MarshalN, who is perpetually soaked in tea in Beijing, posted an interesting article about a tea tasting session that he attended at a teashop in Maliandao (a section of Beijing that is dominated solely by tea merchants). You can read all about it here. One of the things he wrote that strike me as interesting is about the 1930’s Song Pin pu’er, which according to him tasted a bit underwhelming. In his article, he held for us an entire cake of this tea, which can be bought for merely USD $17,000. I’m just kidding there, of course, when I said “merely”.
Then I wondered: I know of no wine that costs $17,000 per 750ml bottle. However, if a beeng of pu’er is selling for such a stellar price, how does it compare with the price of wine, milliliter by milliliter? So I did a quick computation based on many assumptions, please bear with me.
The assumptions are:
These assumptions are based on, more or less, the parameter I often use for brewing my pu’er.
Computation: the 357gr beeng can last for 51 brewing sessions, with each session yielding 1,000ml of tea. The cost per milliliter, then, is $0.33 ($17,000 / 51,000ml). Therefore, the cost per 750ml of this tea is $250. In other words, 750ml of this tea is as costly as a $250 bottle of wine. Or, buying a beeng of this tea is equivalent to buying 68 bottles of $250 wine!
Nowadays, you can buy a bottle of Krug Rose Champagne for $250. For the same amount of money, you can get top tier wines from excellent years, too! Truly, $250 can get you a stellar wine from a great producer from any region in the world. Of course, you can also bust $17,000 on just 17 bottles of Screaming Eagle from Napa or 5.5 bottles of 1975 Ch. Petrus from Pomerol.
My personal opinion: Not that I can afford to spend $17,000 on a beeng of tea (yet). If given the options, however, I would rather buy 68 bottles of different VERY VERY GOOD premium wines for my cellar than be stuck with a 357gr disc of this tea. Hey, it’s just me.
Edit 11/3/2006: Since the Peoples Republic of China has re-blocked Blogger, I e-mailed this post to MarshalN for his opinion. He responded by saying that the Song Pin can be brewed for "more like 30" (!) infusions per session. In that case, the price per 750ml of this tea is $83.33. Hmmm....that is quite a good deal if you see it this way.