Help me to understand


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Help me to understand

Postby chris&amy » Dec 20th, '09, 00:16

I have noticed since I became a member and reading through the post that some people have very expensive taste for tea. As I look at some of the Vendor sites I see tea that has a hefty price. What I am confused about is do you only drink it because of the price it has the perception that it is better? Is it really better? I know some would probably not dare drink tea from a couple of the places that I buy from. Would you try a Oolong or a Sencha that was half the price?

I have bought tea that was 20.00 for 2oz and I have bought tea that was 10.00 for 2oz and the problem I am having is it that maybe I do not know what good tea is supposed taste like but it seems that some of the cheaper teas are great.

Is tea over marketed ? It seems every bodies teas are the best but are they really? If you were blindfolded could you really tell the difference?

I kinda relate it to the van I just bought...I bought the new Hyundai van and it has ever option that the Honda has but the Honda is about 15 thousand more. So buying a Honda you are paying for the name. Is it the same way for certain teas?



I am sorry to ramble but I gotta know :mrgreen:

Merry Christmas

Chris
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby wyardley » Dec 20th, '09, 00:39

Tea pricing is all over the place. Vendors have a range of markups, different amounts of overhead, and some get better deals (or buy in larger volumes) than others. So you can't exactly directly compare a particular tea from vendor A with a similarly priced tea from vendor B and expect to get the same value.

There are some pretty good teas out there for fairly cheap. Buying truly exceptional tea, if you are lucky enough to be able to buy it at all, will probably be expensive. The opposite is not necessarily true -- if you spend a lot of money, you won't necessarily get exceptional tea.

There is some sort of bottom ceiling if you want certain types of tea -- a hand-picked, hand-processed tea made with traditional methods and with minimal chemical fertilizers / pesticides can only be made so cheaply, especially with labor costs increasing in most traditional tea-producing countries. So if you're saying that there are certain teas that are so cheap I would be unlikely to buy them, you are right (this ceiling is somewhat lower if you're buying closer to the source; if you're buying directly from the farmer / producer, you may get quite good tea for what sounds like an insanely cheap price).

Of course, as with wine, some of it probably is psychological... and once you know a tea is cheap / expensive, it's hard not to let that influence your perception of it. I find that generally speaking, high quality (and usually expensive) teas tend to be more forgiving when not brewed just so, and tend to give more when pushed really hard. Also, one is apt to be a little more careful when brewing a really expensive tea, and this may also affect the result.

To me, most of the expensive vendors I frequent are worth it. For one thing, if I trust that the vendor will choose good teas, I'm less likely to end up with something I'm unhappy about (this is especially true for buying online). With vendors I trust, I'll even end up liking teas I didn't have a good first impression of, and realize that the owner of the shop was able to recognize qualities in the tea that I wasn't. There are exceptions to this, though, and I definitely have teas that were quite cheap which I enjoy drinking quite a bit.

Finally, as with wine, etc., the increases in price are not linear. To get a tea that's 2x as good as another, you will be paying quite a bit more than 2x the price.

If you're really interested in this, I would suggest trying some blind tasting experiments yourself, using standard and as controlled as possible brewing methods. Sometimes the results are surprising... often, however, they're not. I think you would tend to get somewhat different results depending on how experienced the people doing the tasting are.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby chris&amy » Dec 20th, '09, 11:26

Thanks Wyardley for the reply. I often wonder with tea being imported do we really know where it is coming from? Who regulates and keeps the Vendors honest? As far as me taking a blindfold test that might not be a good idea as I have drank tea all my life and just about everyday most was southern sweet tea. It has only been the last couple of years that I have gotten away from southern tea and gravitated to Japanese and Chinese teas. I would love to see this experiment with somebody who has been drinking these kinds of teas a lot longer than I have. My Boss has very extensive wine collection from all over the world and would not drink a cheap wine for sure. I guess he feels that the higher priced wines are better. So I wonder is that what a lot of tea drinkers think if the tea is a higher price it must better?

Merry christmas

Chris
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby gingkoseto » Dec 20th, '09, 11:34

Tea tasting is very subjective. If one enjoys cheaper tea than expensive tea, I would say she is so lucky! :D

Buying same or similar tea varietal of different price levels is a way to find out what's the best price/quality compromise for you. Buying same or similar tea of different levels from a same vendor is a way to find if ranking criteria of the vendor is consistent with your criteria.

Also you may find there is not much difference in appreciation level between some very expensive tea and super expensive tea. I guess it's like the difference between billionaire and multi-billionaire, both are already superb then the difference between them is not that important :D
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby wyardley » Dec 20th, '09, 14:27

A few of the things that I think a lot of tea drinkers look for, at least with Chinese oolongs and puers:
* aftertaste (strong, lingering)
* texture (mouthfeel, "thickness")
* complexity (the taste isn't too one-note, and changes over multiple infusions)
* fragrance
* clarity (in the brewed tea broth)
* quality of the leaves themselves, and presence of a good "tea base" (goes kind of with texture above)
* durability (how many times the tea can be brewed)

And of course, some people have higher or lower tolerances for bitter or astringent tastes in tea, so these characteristics may influence their choices.

Again, I am very much not trying to say that lower priced teas are not good or that you can't find some great ones, but overall, I think you will tend to find more of the qualities above in an expensive tea.

So I wonder is that what a lot of tea drinkers think if the tea is a higher price it must better?

Again, I am sure there is an element of that... but it is also true that it's rare to find a really exceptional tea for a too-good-to-be-true price. Also, I certainly don't think it's true that everyone likes a tea once they know it's expensive - I've seen plenty of people not like teas that they knew were quite expensive.

Now everyone has a different idea of what's "expensive", but I think you will find that most people here can't afford to drink the most expensive teas every day. Most people have some fairly inexpensive teas for daily drinking.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby chris&amy » Dec 20th, '09, 16:55

Thanks for the insight! My understanding is getting better :D




merry christmas!

Chris
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Chip » Dec 20th, '09, 18:19

Excellent posts, wyardley and gingko.

I think it is more important to find "better vendors" (and be willing to experiment within a set comfort zone) and then work within their price structures. High prices and lovely descriptions cannot assure you of a great tea if the vendor simply is full of BS. So many other factors come into play as well.

I rate vendors as I gain experience with them, and more importantly, I rate them relative to other vendors. So, I literally have a rank for vendors. A high ranked vendor will garner more trust when it comes to paying more for a tea.

Admittedly, this is very hard to do for more than one general type of tea, so I am pretty set when it comes to Japanese teas since I am much more acutely focused on these teas and vendors.

The trade off is a more uncertainty when it comes to other types of teas and vendors.

This is when a place like TeaChat can be a really valuable resource, guide. I have begun an experiment with Japanese vendors under Green Tea, creating official topics for vendors, a perennial guide to individual vendors. If this works out, I hope to expand this to other types as well.
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby chris&amy » Dec 20th, '09, 19:48

chris&... wrote:This is when a place like TeaChat can be a really valuable resource, guide.


Chip TeaChat has been a very valuable place for Amy & I. We have learned a lot and are still learning. (It seems never ending.) It is a little intimidating sometime because there are some on TC including yourself that are so knowledgeable . I thought when I first started drinking Green Tea that that was it and boy was I wrong! I have never seen so many teas or so many provinces where tea comes from. So it is still a learning process.

I was a little concerned that I would be taken out of context with my thoughts and questions but the feedback has been great!

Merry Christmas

Chris
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Chip » Dec 20th, '09, 19:53

chris&amy wrote:I have never seen so many teas or so many provinces where tea comes from. So it is still a learning process.

... not to mention prefectures, regions ... :!:
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby chris&amy » Dec 20th, '09, 20:34

chris&... wrote:.. not to mention prefectures, regions ... :!:



You are killing me Chip! This is heavy man real heavy.... :?: :cry:
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Chip » Dec 20th, '09, 20:59

chris&amy wrote:
chris&... wrote:.. not to mention prefectures, regions ... :!:

You are killing me Chip! This is heavy man real heavy.... :?: :cry:

... and mountains ... can't forget mountain specific teas like Alishan, Lishan, Dong Ding, etc, where teas are further rated by elevations ... 8)
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Proinsias » Dec 20th, '09, 21:47

You're so last season Chip.

I'm a single bush dan cong man these days :mrgreen:
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby Chip » Dec 20th, '09, 22:26

Proinsias wrote:You're so last season Chip.

I'm a single bush dan cong man these days :mrgreen:

I was just easing Chris into it, didn't want to hurt his head. Next was states ... :wink:
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby skilfautdire » Dec 21st, '09, 23:03

Chip wrote:... and mountains ... can't forget mountain specific teas like Alishan, Lishan, Dong Ding, etc, where teas are further rated by elevations ... 8)


As a Chinese colleague mentioned, the orientation of the mountain is also very important as this will dictate how much sun the plants get. :!:
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Re: Help me to understand

Postby skilfautdire » Dec 21st, '09, 23:21

Some of the teas out there are not that much more expensive if you take into account that compared to regular supermarket teabag (black or green) the leaves can be infused several times retaining a good amount of taste.

Also, as one progresses into tea (I'vbe stared earlier this year) the cups are getting smaller but the enjoyment gets better. I started with regular-sized coffee cups. For me tea was like coffee: full or near full large cups only. And then I started to only brew tea for half cups. And then I got a small 150ml cup that I'm using now.

Makes me think, that does not make sense. If we say that good quality leaves can be steeped several times but the size of the cups is small, then it's equal to one large cup steep, eg, it does not gets really infused more times. Hmmm.... I imagine a Chinese guy saying that he can steep leaves for 15 cups, but the cup is only 40ml !

Anyways, I had a chance to compare recently as a colleague showed a box of jasmine tea bags, maybe 40, that he bought at an Asian supermarket for $5.00. Good deal said he. A bit later I came back with a bag of organic jasmine pearl from Yunnansourcing at $8.90 for 100g + say $5 shipping, most. So that's $14. he immediately saw the difference as he could steep the leaves much more and the taste lasted and lasted. Quite the contrary to the supermarket teabags. Is it more expensive ? It depends. I tend to say in the end, no.

Of course this is not about very expensive teas. I'm not currently inclined to spend for expensive teas, if only for fear that I might not appreciate them fully. For now I'm very contented with the teas I'm having and there's so much to explore at that level.

Thanks for reading.
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