27/08: Price v. Quality

Price isn't always an indicator of quality.

A tea cake that costs $ 50 won't always be more enjoyable than a tea cake that costs $ 20. Inexpensive teas sometimes score better than pricey ones in our blind tastings. At the same time, it's important to understand that the best materials, finest processing, and most acute quality control will cost money. As is true with all raw materials, not all tea is of equal quality. Some crops are better than others.

You might have heard (or read) a few rather ignorant maxims like '"Best of the bests", or "all tea is basically the same". Statements like that are uninformed, and they presuppose that different levels of quality do not exist. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Standards of quality are determined by appearance, taste, aroma and flavor. A highly aromatic, flavorful tea that is pristine in appearance and pretty looking broth is going to be more expensive than a coarse leaf that doesn't have much smell or taste.

Some teas also underwent longer time to age and ferment for better performance. That process will also end up raising the cost of your tea - the longer the cycles, the longer the tea has to be stored in a proper place, and that costs money.

The tea could be a low-yielding varietal, meaning that the crop from the ancient trees (say LBZ or Bingdao area) was not large in the mountain, yet the small amounts produced were outstanding. This could also make your teas a lots pricier. Sometime it's merely a question of supply and demand.

Occasionally, a tea is expensive for arbitrary or gimmicky reasons that have nothing to do with quality or availability. Those unfortunate exceptions are not normal in the premium tea industry. If a tea is expensive, the cost is usually justified.

That being said, there's no guarantee you're going to love the expensive teas. The flavor profile and strength level (either high or low) of a high-end drink might not to to your taste. The best way to know is to try it, multiple times with different brewing parameters(say brewing temperature, brewing length and etc.). If you spend the extra money and find that the experience doesn't justify the cost, then stay within your comfortable price range, good news is that there are still many teas to choose from.

If you find extraordinary levels of flavor, refinement and complexity, you'll know the tea was worth the splurge.

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