Alex commented on my post about What's a letter worth? :
The few times I've tasted tea from the same harvest and garden of different grades, I have not always preferred the "better" grades. Sometimes, higher grades taste more delicate, and I may want a more robust tea.
Also, you can't generalize about the price of grades. I've picked up some FTGFOP1 Darjeeling First Flush when it was a bit late and out of season, and yet still fresh and outstanding quality, for a lower price than a lot of "lower" grades.
Re: the first point he makes: I agree, I often prefer the more robust-flavoured teas myself (although I do enjoy a first flush Darjeeling). Sometimes I feel a bit bad about this: does it mean I am actually not as sophisticated a tea drinker as I like to imagine myself? But, really, does that matter? I like what I like... and there it is. Of course it's also good to try different things, of course and to be open to putting aside my preconceptions about tea (like with puerh for example, but more on that in another post) because I might be pleasantly surprised.
In relation to Alex's second point, I also agree - I have also picked up high grade teas for a bargain price, for example when they are from the previous season and the new crop is coming in and commanding the higher prices. In my experience though, this is something that is most likely to happen with online and, in particular, specialist tea vendors such as Thunderbolt Tea in Darjeeling. It seems to me that the average Australian consumer walking into a bricks and mortar store would be unlikely to be confronted with information about the latest, freshest teas and given an opportunity to purchase previous crops for a cheaper price regardless of grade... if that makes sense. Even in a store with a broad range of quality teas you would have to know what you were looking for, and be prepared to ask the staff about it if you wanted something so specific. Does anyone else have an opinion about this, from an Australian perspective or from elsewhere?
In response to my post on Sustainable, organic and fair trade tea, Jenny asked
How about you? Do you go for organic tea(products)?
In general, I would have to say: No, not specifically. I do my best to purchase as much as I can from companies who produce high quality goods - tea, food and so on - and this sometimes means that the products are organic (e.g. at the farmers' market) and sometimes that the company has a strong social ethic (e.g. Thunderbolt Tea). I like to purchase close to the source, hopefully ensuring that more of the money goes directly to the people involved - again buying tea from Thunderbolt Tea is a good way to do this and Obubu Tea in Japan is also excellent (and all of their teas are delicious as well).
It is important to me that the products I consume are as ethical as possible - but as the interview I linked to in the previous post indicates, ethical production and consumption are not as simple and clear-cut as one might think!