If you haven't seen “All in This Tea”. If not, check it out on netflix this evening!
As a tea vendor, I have always tried to find the cream of the crop so to speak. However, accessing such great tea is either:
A. Quite a Challenge and Expensive
B. Even more expensive if you remove the challenge part.
The largest problem in the tea industry is “consistency”. This is a
big problem the tea factories and tea farms have alike. Each year, flush is
different, each batch processed may vary. It is more like an art, more
like wine making. So, to counter this issue, tea factories will take
various teas from around the region and blend them in order to make a
more consistent tea that can be produced over and over again. Usually,
these teas are made from the lower to mid grade teas. Which is what most
online shops and even the local tea shops sell since that is the price range most customers are willing to pay.
A. It is more affordable, usually in the $2-10 an ounce range.
B. You can expect to find similar quality over and over again throughout the market.
Now, the other side of this wonderful story would be those who see
value in the farm fresh, never going to see it again, when its gone, rare
batch of fresh tea. Like a fine wine, the seasonal flushes from a
single estate is appreciated for its totally unique character. But
also like a fine wine. It costs a pretty penny to enjoy. An ounce of tea
can sell from $6-$40 easy. Some even higher. Yet, much like grabbing a
bottle of $5 wine or having a glass of $40 wine, the differences in quality,
character and enjoyability are priceless.
Recently, my partner and I have had the opportunity to meet some
really interesting sources for the “real deal teas”. And yes, the costs
can make you drop your cup and nearly choke on the tea while sampling
it. We recently had a chance to taste the differences across the board
with some farm fresh Darjeeling (From $3 an ounce to $40 an ounce in
quality range). Without knowing the prices, we were able to easily sort
the teas out fairly well from most expensive to least expensive.
Overall, I have a new found fondness for top quality, farm fresh…
despite that they are really expensive teas. I am addicted for sure.
There is absolutely no comparison in my opinion between the mid grade
tea 99% of the vendors stock (including us) and the farm fresh strait
from the estate high grade seasonal teas. When you taste a fine Darjeeling that fetches $200-$400 a kilo for the first time, then you can say you have tried Darjeeling tea, otherwise, you have only tasted the leftovers my friend!
Even being a vendor for many years, I thought I knew what “high
quality” was... but come to find out, whatever you might think you know about tea... is limited to your experience and resources.