I’ve been talking to my friend L in Beijing recently, and he told me that the price of maocha in Yunnan has once again fallen to reasonable levels. The price of regular plantation tea is back where they always were — in the range of at most $2-3 USD per jin (500g). For old tree tea that are not from the top areas, he thinks they’re more like $20 per jin. That, I suppose, is good news.
The not as good news is of course the fact that many of these old tree teas, which is what most people want anyway, are increasingly being locked up by individuals who have long term contacts with the farmers If you’re a random guy going on a tourist trip, it is very unlikely that they will bring you the good stuff, even if you’re accompanied by friends who have strong connections. They simply don’t have the interest in selling you top of the line stuff, and moreover, they KNOW they can probably get away with giving you lesser quality tea, and will do so. The friends or local contacts you might have may turn a blind eye, mostly because they don’t want to sabotage their relationship with said farmers.
In other news, as those of you who pay attention to such news must know, the Chinese Yuan is now almost 20% higher than they were in 2006 when exchanged against the dollar. Now it’s 6.8 yuan per dollar, which means that all tea coming from China will automatically cost that much more compared to two years ago, other factors notwithstanding. The Japanese Yen (for those of you who like grassy greens) is about the same — in the past two years we’ve gone from 120 yen to a dollar to today’s 97 yen per dollar…. not pretty, shall we say.
Obviously, not all these costs will necessarily pass on to the consumer, but I’d imagine a large part of it will. Since we can expect the Chinese Yuan to continue its appreciation against the dollar, if you’re buying tea today from China and keeping it around, it’s not a terrible investment considering your other alternatives these days…