A Pot of This Rare Chinese Tea Costs $10,000

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Are you a tea aficionado steeped in money? Consider taking a vacation to the town of Wuyishan in southern China. There, you can sample a famously rare (and famously expensive) brew called Da Hong Pao, BBC Travel reports

Da Hong Pao is a dark, charcoal-fired strain of oolong tea. According to The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide (2007), it has “a sweet aroma, a slight smoky tinge to the flavor, and a long, mellow finish." However, Da Hong Pao is known more for its cost than its flavor. On average, a pot of Da Hong Pao will set you back about $10,000.

That’s almost $1400 for a single gram of tea. This raises the question: What, exactly, is this brew, and why is it so expensive?

Turns out, true Da Hong Pao leaves are exceedingly rare. They come from a single group of nearly extinct wild “mother trees” that grow in the Wuyi Mountains. Some of these ancient trees yielded their last harvest years ago, and will never grow tea again. 

Connoisseurs hoard these antique leaves, which grow more and more valuable each year. They even hire brokers to connect them with buyers willing to pay top dollar for the tea. However, bargain hunters can purchase (relatively) cheaper versions of Da Hong Pao for around $100 per kilogram. These leaves are cloned from the ancient mother trees, and cultivated in Wuyishan’s tea gardens.

Da Hong Pao is famous in Chinese folklore. According to one tale, an ailing Ming dynasty official was restored to full health after he drank a brew made from the tea’s mother bushes. The ruler paid homage to the tea's salubrious properties by draping his red cape on the bushes to protect them from harm.

Westerners might shake their heads at the idea of shelling out thousands of dollars for a drink. However, the elaborate, codified ritual of tea drinking has been a cornerstone of Chinese culture for thousands of years. When connoisseurs enjoy Da Hong Pao, they're sipping history. Can we say the same for the New Yorkers willing to shell out $25,000 on a gold-topped chocolate sundae?

[h/t BBC Travel]