The value of a cheap tea

From time to time I drink something that is truly pedestrian, or even sub-pedestrian. It sets you straight.

Today is one such day, with a loose, wet stored raw puerh in my pot. It’s still got some bitterness in it, despite its storage condition. The thing was quite cheap when I bought it in Hong Kong, and to me, the incremental benefit of drinking good 10 years old raw from a cake, which will cost many times the price of this tea, does not make the compressed stuff worthwhile. It’s the market forces at play here — whereas compressed tea have a clear provenance and history to go by, loose stuff that have no packaging of any kind simply cannot command high prices in a place like Hong Kong, where this sort of tea is everywhere.

Yet, when you take such things to, say, parts of China where they don’t have much old tea to begin with, all of a sudden the value of it shoots up. Instead of just “random wet stored loose tea” it suddenly becomes “preciously stored aged sheng puerh” with a price tag to match.

Then you have the polar opposite…. I remember bringing some old puerh to a shop in Beijing, only to have it mistaken as cooked puerh, because, well, they’ve never had anything older than maybe 10 years that’s not stored in the bone-dry weather of Beijing. They thought my tea was fake.

Which once again goes to prove that one should only “drink what you like, like what you drink”, and not worry too much about price, hype, or any of those things.


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