Today's post features a website that I have been a big fan of for some time, Tea Trade. Tea Trade, founded by Jackie and Peter Davenport (who also are behind Leafbox Tea), is an extensive online community centering around tea, which offers a very different array of tools from any other online tea community.
I think Tea Trade is of particular interest to individuals, tea bloggers, and people who run very small tea businesses, although people involved in larger tea businesses could also benefit from being aware of and perhaps participating in the community there as well.
The domain name, Teatra.de, is a classic example of a domain hack, using the top-level domain for Germany, .de, to spell out the name.
What does Tea Trade offer?
Tea Trade has several different features, which are all quite well integrated. The simplest to participate in are the forums, which are moderately active, and I find consistently have intelligent and interesting conversation. The site also offers blog hosting, making it the only blogging platform which is custom-tailored to the needs of tea bloggers. And of course, there is the marketplace, the centerpiece of the site, a place that allows individuals to set up mini tea stores.
What do I like about the site?
I find Tea Trade easy to use and navigate, and clean and professional looking. The site is extensive, owing towards the rich contributions made by the members of the site, and I feel that the community and discussion on the site tends towards the more thoughtful and deeper side among online communities. I suspect that this has something to do with the site's emphasis on blogging, which attracts people who are interested in reading, writing, and critical thinking.
The marketplace also offers a unique option for people interested in selling tea, or tea-related merchandise on a small scale. In my post Create The Conditions For Your Business To Thrive: Che Guevara Offers Business Advice, I talk about how people can create businesses out of thin air, avoiding the need for extensive start-up costs, and growing a business organically. Tea Trade offers unique and powerful tools for people looking to start or grow very small businesses, and it also allows people who may not be interested in starting a full-fledged business to dabble with buying or selling tea on a small scale.
Suggestions for improving Tea Trade:
My one major lament about Tea Trade is the site's slow speed and lack of responsiveness. Pages on the site load considerably slower than I am used to (or comfortable with). My experience timing page loads on the site is that the page load times tend to average around 3-6 seconds for the page to display, with many pages taking 4 or so more seconds to load additional content. As I explained in my post on website speed and responsiveness, I think that this is slow enough that it is a point of concern, the "weakest link" in what Tea Trade has to offer.
I would really like to see Tea Trade address the issue of speed. I think improving the speed (ideally to under 1 second page load times, although averaging around 2 seconds across the board would be a really great improvement over the current speed) would be a major improvement to me, and would lead me to want to participate much more in the community there, possibly even hosting a blog there.
Another issue which is worth mentioning is downtime. Nearly all websites experience some downtime; last month, RateTea was down for a few hours, and a few years ago, it was down for around 12 hours. I even encounter major sites like Blogger and Wordpress giving errors or going down from time to time. But I think Tea Trade has experienced enough downtime that I'd recommend for Jackie and Peter to make it a priority to address this issue as well.
In terms of the site itself, I think it is wonderful, and a great resource.
What do you think?
Are you familiar with Tea Trade? Have you bought or sold products through their marketplace? Have any of you had experience with their tea blog hosting? How do you feel about the site's speed and responsiveness? Have you ever experienced the site being down when trying to access it? Do you have anything else to say about the site?