£23 for a cup of tea? Brew must be joking

Brew must be joking “The humble cup of tea has long been the pick-me-up of choice in Britain“.

It is estimated that 40 per cent of the nation’s fluid intake today will be tea.

But a teahouse in the Capital is putting our obsession with the ancient beverage to the test – by charging more than £20 for a tiny potful.

The Japanese tea, called Kiyosawa, is one of a number of teas from around the world being sold in the exclusive High Street cafe – but beats the rest in terms of price by almost £4.

The organic white tea is harvested in the first flush from a very small garden where only eight people grow the Yabukita variety of tea plant.

Bertrand Espouy, owner of Plaisir du Chocolat on the Royal Mile, today defended the price of the cuppa, saying that the most expensive tea in his shop was worth every penny.

Legend has it that tea originated in ancient China more than 5000 years ago, when a tea leaf blew into emperor Shen Nung’s cup of boiling water.

Oriental teas are still regarded as highly desirable by those in the know.

Mr Espouy said the price of the tea, which costs £23.80 for a pot that serves two small cupfuls, reflected what the cafe paid for it.

He said: “Japanese tea is always quite expensive as they don’t produce a lot and there is a great demand.

It’s the first flush – there are only two harvests a year – from the spring harvest, totally organic and very limited in quantity.” Mr Espouy said that his fascination with tea began as a boy growing up in Paris, watching his mother drink Earl Grey.

When he first came to Britain he was very disappointed that in a country famed for its tea drinking, the quality of the tea was so poor.

In a ‘salon du the’ in Paris you have up to 500 teas and 30 of those will be Darjeeling sorted by estate. Tea is complex, just like wine. It is like asking why is a Chateau Margaux more expensive than a red on the shelf of Tesco.

The proprietor of Plaisir du Chocolat added that although it was rare for a customer to order the Kiyosawa, it did happen occasionally. The next most expensive teas in the shop are the Chinese ones which cost up to £20.10 for a Yin Zhen, a rare tea from south-western China, whose name means silver needles and which is picked for only two days a year.

Fiona Moriarty, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said that she thought the tea would be too adventurous for most local tastes.

She said: “As with any product there is a premium end and I’m sure there will be people who appreciate enough about tea to drink it, but I’ll not be one of them!

Graham Bell of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce said he wouldn’t pay that much either, but that as a nation we had forgotten what a valuable commodity tea was.

He said: “There has got to be a snob value associated with paying that much and a minuscule number of people would pay it.

The delight is that in Scotland you can generally get a cup of tea very cheaply.

(By Joanna Vallely, www.scotsman.com, Aug 2005)
Article URL: http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=1791342005