Earlier this month I received an email from a long time cusotmer. His email said more or less the following, “I love your jiaogulan but I recently found jiaogulan on another website for a lot less. Is your product really worth the price difference?” I get this kind of question once in a while and it’s a subject I feel pretty passionate about so I decided to post my response in full.
“Thanks for your email. I truly appreciate your past business and the directness of your email. I will answer you directly as well.
The quality and price of Jiaogulan is all over the map. I have seen retail Jiaogulan at 1/10th of my price and 2X mine. I frequently sample jiaogulan from different sources. I am very confident that I have the best Jiaogulan currently in the market with one exception which unfortunately would have to retail around $200/Kg.
I cannot say if the difference in quality between ours and some other company’s is worth the price difference to you. That is of course a personal decision. I suggest you actually order the tea from the other company and do the side by side comparison.
Here are the things that make the difference in quality of jiaogulan. You can look for these when you do your comparison.
The cultivar of plant used. Jiaogulan comes in two broad categories, sweet and bitter. The bitter variety is much more common and quite difficult to drink as a tea. The sweet varieties also vary a lot in taste and consistency based on the seed stock used. Finally, the variety used makes a difference in terms of potency. We recently received test result from a study at the University of Maryland comparing different commercially available vendors of Jiaogulan in the USA. We ranked among the highest in potency and were the only vendor tested without the compounds that make a bitter taste.
How the plants are grown. All organic is not the same (and a lot of it, especially from China, not organic at all, even if they say they are.) Make sure you are buying from a company you trust. My business partner is an American living in Thailand full time. We work directly with small farmers to make sure they grow according to our specifications. This is of course more expensive but I believe it’s worth it to make sure the tea my customers drink for their health is not introducing other toxins at the same time.
How the Jiaogulan processed. Most Jiaogulan is harvested by machine and processed in big industrial dryers. We pick our Jiaogulan by hand. The first drying is also by hand on site to prevent oxidation and ensure freshness. We then dry twice more in small batches using forced air. We take great care to remove stems as much as possible (which is difficult given how small Jiaogulan vines are)and to dry the leaves with five leaf clusters intact. This care in processing improves shelf life, preserves purity and improves the tasting and drinking experience.
Freshness.Both the taste and efficacy is affected by time. We harvest monthly and ship to the USA almost every month. I say “almost” because frankly sometimes I mess up the orders and order too much. But it has been years since we went more than 2 months without a fresh batch. Most vendors order large batches once a year and store it in a warehouse someplace. This saves money on transportation and probably allows them to negotiate a better price, but it also means the tea is deteriorating in a warehouse (sometimes for years) waiting for orders to come in.
Sorry, for the long response. I guess you can see I’m passionate on this subject. Hopefully this is helpful. Again, I encourage you to make the comparison for yourself. I’m confident we will come out on top in quality. You will decide for yourself if the quality difference is worth the price difference for you. Whatever you decide, I’m truly grateful to have you as a customer.”