SFLouis wrote: If you had a time machine and could go back in time to like 10 years ago, plus some of the aforementioned language skills, you might be able to find truly cheap tea that was truly good. Maybe
I began enjoying Pu Erh a bit more than ten years ago, and have bought about then my first batches of tea which i have aged, and am drinking now, stored here in humid and hot Bangkok. They were about as inexpensive as new shengs are now, and i would not be able to afford them now, if i would buy them now aged in a warehouse.
A few cakes i have laid aside, to one day have 20 years plus aged teas. In between i have bought many more new cakes, slowly aging on my shelves.
I can only say that aging teas is worth it.
There is also a less costly way to get good aged tea a bit quicker. If you go to places such as Malaysia, where the climate ages teas much quicker than in drier climates, you can buy semi-aged teas of 5 to 7 years for much less than fully aged teas, and cut down the waiting period. Some hyped Pu Erh's are prohibitively expensive after a few years aging, but often teas from smaller factories can still be very reasonably priced. You just gotta try them.
For many people aged and aging Pu Erh is an investment where they expect returns, but there still are choices for drinkers to get semi-aged tea for reasonable prices that won't break the budget.
And i would suggest to age your tea yourself as well, you buy them and lay them aside. After ten or twenty years you will be glad that you did. I try to buy a larger variety to increase the choice of having some good teas one day - i have some traditional blends of plantation teas, some wild arbor, and some ancient arbor, of different areas.
The ones i bought ten years or so ago, now all in age of somewhere between 12 and 15 years, have all developed very well.