Blast From the Past: How much to buy and how much will you use?

Blast From the Past: How much to buy and how much will you use?


There’s a lot of confusion about tea. There’s also a lot of confusion about how much tea to buy. Before T Ching, I would typically buy 50 grams of tea at a time when trying out a new tea. Once I knew I loved the tea and always wanted to be sure to have some in the house, I’d get 250 grams or 500 grams (which is closest to a pound). I was always interested in cost saving measures and getting 500grams does in fact cost less per gram. Here’s the problem. If you’re going to spend the money to get really good tea, you need to store it properly. That means having 1 airtight canister to store the majority of the tea and a smaller canister for daily use. I use a 70 gm. tin for everyday. When it’s empty, I refill it from the larger tin. That allows the stored tea to remain as fresh as possible. The truth is, every time you open the tin, air and light impact the tea. If you’re buying 500 grams for 6-8 months of tea delight, you want it to be as fresh as possible. Transferring amounts periodically to a small tin will ensure the long term enjoyment of tea. One could even go one step further by having a middle size canister to transfer the 500 grams into when that supply has been diminished by half.

So what is 50 grams of tea and how long will it last? Here we go again with the variable answer but the truth is, it depends. Let me explain, There are 2 significant factors to consider; 1) how much tea will you use in each cup? The correct answer is 3 grams. The truth is, nobody really weighs it out, unless you’re doing a formal “cupping” or tea tasting. Some people use 1-2 teaspoons. I like the 3 finger method. I dip my hand into the canister and grab 3 fingers worth of tea using my thumb, pointer and middle finger. That’s my rule of thumb so to speak. Then, depending upon the type of tea, I can modify from there. Tightly rolled oolongs need less while fluffy white buds like a little more. The truth is, you’ll learn after a few cups what amounts of each tea you find will taste best to you. Remember, there is no right or wrong, it’s what you like and what tastes best to you.

2) How long the 50 grams will last is another answer that has a few parts to it. In theory, if you use 3 grams per cup, that will make 16 separate cups of tea. What that really means however is potentially 64-80 cups of tea. Remember each cup can be re-steeped at least 3 times. If you’re sitting at your desk at work or home, you can easily have 4 cups of tea throughout the day with those same 3 gms of tea. In actual practice, I find that 50 grams of tea lasts about 4-6 weeks of regular use by me and my husband. We work together and typically drink tea together throughout the day. If I’m getting up to make some tea, I usually get him a cup as well and vice versa. Some days we’ll have 2 different types of tea going. Sometimes I’m just craving one particular tea in the evening, while I’m watching T.V. or reading a book. I know I won’t be making 3 more cups with it as it’s already late but what the hell. So that cup of late night tea actually costs more than the tea that yielded 4 cups earlier in the day. To put it in perspective, when you grab a can of soda or a beer, do you actually calculate the cost of that can? Well, if I were to get a case of soda at Costco, that can would actually cost me only 50 cents although when I get it at the diner, I pay $2.00 for it.

I can do the math for you if you’d like. If you pay $25 for 50 grams of tea and you can make 64 cups of tea, then it’s 39 cents per cup for very high end tea. This is not your supermarket, probably stale, boxed tea bag tea. This is fresh hand picked, premium, high quality whole leaf tea for 39 cents a cup. Compare that also, to a cup of tea bag tea at Starbucks which goes for $1.35 – $1.75 and with water that is far too hot for delicate greens and whites and you begin to see what I’m talking about.

Originally posted April 2007

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