Etsy: The Wild West of Loaded Teas
The Loaded Tea Rush has hit Etsy. Sellers are seeing a land of gold and throwing caution to the wind as they try to dominate the virtual tea marketplace. Little do they know, not everything that glitters is gold.
The Wild West was an iconic time period in American history, full of adventure and exploration. It was also a time of great hardship, with the environment being unforgiving and lawlessness running rampant. It is a fascinating period of history, and many of its themes are still relevant today.
Etsy is an online marketplace for unique and handmade items and also provides a platform for small businesses and artisans to sell their products to customers around the world. There are millions of items to choose from on Etsy, and it’s a great way to support small businesses and creative entrepreneurs.
Now, you may be wondering how Etsy and The Wild West have anything in common. While the online marketplace giant has their own set of rules and regulations (Etsy’s Seller handbook), there is always a rule breaker, and they rarely travel alone.
Two Worlds Collide
In the past, the only trace of loaded teas on Etsy were the occasional low level Herbalife distributors peddling bundles of five for $35. A current search for loaded teas on Etsy renders 5000+ results, ranging from cups, graphics, koozies to Herbalife in disguise. The boom of pre-made teas using the Silver Lining Lessons’ methodology has quickly saturated the market. Much like the Gold Rush of the olden days, everyone from Herbalife distributors to armchair entrepreneurs are deserting their nutrition shops and boutiques for what appears to be loaded tea gold.
When selling a consumable product, like pre-made loaded teas, the safety of the consumer is paramount.
Transparency is critical. In addition to the very specific guidelines to sell on Etsy, there are also rules, regulations and laws that apply on the state and local levels. Cottage food laws, which vary from state to state, allow individuals to create and sell certain types of food from their home, including non-perishable food items such as jams, jellies, baked goods, and candies. These laws are designed to provide individuals with additional income opportunities while also protecting public health and safety by ensuring that these foods meet certain standards.
In researching and watching the boom on Etsy over the last two years, we identified some concerning areas that we felt responsible to share with anyone currently selling, thinking about selling or on the market to purchase. We specifically chose to order from three sellers using Silver Lining Lessons recipes, original tea names and even some of our nutritional calculations. Of this trio, we were only able to successfully order from one. The other two shops canceled our orders almost immediately. It’s important to note that the orders were all placed using an official Silver Lining Lessons’ email, and there was no attempt to conceal our identity. Essentially, we wanted to do a transparent and fair review of the teas to see how they measured up, both in quality and in safety standards.
Seller: MMM Dry Goods
Ordered: 4 Pack Loaded Tea Mixes
Date: October 8, 2022
SLL Rating: C
Review: The taste was good and shipping was quick; however, there was minimal, if any, effervescence. This could have been due to the lack of airtight packaging or perhaps no effervescent ingredients. It’s hard to know because the ingredients were not listed anywhere on the packaging or the seller’s listing. The powder was clumpy, which could also be related to the packaging. Upon observation, these dry mixes did not appear to have any indication that they contained an actual tea component. Once again, the lack of information makes it impossible to know for sure. Our order was accompanied by a listing of this seller’s teas with the “new name” and “previous name” shown.
Months before ordering these teas, I reached out to this seller regarding the obvious use of our recipes and tea names without even so much as crediting the source. The seller’s response first stated that her daughter/business partner created their recipes and they would gladly rename any teas that shared a name with ours. It should also be noted that there was not a single tea listed in their shop that was not an exact name and flavor combination from our website with the majority being the specific teas included in the free eBook sent to those who subscribe to our email list. The seller later responded that a review of teas on Etsy showed many shops with the same tea names and flavors available, so it made her sad that “this type of behavior is what’s going to happen between ladies trying to have fun and healthy side businesses” and again doubled down that their recipes were original creations. Having a fun and healthy side business is different than using someone else’s hard work and calling it a business.
Ordered: Canceled by Seller
Total: Refunded by Seller
Date: October 9, 2022
SLL Rating: No rating
I ordered a variety pack of loaded teas from this Seller and received a message shortly after my payment was refunded stating that the order couldn’t be completed due to a family emergency. No response was received from the seller when asked if there was any other comment they would like us to include in our article on Etsy shops selling loaded teas.
Ordered: Canceled by Seller
Total: Refunded by Seller
Date: October 9, 2022
SLL Rating: F-
I ordered a variety pack of loaded teas, and my payment was almost immediately refunded and order canceled. Unlike the experience with LilMaeDesigns, this seller offered no explanation and did not send any type of message. Interestingly, this seller uses our tea names along with identical calculations for the caffeine and calories, even some that were typos on our end. It’s awfully coincidental to have the same typos. I previously reached out to this seller months before ordering to make them aware that we noticed the use of our work for their own personal gain with no credit given whatsoever. No response was ever received.
a deeper dive
A trip down a few rabbit holes revealed that the owner of MaeBugs Boutique is the mother of the owner of LilMae Designs. After our order was canceled, LilMae’s changed all of the names of their teas to remove all previously taken from Silver Lining Lessons.
Most recently, MaeBugs has added tumblers with the exact design used on our SLL merchandise. While we understand this is not stealing the design itself, there is no coincidence that the use of this specific design, which has been one of our best sellers, is misleading to the general public.
In fact, we were contacted by one of our followers, who saw this tumbler listing and, after seeing the teas that so closely resembled ours, believed this was affiliated with Silver Lining Lessons and ordered. Upon receipt, the customer noticed the tumbler had a sticker decal, not the printed design shown in the listing photo. This seller’s response to the customer’s review stated, “I believe wholeheartedly in people helping people, especially women helping other women rise.”
The seller’s imitation of our branding, teas and merchandise to displace our genuine and original content is disappointing, especially since we have reason to believe this seller subscribed to our website back in 2021. That’s not a “people helping people” or “women helping other women rise” mentality.
Now, let’s talk about some of the sellers we chose not to order from and why.
The sole reason I did not order from this seller is simple – content theft. After contacting this seller, she removed the pictures and chalked it up to simply editing “some pictures off Google” when she placed her logo over our trademarked logo. Ignorance is not an excuse. She at least had the decency to respond and take them down, but the damage had been done. I will never order from someone who steals, period.
The owners of this shop are former Herbalife distributors and nutrition shop owners, who have since allegedly converted to using non-Herbalife products. The biggest deterrent we noticed was the lack of transparency when it comes to actual ingredients used. To the blind eye, this would appear to just be another Herbalife shop. It would help if this seller would read the Etsy disclaimer at the bottom of their listings and disclose the products used to the consumer.
More recently, the owner of this shop reached out to us, not knowing they were already on our radar after seeing their partnership with another seller who attempted to create a MultiLevel Marketing “affiliate program” in the dupe loaded tea community. Bayou View’s owner credited us as being “a wonderful source for people” and acknowledged that the point of us providing information “helps people save money and also fights the MLM giant from preying on people trying to open teashops or just buying loaded tea in general.” After what appeared as an attempt to butter me up, he couldn’t help but stroke his ego by claiming to have “discovered 4C” and noticed the ingredients were rather close to Herbalife. Interestingly, I see no mention whatsoever of “4C” on any of the seller’s shop information or listings. Why not?
The real kicker was Bayou View’s offer to give me a “coupon code” for 10% off to share with my “network” with me receiving a portion of the sale as an “affiliate commission” each time the code is used. A commission on teas I could make if I wanted? Teas that I created the method by which to make? Teas that I make and share the recipes for every day for free? It was an easy and immediate “No” from me.
We don’t just share information about dupes and loaded teas. Our brand is well established and built on our discovery and creation of Herbalife dupes along with our thorough research, information and recipes, etc. We feel an obligation to protect our followers from anyone, including former and current Herbalife distributors, who are simply trying to take advantage of them. This former Hun is not the first to approach us with an offer to “partner” or big plans to flip their nutrition shop. He left our conversation by encouraging me to “Keep up the good work!” and he can rest assured that I always will.
This shop was riddled with stolen content. Numerous images of ours had been stolen from our website, cropped and edited to replace our trademarked logo with theirs. While no response was received, the seller almost immediately took down every listing upon receipt of our message. It is noteworthy that this seller is currently not selling on Etsy as of the publishing of this article.
A review of the current listings of these readymade drinks and the teas we ordered reveal a lack of compliance with basic cottage food laws. For example, every product must contain the listing of ingredients and a disclosure specifying that it was assembled in a cottage food kitchen. The package must also disclose if it was prepared around dairy, nuts or other potential allergens. These precautionary measures are in place to protect both the consumer and the seller. The overall lack of compliance in these areas is incredibly concerning. We all remember the pink sauce debacle that played out on TikTok before the viral sauce was properly manufactured in a compliant manner.
One thing the majority of these online sellers seem to have in common is their refusal to credit the source of their information. Some may view this as a minor transgression or even a simple oversight with no malicious intent. It’s clear that the withholding of this information is done to prevent the consumer from knowing exactly how the teas are made and that our free resources show how to make the teas for less than a dollar. The very information that enables these renegade sellers to fill their pockets would essentially kill their business if disclosed to their customers, so they just keep panning.
The bigger picture is just as concerning. The overcrowded chaos, which continues to grow more unchecked, could potentially destroy the ability for everyone to enjoy making loaded teas at home. For example, the shortage of citrus flavored 4C Energy Rush, one of the main components of our teas, rests solely on the shoulders of the many online sellers and Herbalife nutrition shops who are using it on a commercial level. The average household consumer pays the price. We are in no way discouraging those trying to sell pre-made teas; however, it must be done with transparency and integrity. The Silver Lining Lessons model was created to help people save money and avoid being victimized by someone with the MultiLevel Marketing mentality. It was not done for people to get used, ripped off or potentially consume something dangerous.
The burning question
Why doesn’t Silver Lining Lessons sell pre-made loaded teas?
At this point, there is no doubt we can make any tea or flavor combination, so why wouldn’t we want to sell them? When we created this concept over two years ago, one of the first thoughts we had was selling the dry teas for people to simply dump in a cup and add water to enjoy anywhere. We have thoroughly considered, priced, investigated, researched and gone down every single avenue when it comes to selling our teas. We always come back to the same place we started, which was to help people save money and share honest information.
Does selling our teas line up with our goals? We feel confident that we can bring more value at a lower cost than anyone on the market, all while following proper safety and cottage food laws. However, we made a conscious decision very early on that we would not sell our teas until we felt it was absolutely necessary to prevent other sellers, because we knew they would eventually come, from taking advantage of people. Our goal is and always has been to share with our audience how to make our teas at home on a budget while maintaining full transparency as it relates to all of the ingredients and facts.
Honestly, the environment created by Etsy sellers is just as concerning as Herbalife nutrition shops.
While we have not yet reached that point of necessity to sell, it feels as though the inevitable decision is staring us in the face. There is a standard that needs to be set and maintained. Someone needs to tame the Wild West before it reaches the point of no return. Like the old saying goes, “Some people follow wagon tracks while others break new trails.”