So people keep asking me about expensive tea. I'm not sure why, it could be some cosmic coincidence, the higher powers sense that the subject in general is a source of frustration to me. Truth be told, it's probably a good thing that I get a chance to share some facts and shed light on the issue, but it also serves as a constant reminder that we're so far behind the rest of the world - in our knowledge of this most incredible of beverages.
On to the point of the story - what's the deal with expensive tea?
First and foremost, 95% of all tea is highly inexpensive. That percentile encompasses most of the 'higher end' of the available harvests, some truly amazing rich and complex flavors out there for your drinking pleasure. Compared to most other luxury consumables like cigar and fine wine (yes, I do keep bringing up those two as relative reference), tea is CHEAP. Let's look at an example, to illustrate my point: a pound of tea for $160. It's something I recently sampled (quite good, too), and someone had commented on the rather large price tag.
Well, once you break down the actual cost per cup, that high end $160 per-pound-tea is actually a stunning deal! With a good quality loose leaf tea, you get anywhere from two to five infusions from the very same leaves (on a short side note here: don't let the leaves dry, keep them in warm water to re-infuse). Three grams of leaves suffice for an 8 oz. cup. So that makes for a net cost of less than one dollar per cup for one infusion, or under 20 cents per infusion if you were to do five. In either case this beats the price of a cup of Starbucks coffee or a glas of fine wine any day! Consider the many things going into the production of some of these teas, that's a serious bargin. Check out the story on orthodox tea manufacturing, for example!
All things considered, a cup of high end tea may cost you less than a can of soda!
Along with the low expense, you get to experience a range of complex flavors, explore thousand year old traditions, and benefit from many health side benefits associated with some teas. How can you beat it?
All that said, this story wouldn't be complete without mentioning that other five percent of tea. It's not something you're likely to ever encounter, unless you are familiar with a rather small circle of tea afficionados with access to these harvests. Some elusive Japanese black tea can cost in excess of $1,000 per pound (if you are fortunate enough to find the real deal, and have them agree to send you some), and there are entire lines specializing on stratospherically high end tea with prices in excess of $200 per ounce. The kicker here is that you as the 'average Joe' may not even be able to buy these, as they are often spoken for long before the season's pickings are finished drying at the plantation. Now THAT is expensive tea, and one may argue about the additional flavor benefits you actually gain from spending that sort of money.
I hope this little story helps with your understanding of this fine product, now go out and buy some great tea!