Steep Profits in Tea Collecting Across China

“Affluent young professionals spur craze in which vintages are valued like fine wine.”

BEIJING — It was a savvy investment for the young Chinese couple — an impressive 900 per cent return in just two years. But instead of cashing in, they plan to drink it.”

As you might guess, this is a story about puer. When I was in Yunnan last year there were buyers running around Kunming buying all of the bulk puer that they could get their hands on to corner the market in puer. The best producers were firmly resisting selling, their public relations reason being that they wanted to protect the trade from the sharks, but I think they surely could see how valuable their stockpiles were becoming. The days of cheap puer of any kind are quickly coming to a close. It’s ironic that before international market discovers puer, it will become to expensive to make it here in the general market. I think that this will become true of great quality Chinese tea of all varieties. The Chinese have had an appreciation of great tea, and been willing to pay very high prices for it for a thousand years. Right now the Chinese government is subsidizing producers that are exporting tea because they are frustrated that best tea in the world remains relatively unknown internationally. But as wealth grows in China, and people there are able to pay for higher quality tea, it is going harder and harder to get outside of the country. Auctions are becoming popular, but they are not the big plantation auctions like the commodity auctions started by the British, but they are more like the art actions in New York and London, and people are buying tea for status. No other culture values ‘face’ like the Chinese. They are paying very large sums for tea. The days are just shortly gone where great tea was only available to party officials and the dynastic officials before that. The European were only given the dregs of the Chinese production when the west discovered tea. Let’s hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. I’ve become much too addicted to my tea, from green, to oolong, to puer.