We went down to our Local Tea Shop (LTS), the other week. The gracious owner of the shop chatted with us while she portioned out 4 ounces of Lover’s Leap, imported (fairly directly) from Sri Lanka. We took our purchase and returned home, brewed up a pot and decided that it made for a good cup of tea. So, we brewed up another pot when the first one was finished. A few days later, Jackie looked into the the little paper sack from the LTS and found that it was down to dregs and crumbs. Little flecks of tea, shaking about at the bottom of the bag practically shouting out to us, “I’m sorry, but you’ll need to buy some more.”

Four ounces of loose tea. It has become the standard in America. It is the most advertised quantity of tea found on the internet. The Europeans do it too, with their 100 grams. 100 grams actually works out to just over 3.5 ounces. Of course, it makes sense to even out that number, so the American tea industry rounded it up to four ounces.  Four ounces is actually equal to 113.4 grams.

Is that four ounces of tea enough for you? Is the industry standard of four ounces of loose tea a fair and useful quantity?

In our household, we are two adults who drink mugs (not cups) of tea twice a day, in the morning and in the mid-afternoon. Some days, when we know that we aren’t interested in going to sleep early we may brew up a pot in the evening too.  For a pot of black tea, we may use about 10g of tea, about .35 oz. For that Lover’s Leap, we were using easily that much or more.  That meant we were using about at least .70 ounces of loose tea a day to make two pots of tea. If we wanted a third pot during the day, that would up it to around an ounce.

No wonder we were out of tea in around four days.  We enjoyed it, drank more, and so it was gone.  At that rate tea can get expensive, fast.

So, the question becomes, is there a better way? Does four ounces need to be the standard in America? Sure, it divides the pound easily in a seller’s inventory for easy accountability (4 units to a pound of tea); but, tea merchants are not buying tea by the pound. Virtually every tea wholesaler we’ve seen actually sells by the kilogram. Pound prices are published by them, but the prices are calculated and based on the kilogram. It’s the merchants that are converting the prices into ounces and pounds for the convenience of American consumers.

If American merchants sold 125 grams and didn’t bother converting to the standard system of measurement, that would give us another pot of tea.  The impact on the merchant’s profit margins is negligible considering how much tea actually costs.) The packaging and labeling costs are the same, since virtually all loose tea packaging is designed around 125 gram weights anyhow.

But what if it went another direction? What if an enterprising tea merchant did something different and broke away from that 4 ounce standard all together? In the last 8-10 months a significant number of new tea merchants have opened up online. Some of them are experimenting with tea quantity. Unfortunately, their experiments tend to go in the direction of the merchant instead of the consumer.  One site is charging $15-$20 for three ounces of tea. That’s a lot of money for something that is going to be gone in three days. It had better be some damned good tea.

Let’s say a tea company went higher instead of lower. Six ounces of tea, for example. Eight ounces is easy (about 250 grams – the next step up for the European model), many companies already do that but, it does mean more money out of your pocket at one time, especially if you still have to pay shipping for it. Given that tea itself can be very affordable, is six ounces a better base standard for selling loose tea? Will that extra two ounces mean that you can go another couple of days before running out?

We recently had a visitor from Germany, she brought with her 500g (a little under 18oz) of a good, vanilla, black tea from a shop in Munich. We drank the tea daily, in our normal pattern. It was gone in three weeks. Think about how much tea you drink – how fast do you drink it? Is four ounces enough, or would six ounces make a difference? Do you buy eight ounces or more? Tell us about your tea buying habits below.