Riding the Tea Price Rollercoaster

Prices go up. Prices go down. It’s true of clothing, an ounce of gold, food, gas, and — the most important thing of all — tea! It can be quite a ride, with your budget straining or relaxing as the direction changes. When it comes to tea, you can beat the move ups with some clever price shopping and by keeping an eye on the latest tea news with an understanding of how it affects the price you pay.

Serenity in a Cup
Serenity in a Cup

A lot happens in the world of tea, much of which affects that tea price. Recently, a strike in the Darjeeling district of India resulted in a wage increase of 34% for tea pluckers. Sooner or later, that increase will show up in the price you pay for your tea, either because the grower has to charge more for the tea or because some tea gardens will go out of business, unable to pay the higher wages. I’m not saying that’s bad or good, but it is something to keep in mind and watch how it all plays out in the next year or two. You may find yourself cutting back on purchases or switching to a less pricey tea.

A lot of the price of tea comes from the extensive labor involved in processing the leaves, no matter if by hand or machine. Retooling the processing factory can cost a pretty penny. Rebuilding one after a fire is kinda pricey, too, and a number of such fires have happened over the years. Teas are bought and sold at auctions, which frankly in my humble opinion seems like a method designed to guarantee price fluctuations.

Lavender blossoms
Lavender blossoms

Another price factor is some of the ingredients added to the tea. Fruits, flower petals, spices, ginseng, and more can increase costs that are reflected in the price. Sometimes they just increase the purchaser’s perception of the value of the tea, with many people thinking a tea with French lavender added is worth twice as much as that same tea without the lavender. Fancy packaging and marketing all add to that perception. That’s where price shopping comes in.

Recently, I tried one of the most well-known and basic teas out there: gunpowder green. The brand was well-known and one that employs some extensive marketing and packaging techniques to be perceived as “worth more.” I drink quite a bit of this type of green tea from other vendors and so had some on hand to compare with it. The pellet size and shape were the same on them all. The teas all steeped up to about the same aroma and taste, although the liquid color did range from yellow to brown. Each one could undergo multiple steepings, which helped a bit on the price. Despite these similarities in quality, the prices varied widely. The new one I tried was the highest with a mere four ounces selling for around $16, or $4 per ounce. The others sold for about $1 per ounce and were clearly the better value. Just one example of how taking a bit of time to compare prices can help you stretch those tea dollars.

Yes, riding that tea price rollercoaster can be just as thrilling as the real thing, and you must be of a certain height (mentally and intellectually) to get on that ride. Just don’t forget to buckle up!

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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