Sky prices of Chinese teas

Teas that are more expensive than gold

buy Pu erh teaThere are some exclusive ‘breeds’ of Chinese teas that are currently fetching prices more than gold, a phenomenon that struck many.

Some examples are:

  • The Wu Yi Oolong Da Hong Pao from the original Da Hong Pao tea tree of Jiu-Long-Ke (九龙窠), is priced for 5,200,000 Yuan/500g, that is 10,400 Yuan/g - equivalent to the value of 10 residential apartments in the Wu Yi area, or 34 times of the gold price.
  • The Mao Cha harvested from the Pu-erh king tree of Lao-Ban-Zhang was sold for 240,000 Yuan/500g in 2108.
  • The most famous Rou Gui (a premium Wu Yi rock tea) from the Niu-Lan-Keng (牛栏坑) is being sold for 30,000 Yuan/500g on the current market.
  • 1,280,000 Yuan/500g Longjing (Dragon Well green tea) in 2018.
  • 745,000 Yuan/500g Xin-Yang Mao Jian green tea in 2019.

Note: 1USD=6.7 Chinese Yuan

The above products are not only selling, but hard to get in some cases. The list of sky prices Chinse teas is also growing.

To understand this phenomenon, we need to take a few steps back and start from some fundamentals.

Tea is more than a beverage in China

In China, tea is a beverage, a culture, an obsession and inspiration to many historical and modern artists. Many Chinese ancient poems feature teas and tea consumption as spiritual elements, romantised if not centred in their works.

At the same time, the art of producing the finest teas has been an obsession by the tea farmers, right down to the finest details. High quality teas = demands = profits. The highly developed skills are guarded as intellectual properties and passed down only to the male descendants of the families and kept secret.

The determinants of the quality of a tea

There are tow crucial determinants of the quality of a tea: the quality of the tea leaves and the skills to process them.

There are numerous factors that influence the quality of the tea leaves. The area of production, the species (or particular plant/plants) of the tea bushes/trees and the harvesting time are among the most important ones.

Contributing factors of the sky prices

The affordability that came with the fast expansion of wealth in China is an obviously one.

The one to pay attention here is also a unique obsession about the ‘exclusiveness’ of products that is almost unique to the Chinese. If a product is exclusive (paired with the quality), sky is the limit for its price.

For the sky price teas: they are often marketed as:

  • Tea leaves from xxx tea trees, such as Pu-erh; or xxx area such as Rou Gui; or both such as Da Hong Pao
  • Hand made by xxx tea master

The real statement behind is: there is not another one like it on the current market.

Then it comes the practice of ‘faking’ the exclusive

Tea industry is a market that is relatively difficult to regulate, as it is difficult to standardise the tea quality especially at the top end. Tea consumers are the judge, and many are often not experienced enough to differentiate the subtle differences.

With the astonishing profit margins, a ‘faking’ practice is unfortunately in the brew. Examples are:

  • Tea vendors use ‘blended’ teas to mimic various aspects of certain top end teas. Close but surely not the same and asking for the same or slightly lower prices.
  • False adverting. For example, some vendors would pay to erect the company signages at the exclusive tea fields (eg Niu-Lan-Keng 牛栏坑 for Rou Gui) for purely advertising purpose, such as showing to visitors or in the company advertising materials. Many never use a leaf from these fields in their products.
  • The claims made ‘hand made by xxx’, the truth is that he/she barely looked at the process.

There is an insider information from the Wu-Yi Oolong indsutary that 98% of the Niu-Lan-Keng (牛栏坑) Rou Gui is not from  Niu-Lan-Keng.

The obvious victims of these practices: tea farmers and consumers.




The sky rocketed white tea price

The authentic Fuding white teas

fuding white tea planationThe authentic white teas produced in the white teas’ heartland Fuding and Zhenghe of the Fujian Province (south-east of China), made from the plant species Fuding Da Bai Hao (福鼎大白毫 -Fuding Big White Fur/down) have always been considered as one of the top premium Chinese teas and have their unique role on the premium Chinese teas’ stage.

What is so special about Fuding white teas

Fuding white teas are known for their:

  • Limited production – only produced in a small pocket area of the Fujian Province of China.
  • Made from the unique species of the tea plan Fuding Da Bai Hao (福鼎大白毫 -Fuding Big White Fur/down), the tea leaves are strong, bold and rich in flavour.
  • Least processed tea of all teas, no rubbing, pressing or baking, simply withered and sun dried (with highly developed skills).
  • Refreshingly sweet in nature when fresh, age into mature teas with potent medicinal functions if stored probably.

Reasons for Fuding white teas' price hike

The Fuding white teas’ prices have in fact sky rocketed during the recent years. The market announced a 10-20% price hike over the 2018 new year after 10-35% increase in 2017 – determined by the market demand and supply ratio.

There reasons behind the hikes are as follow.  

Aged tea consumption culture

There has been a general increase in interest in consuming quality aged teas. Different from other well processed aged teas, such as Pu-erh tea and Hei Cha, white teas are:

  • Fresh and delicate to drink when young, similar to their green tea cousins. 
  • Age as un-processed teas while reserves all the natural ‘goodness’.

The ageing value only lays with the authentic Fuding white teas

White teas produced using other tea tree species, or using other methods than the original Fuding white teas' processing method do not possess the Fuding white teas' ageing potential and health properties.

Buy new tea, drink aged tea

Unlike most of other tea varieties, which are at their prime either fresh or well aged, white teas are ideal for consumption both young and aged. The locals have a tradition of buying seasonal white teas and drinking aged white teas.

The all rounded natures of Fuding white teas, the bold and elegant appearance, the gentle yet delicate pure flavour and the potent health effects all contribute to their increasing favour among tea consumers. 




Pu-erh tea storage risks

Puer teaA big advantage of Pu-erh tea in comparison to other tea categories such as green tea, is its aging nature. There is not urgency to consume the tea while fresh as a tea naturally improves with ageing. The down side however is the risks of damage during the storage period. The following images surfaced during the recent cyclone/flood in Fang-Cun of Guang-Zhou (the tea trade capital of China): the street turned into a river of tea soup and tons of teas damaged. There is not available data on how much damage has been caused yet, but the sight is not looking good. 

A good aged raw (Sheng) Pu-erh or ripened (shou) Pu-erh would require at least good 10 years storage under optimal conditions. Many factors can affect the tea’s quality if not damaged completely. The sale price of tea is therefore: the original the purchasing cost, long term storage cost factoring the damaged stock along the way.

If global warming is affecting all aspects of human lives, tea industry is not excluded and Pu-erh tea is a vulnerable one. 

pu-erh tea

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