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Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Price of Tea

Is it worth it?

I have been toying with the idea of writing this post for quite some time, which I have been thinking about more and more lately. But tea is a commodity, and I may not have done spectacular in my basic economics class, but I learned that if there is a large enough group of people buying and selling in a market, the prices tend to stabilize to certain value, a perceived worth. Its in my opinion that in most realms of Tea and Teaware those values are pretty accurate when judging the piece of teaware or the tea.

This brings us to the fun part for us avid enthusiasts. We try and find those amazing deals, perhaps they may only be amazing for us, but we search for a tea that we absolutely love, for a price that seems like a bargain. Though that could be very challenging depending on tastes.

I've been drinking and ordering tea long enough that I know the oolongs I like tend to be on the expensive side, which is bad for my wallet, but I also know that without Chinese language skills it is a lot harder to find deals on Oolong tea's especially since they are a rather "in" type of tea right now.

But on the reverse side of the coin, I seem to have a different opinion of what I want to see in Sencha than the people determining quality. As at a larger traditional Japanese tea store, I can get a tea from them that I absolutely enjoy for 11 cents per gram. Which is doubly amazing as Sencha as a much smaller leaf to water ratio then I prefer with Oolongs.

What originally got me thinking of the whole price vs quality debate was actually teaware. I was always buying teaware within a certain price range, and it was only after I stepped outside that price range as a special rare treat to myself, did I realize that yes a cup that is double the price, can in fact be "nearly" twice as impressive when holding it in your hand. I say nearly because it is all in the eye of the beholder, that and I assume there has to be a bit of a diminishing return. For example, awhile ago Magokorodo had two Chawan that were sold for over three thousand dollars each. Granted while the Chawan looked amazing in pictures, and the pieces are often so much more impressive in person, I have a hard time believing that there is that much of a benefit either aesthetically, utility, or in tactility that would warrant such a high price tag.

I purposely ignored Puerh, so far, because my view of cooked puerh is you are paying for composted tea leaves. In terms of raw puerh, the aged stuff is really hard to classify as deal or not until you've had that particular cake or set of cakes, as storage can cause huge differences even in tea from the same batch. But Young Raw puerh if you love it possibly offers one of the best deals, sometimes even dipping to less than 10 cents per gram. Though you can also get into very high end Boutique cakes, I am drawing a blank but I think there is a Thousand year tree, that even though it is only a few years old is already demanding an incredibly hefty price tag.

So as I like to get a little bit of reader participation, where do you find your values with tea, or do you insist that there are no longer any real values in tea?
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