I like exploring dollar stores, although I often don't buy much in them because I tend to seek out high-quality merchandise and, as I explain below, sometimes buying low-quality "bargain-priced" merchandise can actually increase your costs in the long-run. But sometimes I do discover true bargains and I always enjoy searching for them. I recently discovered a store, Dollar Days, on 48th street in West Philadelphia, which has a fairly large selection of food products, and among them, tea. The following photograph shows the tea for sale in this store:
This tea was all from Lindsay Gardens Tea, a brand which I had never heard of before I saw it in this store and took this photograph. I did not buy this tea and I'm probably unlikely to try it unless someone else has already bought it and offers me a tea bag to try, because I don't like throwing out tea.
I love shopping for bargains, but I think it is important to think about the broader picture when considering price, rather than just buying things because they are cheap. The tea pictured above is a good example. While I can't say much about its quality without actually sampling it (and I have not done so), I'm skeptical about its quality. It's clearly a brand of low-end tea bags, and I tend to avoid these brands regardless of price, because I think that high-quality goods often offer better value. But even if this brand offered high-quality tea, would it really be the best price available?
The following analysis will clearly demonstrate the supremacy of loose-leaf tea over tea bags as a bargain buy. First of all, the price above, $1 for 20 tea bags, is exceptional. Except for buying very large packs (100+ teabags) in bulk, it's rare to find prices as low as the one above. But in loose-leaf teas the prices can go much lower.
I recently featured a handful of teas in a post cheap tea: loose-leaf teas offering outstanding value. Among these, the cheapest was Ahmad Tea's Kalami Assam, an unusually good Assam tea. This tea, which I bought one pound of for $6.15, costs between 3-4 cents per cup, assuming about 2.5 grams of tea per cup, a substantially more liberal quantity than most low-end tea bags contain. The Lindsay Gardens tea above, from the dollar store? Assuming one tea bag per cup, 5 cents a cup. The Ahmad tea is actually an example of a relatively high-quality tea. There are other teas that are still quite high-quality that are much cheaper even. As an example, take Turkish tea from Caykur, all of which is grown without pesticides. It tends to be smooth black tea, available at a fraction of the price of the Ahmad tea above.
Even if you are searching solely to minimize your cost-per-cup, you'll nearly always get a better deal buying cheap but good-quality loose-leaf tea than buying the cheapest tea bags on the market.