Luxury Teas: What Are They and Is This Fad Worth It?
Tea has been consumed for centuries and has existed within several cultures worldwide, with the drink becoming one of the most popular. Millions of people drink tea daily, often used to start the day for the same reasons people drink coffee. The growing love for tea has turned it into one of history's most profitable and powerful industries.
Every supermarket in the country (if not the world) stocks tea we can purchase at our leisure to brew in the comfort of our homes. Many people drink tea for the taste, while others do it for the caffeine fix, but there are also industries focusing on the holistic properties of tea that improve our health. Tea is one of the most versatile and beloved beverages in human history, but this has led to a frustrating development.
Companies will seek to exploit that favor whenever something becomes popular to enhance their profit margins. We have seen it with luxury products like televisions and food, and we have also seen it with necessities like homes and vehicles. It was inevitable that we would eventually see it with tea. Nowadays, there are luxury tea brands marketed to enthusiasts to turn a profit from one of the most natural drinks in existence.
Whenever a luxury brand is introduced, there will always be others that spawn to compete with them when they notice the profit margins. This has made it hard to find valuable products when there are so many lesser competitors peddling their "luxury" brands against brands that are valuable.
The History of Tea
Most people who prepare a cup of tea to start their day do not put much thought into how the practice began or the origins of their drink. Certain tea enthusiasts make it a point to learn about the history of tea to enjoy the more exotic varieties better, but the average consumer might not be as interested. Nevertheless, the origins of tea are an important aspect of why luxury brands have risen to the surface. The plants from which tea was first created were indigenous to East Asia, primarily between India and China.
The first tea plant, Camellia sinensis, was eventually hybridized by Chinese agriculturalists to create the first variant. However, tea was consumed long before this accomplishment and not in the form you might expect. Before tea was ever refined into a drink, it was eaten by ancient Asian civilizations. This rough consumption supposedly lasted a millennia before steeping was discovered.
Originally, people would chew on raw tea leaves, add them to soup, or ferment them into a chewing snack like gum or betel. While the origins of liquid tea are somewhat vague, it is believed that the process was discovered in Yunnan, a province of southwestern China, where tea leaves were used in holistic medicine.
The first hard evidence of tea was discovered in 2016 during an expedition into Jing of Han's mausoleum, suggesting that the Han dynasty emperors drank a variety of C. sinensis tea. Considering the Han dynasty dates back to the second century, this shows that tea drinking is almost 2,000 years old.
Since then, tea has evolved further and become more than just a beverage Chinese emperors enjoy. Additional tea processing techniques and agricultural practices led to the creation of new tea varieties.
Over the years, tea evolved to become a significant cultural and religious icon in Asian cultures. Japan developed specialized tea preparation rituals, while Buddhist temples had tea ceremonies using matcha. Tea did not make its way to Europe until 1607, almost 1,400 years after the Han dynasty, when the Dutch East India Company transported a shipment to Java. Two years later, the Dutch purchased Japan's first tea shipment earmarked for trade with Europe.
Tea was systematically introduced to the Netherlands, Germany, France, and New Amsterdam (now New York). Russia first came into contact with tea in 1567 before securing regular tea shipments from China in 1679. While tea has been available in the United Kingdom since 1657, it was not widely consumed until the 18th century.
In addition to the traditional teas cultivated from C. sinensis, China could take advantage of the hybrid they had created. This hybrid, known as C. sinensis var. sinensis (colloquially called small-leaf-type tea), was introduced to India in 1836 but ironically brought by the British. At the time, the British government was trying to topple China's monopoly on the tea trade. While the British successfully used this variant to open trade with India, China remains one of the superpowers of the tea trade.
Currently, tea has spread worldwide and can be enjoyed in every country thanks to the drastically improved import/export services of the 21st century. Tea consumption has become a common, if somewhat mundane, practice for billions of people. The tea trade has remained profitable since the early 17th century, but 21st-century business mindsets have caused it to evolve beyond the original intent.
Nowadays, several tea brands have "proprietary" blends to emphasize their qualities. Some of these brands are so well advertised and funded that they are considered "luxury" brands. The question is: What exactly is a luxury tea?
What Are Luxury Teas?
Tea is a naturally occurring substance that can be harvested from several plants, but C. sinensis is the most common. Despite that, C. sinensis is responsible for producing green, white, yellow, oolong, and black tea. In the right conditions, a C. sinensis plant can even be used to cultivate the coveted matcha variety of green tea. There are also more exotic or unique teas, such as those that are derived from the Clitoria ternatea flower, which boasts an exotic blue color once brewed.
These teas are renowned for their flavor profiles and the nutrients they offer consumers. Every variety of tea offers these benefits and carries a flavor profile unique to its type, but there is one reality every tea enthusiast accepts. The best teas are cultivated from plants grown in the best possible conditions to promote the highest quality nutrients and flavors. Plants used to make tea, like all plants, change depending on where they are grown, the type of soil they are grown in, and the way they are cultivated.
Most tea manufacturers have massive lots where they can grow millions of plants harvested when the time is right. These growth centers are still heavily controlled to ensure each leaf matches the standard of its brand. That said, certain brands claim to offer a higher quality tea by virtue of their growth centers and cultivation practices. These teas are usually grown in more controlled conditions than typical brands, which lets them further control the nutrient content.
Because of these conditions, the teas made from these plants are marketed for a higher price than the brands you normally find at the grocery store. Furthermore, they are usually only sold in specialty shops or through the producer's store page. These teas are marketed as luxury teas because they are portrayed as being more nutritious and having a better flavor than normal brands.
Luxury teas are sold for exorbitant prices that tea enthusiasts usually pay for the sake of prestige rather than a desire to drink the tea. Most luxury tea brands are foreign rather than domestic, originating from countries like Japan or France. One of the main luxury brands, TWG Tea, is famous for the hand-sewn cotton tea bags used to store the leaves. These minor details are part of what makes luxury brands so popular with tea enthusiasts and aficionados. While luxury teas have a significant following in the tea community, there are questions concerning their effectiveness and whether they are worth the price tag.
Are Luxury Brands Worth It?
Luxury teas combine elegant packaging and tools with tea that is, admittedly, high-quality since it is all grown in optimal conditions. Many combine different flavors to enhance the drinker's experience so they can enjoy uncommon tea profiles with regular brands. The price will increase depending on where you buy from, but most tea bag boxes cost around $30.00 before tax. As a result, stocking up on these luxury brands can be painful for your wallet but pleasant for your taste buds.
All of this is to say that luxury brands can be worth the purchase if you buy from the right manufacturer and are more focused on the prestige of the tea. Most luxury brands are designed to be saved for special occasions and enjoyed as a rare treat unless you can purchase a $30.00 box of tea bags regularly. For those who cannot afford regular repayment for a luxury item, these teas tend to sit in storage until a special event justifies its use.
Luxury teas are not used for their health benefits and are mostly designed to offer a highbrow experience. This can benefit tea enthusiasts eager to expand their palate, but it is a cost-prohibitive practice for the average citizen. Furthermore, many of these teas focus on flavor over the benefits tea was traditionally used for in the Yunnan region of China.
This is not to say these luxury teas do not carry the same nutrients and offer no benefits, but that their design as a luxury item makes people more reluctant to drink them regularly. This makes luxury brands worth the effort for collectors or people looking to have a high-quality tea brand for their next social event. Unfortunately, this is ineffective for people trying to improve their health by adding more tea to their routine.
Luxury brands are excellent for style and prestige, but if you want to add more tea to your diet to improve your health, you are better off with something designed for supplementation. Unfortunately, the best blends for this purpose can be equally expensive in most cases, making it a difficult choice for those who want the best of both worlds. Ultimately, luxury brands are probably best left to enthusiasts who value prestige rather than anyone who wants to improve their health through tea.
Holistic Tea Benefits
Using tea to improve your health has a precedent, thanks to the early practices in China's Yunnan region. The locals in Yunnan frequently used tea as a medicinal herb, and they were right to do so since tea leaves contain powerful nutrients. The biggest resource found in tea leaves are catechins, specialized antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative damage by free radicals.
These antioxidants play an important role in protecting us from injury and illness, and tea contains one of the most powerful catechins in existence, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). EGCG can prevent chronic illnesses, including heart disease, osteoporosis, and, in rare cases, cancer. Green tea and matcha are renowned for having a large concentration of EGCG, making them a highly effective tool for improving our health.
Most luxury brands are made from the leaves of C. sinensis, which means they technically carry EGCG. Unfortunately, the aforementioned issue of luxury brands being a prestige purchase means the owners seldom consume them for health purposes. Fortunately, it is possible to get a quality tea blend as powerful as a luxury brand that is not designed to be saved for special occasions.
Finding the Right Blend
Luxury tea brands can be worth the expense if you collect high-grade teas or need something fancy to serve. Unfortunately, the prestige associated with these brands means you are more likely to save them for a special event. While there is nothing wrong with that, it prevents you from taking advantage of tea's health benefits. This leaves you with the challenge of finding a tea blend you can consume for health benefits without compromising quality.
We at Teami might not be a "luxury" brand, but the quality of our tea makes that hard to believe. Every blend in our catalog is made from top-quality leaves harvested from top-quality plants, allowing you to enjoy high-quality tea. Our product also allows you to take advantage of tea's benefits without feeling obligated to save it for a special event. We encourage you to visit our website and peruse our tea blends for the one that suits your needs. After all, finding the right blend is a Teami effort.
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