The prices achieved in Chinese tea auctions for antique puerh teas never cease to amaze me. Like with wine or whiskey, it seems there is almost no limit to the prices that some people will pay for the rarest of the rare.

The most expensive puerh tea

A friend sent me a link this morning to a recent Chinese tea auction. Included in it was a tong of FuYuanChang puerh tea from the early 1900s. The price achieved for this 2060g of tea was just over £1 million (1.7 million USD). At over £500 a gram, a pot of this tea would set you back around £4000.

The prices aside, these teas are really something special. There is something that happens to ancient tree puerh tea when aged for 50–100 years that even the most sceptical of critics would find hard to deny. The flavours and sensations become more and more elegant, and the qi becomes ever more refined and powerful. It’s an incredible experience, but whether it’s worth the asking price is another matter and one for each buyer to decide for themselves.

Unfortunately, for us tea drinkers of more modest means, the market prices of less expensive aged puerh teas are linked to these flagship antique teas. The price of Song Ping will be a percentage of the price of FuYuanChang. 1950s Red Mark will be a percentage of the price of Song Ping, Blue Mark and Yellow Mark a percentage of the price of Red Mark and so on. These record prices for flagship antique puerh cakes spell bad news for lovers of puerh tea as the more moderately aged cakes rise in price in proportion to the rise in prices of these antique cakes.

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