Thursday, February 18, 2010

Expensive Tea is Inexpensive

I've always been a believer in focusing on value rather than price--it's one of the reasons I selected "value" as a rating category on RateTea.

What is an expensive tea? My favorite tea company, Upton Tea Imports, lists the priciest tea in their catalog: Top Competition Tie-Guan-Yin 2g (enough for a single cup) for $6.00. This is expensive tea. Tea does get more expensive than this, but this one is definitely up there. Teas of all styles are widely variable in price, but some of the priciest teas tend to be vintage pu-erh, yellow teas, Taiwanese oolongs, Japanese Gyokuro, and certain single-estate Darjeeling and Assam teas.

$6.00 per cup is really not all that expensive. It's common in the U.S. for people to drop $8 or more at a bar on a mixed drink.

Multiple Infusions & Cost per Cup:

Multiple infusions (brewing multiple cups of tea from the same set of leaves) are central to gong fu brewing, but even when brewing a cup or pot of tea in a more basic western style, the better teas tend to be usable for more than one infusion. This tends to be especially true of whole-leaf and large-leaf teas and compressed teas like pu-erh, as the rate of diffusion through the leaf is lower, and there is still a lot of flavor and aroma left in the leaf after making a cup or two.

When you consider how many times it's possible to brew a tea, the price changes dramatically. If you were even able to brew two cups from those 2 grams of tea above, it's now $3 / cup...and with three cups it's $2/cup. This is starting to sound pretty reasonable, especially since you can easily pay more for that when buying tea in a tea house or coffee shop. And that tea would just be for a special treat. You can get outstanding teas for far less than $6 / 2g.

So the conclusion is: if you're going to buy the best of the best in some aspect of your life, you might as well pick tea. It's the least likely to break the bank!

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