China’s Latest Rare Tea Rage

on September 29 2010 | in Lifestyle Trends | by | with No Comments

Chinese tea

Looking for the world’s most expensive tea for your sipping pleasure…or perhaps to invest?

The most expensive tea in the world is the original Da Hong Pao (known as Big Red Robe) from Wuyi, China. A form of Oolong tea, it is one of the most famous Chinese teas with an intriguing legend.  As the legend has it — the mother of a Ming Dynasty emperor was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and the emperor sent great red robes to clothe the four bushes from which that tea came from. The tea was first produced on Wuyi Mountain in the north of China’s Fujian Province.

Da Hong Pao’s attraction is its rarity. The authentic Da Hong Pao comes from cuttings of three of the original Da Hong Pao Tea trees that are still living on Wuyi Mountain and are believed to date back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Some of the tea harvested go directly to the President of China while the rest are sold at auction.  In 2002, 20 grams (about 2/3 of an ounce) of Da Hong Pao sold for 180,000 RMB  or about US$23,000 at the time. The tea has only been available for public auction three times in 1998, 2002 and 2004. Previously, it has only been offered to leaders of government, emperors, and religious leaders. According to some reports, Mao Zedong gave President Richard Nixon 50 grams of Da Hong Pao during his visit to China in 1972. As the story goes, Nixon was apparently insulted with such a “small” gift. That is, until someone pointed out that 50 grams represented 50% of all the Da Hong Pao harvested that year.

Recently CCTV, the Chinese state television, reported that Da Hong Pao is becoming a hot commodity in China. Since last year, “prices of certain types of Da Hong Pao have increased tenfold. According to one expert interviewed by CCTV, the wholesale price for mid-range varieties of the tea has risen from between 200 and 400 yuan to around 4,000 yuan per kilogram, with retail prices reaching 20,000 yuan or more. CCTV found one retail shop in the Fujian city of Xiamen that claimed to be selling one variety for 200,000 yuan, or roughly $30,000, per kilogram.”

Like anything rare…fine wine, art, and cars…wealthy connoisseurs will pay top money, as will investors. Looking to diversify from the uncertain real estate and stock markets, eager Chinese investors have found their latest investment rage in this rare tea.

The real Da Hong Pao is not sold in regular market. Fortunately for tea lovers, you can find grades of Da Hong Pao for your sipping pleasure.  The quality of the leaves is graded depending on how close to the original trees those trees are located with the best grades commanding top prices.

 

 

[wsj, chinese tea culture]
photo credit: spavaai

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