$130 Tea Deconstructed

Stop the presses! The word seems to have gotten out not so long ago that a certain well-known French tea retailer was opening a store in New York City and was said to be selling tea for $130 a bag (as one newspaper put it). Gasp!

130-bag tea (Photo source: screen capture from site)
130-bag tea (Photo source: screen capture from site)

This tidbit made its way to various media outlets, leading one to believe that said retailer had a hard-working publicist with great connections. But while it might have made for a catchy headline amongst the wider array of sensational headlines we’re barraged with every day, it’s one that bears a bit of examination.

So it’s time for another lesson in tea economics (yes, there will be math – sorry). Let me start by saying, as I have many times, that expensive tea is not a bad thing. You tend to get what you pay for with tea and, as a general rule, the expensive stuff is worth the extra cost. The exception, of course, would be those retailers who take so-so tea and sell it at a premium.

The other point to keep in mind is that expensive tea might not be as expensive as it seems. Let’s take a real life example – like a $130 bag of tea. As the above article notes, the bag contains 3.5 ounces of tea. Given that most retailers sell tea by the gram we’ll round up from 99.2 grams to an even 100.

If I’ve got my story straight, the standard measure of loose leaf tea used to make a six-ounce cup of tea is 2.25 grams. Use what you like, but this is the norm. Which works out to 44.4 cups of tea from said bag, and we’ll round that down to 44 cups (much more than the 20 cups mentioned in the article). That works out to $2.95 for a cup of tea. Which ain’t exactly cheap, mind you, but think about how much you paid for a cup of tea (or the other hot beverage) the last time you bought one from that other place – you know the one.

Given that this tea is a black variety from Korea, it’s up for grabs whether you could steep the leaves more than once, as you can with most green, white, yellow, oolong, and puerh teas. I personally don’t care much for multiple steeps of black tea, but some do. Assuming that you can get two steeps for each of these batches of leaves that takes the price of this fabulously expensive tea to about a dollar and half a cup. Which is also not a drop in the bucket, but for my money it’s not necessarily an exorbitant price to pay – for a really good tea.

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