item, inventory permitting.
Please do not discard any of the packing material, as sometimes an inspection is required by the shipping carrier.
Can I cancel my order?
Any order that has not yet shipped can be cancelled and refunded, minus a 3.5% fee to cover payment processing expenses.
I forgot to type in a discount code at checkout. Can you apply it for me after my order was placed?
Discount codes cannot be retroactively applied to purchases that have already been paid.
Philosophy and Practice
What books do you recommend for further reading on the Way of Tea?
Living Tea Founder Colin Hudon lists some of his recommended book on tea, meditation, the Five Elements, and more on our Bookshop.org profile. Purchases made on Bookshop support Living Tea with a small commission.
Where do these methods and techniques come from?
The history of tea is long and rich, the subject of many lifetimes of study. At Living Tea we are guided by the earliest pharmacopeias of Taoist herbalists, which treated tea as a medicinal herb. It is this spirit of the tea plant which inspired many millennia of evolution in the form and preparation of tea, including as a tool for meditation and self-cultivation.
The specific brewing methods and ceremonial forms we share were given to us by our teachers at Global Tea Hut in Taiwan, a network which includes tea farmers and collectors, teaware artisans, and students of Zen and Tao. We are deeply grateful and indebted to them for their continued guidance and support.