The 13 Most Expensive Teas in the World
Tea is easily one of the most popular beverages enjoyed throughout the world. And it’s been like that for ages. Hot or cold, you can sip on a cup of tea any time you want, whether it’s early in the morning before you head to work or school, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon or late at night, and you’ll have so many wonderful flavors to choose from too.
It’s a well-known fact that indulging in a cup of tea might do wonders for your body and mind. That’s exactly why tea has been an integral component of traditional medicine for centuries and revered as a cure-all in numerous Asian countries. The Chinese and Japanese have been delighting in this elixir of health for eons.
And it’s not just the East that swears by tea’s healing powers. Even Western medicine has acknowledged its benefits, with doctors recommending tea as a great way to combat cold and flu symptoms. But the advantages of this delightful aromatic beverage go far beyond that.
Drinking tea can help safeguard your brain health, strengthen your heart, and might even lower your risk of certain types of cancer. And in some parts of the world this quintessential brew is even part of a bonding ritual that unites people no matter where they are from.
- History of Tea
- Types of Tea
- 13. Tienchi Flower Tea – $75 / pound
- 12. Gao Shan Tea – $113 / pound
- 11. Gorreana Broken Leaf Black Tea – $184 / pound
- 10. Gyokuro Tea – $295 / pound
- 9. Poo-Poo Pu’erh Tea – $435 / pound
- 8. Silver Tips Imperial Darjeeling Tea – $850 / pound
- 7. Tieguanyin Tea – $1,500 / pound
- 6. Vintage Narcissus Oolong Tea – $3,250 / pound
- 5. Yellow Gold Tea Buds – $3,545 / pound
- 4. Pu’erh Tea – $4,545 / pound
- 3. PG Tips Diamond Tea Bag – $15,000 / bag
- 2. Panda Dung Tea – $35,000 / pound
- 1. Da Hong Pao – $600,000 / pound
History of Tea
If you’re a history buff, you might like to know a little about how tea originated. It was actually quite by accident, and the first cup of tea was enjoyed more than 2,000 years ago. Emperor Shen Nung of China stirred a few leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant into some boiling water back in 2737 BC. And that was the first official cup of tea drunk in the world.
Most tea leaves are grown in Asia, but you may see some teas originating from South America or Africa as well. Their climate is more conducive to growing the tea plants.
As we will see shortly, countries like China, India, and Sri Lanka grow some of the most expensive tea leaves in the world. The luxurious teas are cultivated from rare plants that sometimes don’t produce leaves for years, and that is why the prices are so exuberant.
Types of Tea
There are four main categories of tea in the world: black, green, oolong, and white. The others are different varieties of these four main teas.
- Black tea is fully wilted, dried, and fully oxidized. It is darker in color, flavorful, and aromatic.
- Green teas are both unoxidized and unwilted.
- Masala is an Indian tea that is made from black tea leaves and added spices such as anise, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, and ginger.
- Oolong is like a hybrid of teas. The leaves wilt naturally, then are partially dried. For the final step they are shaken vigorously, or bruised, in order to get a desired result, which is distinctive in appearance.
- Sencha is a very popular type of Japanese green tea variety. The leaves that mature in direct sunlight are more often used to produce this tea.
- Tencha is a green tea variety that is made from leaves that are shielded from direct sunlight. The tencha leaves are grounded to make the popular matcha tea.
- White teas are unoxidized but fully wilted.
And now that we covered the basics when it comes to tea, let’s see which are the 13 most expensive teas in the world.
13. Tienchi Flower Tea – $75 / pound
Cultivated in the Yunnan province of China, the tea leaves come from the flowers of the Panax Notoginseng, which only grow every three years. Therefore, the Tienchi flower tea is one of the most prized, as well as pricier teas in the world. With a distinctive flavor profile, it has healing properties that help eliminate toxins from the body.
It also helps to fight inflammation and insomnia, and boosts oxygen levels in the system. With minty yet sweet notes, the tea has a ginseng-like aroma once brewed. Priced at about $75 per pound, it is one of the most reasonably priced luxury teas available.
12. Gao Shan Tea – $113 / pound
Another name this tea can be found under is High Mountain Tea, because it is grown at altitudes higher than 3,200 feet. The high elevation tea gardens in Taiwan provide the best conditions to harvest these oolong tea leaves. The thin air found at those altitudes, as well as the high humidity aid in the elaborate fermentation process needed for the production of Gao Shan tea.
The results yield a high fragrance, full-flavor oolong tea that is pure and of the highest quality. Its notes of milkiness will leave you with a creamy mouthfeel, while it can be sweet and floral at the same time.
11. Gorreana Broken Leaf Black Tea – $184 / pound
Gorreana is not only the oldest, but the only remaining operational tea plantation in Europe. The company offers a few different types of teas, but their most exquisite product is the Broken Leaf Black tea.
Made from specific leaves of the Camellia Sinensis Assamica plants that are grown in the Assam district of India, only the third leaf of the plant is used for the production of this tea. With a fruity aroma and a light copper color, the plant of this tea grows in moist, warm climates, more specifically in sub-tropical forests.
10. Gyokuro Tea – $295 / pound
One of the highest grade green teas to originate from Japan, the name Gyokuro means “jade dew”, or “pearl dew”. Cultivated in the Uji district, this tea was first discovered in 1835 by Kahei Yamamoto VI. In order to process this tea, the plant has to grow under the shade provided by straw mats for at least four weeks.
After that time, the best leaves can be picked. The reason for this specific process is so that the plant is helped to retain most of the L-theanine amino acids. Those amino acids heighten the flavor of the umami plant, and the result is nutty notes of buttered popcorn and roasted chestnuts. At $295 per pound, it is one of the most affordable luxurious green teas in the world.
9. Poo-Poo Pu’erh Tea – $435 / pound
Invented back in the 18th century as a gift to the Chinese Emperor Qianlomng, this particular tea is considered a delicacy. With a price tag of more than $435 per pound, it is not your average tea. Although learning how it is made might not entice you to give it a try, it is a popular beverage preferred by tea enthusiasts.
Produced in the Yunnan province of China, it is made from droppings of insects that feed on tea leaves. The farmers use magnifying glasses and tweezers to pick the droppings, as its leaves are tiny. It is also referred to as chong cha, grain moth tea, or worm tea.
8. Silver Tips Imperial Darjeeling Tea – $850 / pound
Grown on the sloping hills of Darjeeling province in India, Silver Tips is cultivated at 5,000-8,000 feet above water levels, in the heart of the Himalayas. It is then sent over to the Makaibari Tea estate, where it is harvested. The tea is plucked by expert pickers solely on nights when there is a full moon.
The buds possess a subtle fruity aroma which makes them special, and they look like silver needles, hence the name. The tea boasts a complex taste that has sharp notes of frangipani and sweet mango. The light golden color is another characteristic this luxurious tea is known for. At $840 per pound, it is one of the most expensive teas harvested in India.
7. Tieguanyin Tea – $1,500 / pound
This is a type of oolong tea that derives its name from the Iron Goddess of Mercy Guan Yin, a Buddhist Deity. Coming in at about $1,500 per pound, this pricey offering originated in the early 19th century. Depending on how and where oolong tea leaves are produced impacts its taste dramatically.
This particular Tieguanyin tea is grown in the highest region of the Fujian province of China. The leaves are sun dried until their color becomes bright golden, and they have a crispy texture. It boasts a floral aroma and a distinct nutty taste, and because of its rare properties, don’t be surprised if the price went up since we published this article.
6. Vintage Narcissus Oolong Tea – $3,250 / pound
This oolong tea is produced in the Wuyishan Shanmai Mountains that are located in the northern Fujian province of China. Deriving its name from the Greek hunter Narcissus, who found beauty in everything, this tea is heavily oxidized. With at least 60% oxidants, the tea results in a woodsy, chocolatey flavor that boasts notes of nutty and floral undertones.
It features a layered flavor that cannot be replicated, and gorgeous yellow gold buds. Priced at about $3,250 per pound, the Vintage Narcissus tea is amongst the most expensive teas in the world. One of the 50-year-old boxes the tea was sold in at one point became a prized collectors object across the globe.
5. Yellow Gold Tea Buds – $3,545 / pound
Sold only in Singapore at the moment, Yellow Gold tea is very rare and extremely luxurious. Its yellow gold tea buds are only harvested once a year. The buds are cut using golden shears, sun-dried, then the leaves are sprayed with 24-karat edible gold flakes. It certainly lives up to its name with a unique floral metallic aftertaste.
Known for many health benefits, anti-ageing being the main one, this tea is known as the tea of Chinese Emperors. Priced at about $3,545 per pound, it is one of the most expensive luxury teas in the world.
4. Pu’erh Tea – $4,545 / pound
Pu’erh tea is considered to be the oldest and most refined teas on the planet. Originally, this tea was discovered in the 18th century. Grown in the Southwest province of Yunnan, China, some of its trees are thousands of years old. In order to ferment the tea leaves, the microbial fermentation process is used. As it is customary, this tea is sold in the form of tea cakes.
The reason being is that the tea retains most of the health benefits in this form. Once you brew the leaves, it is believed that it improves your gut health and it reduces cholesterol. It is great for helping with overall weight management as well. With a massive price tag of $4,545 per pound, legend has it that several wars were fought for ownership of this tea through the years.
3. PG Tips Diamond Tea Bag – $15,000 / bag
This is the third most expensive tea in the world, with each tea bag costing a cool $15,000. That is, if you can even get your hands on one. The British tea company PG Tips is well known for offering customers some tasty beverages. In 2005, in order to celebrate their 75th anniversary, PG tips released this Darjeeling tea in a diamond encrusted tea bag.
The tea leaves themselves are not that expensive, although they are of the utmost quality. The tea bag contains the Silver Tips Imperial tea leaves that are cultivated in India, at the Makaibari Tea Estate.
Rather, it is the 280 2.56 carat diamonds and the delicate white gold chain that the bag is attached to for easy brewing that makes those tea bags so dearly priced. Used to make money for the Royal Manchester Children’s hospital, the bag was made by Boodles jewelers.
2. Panda Dung Tea – $35,000 / pound
If you’re familiar with Kopi Luak (a super expensive coffee that is actually made from excrement of civet cats of Indonesia), then Panda Dung is the tea version of it. It sounds unappetizing, to be completely honest, but these special tea leaves are fertilized with the dung of panda bears.
Apparently the health benefits are amazing, since Panda Bears only absorb about 30% of the nutrients from their diet. According to the producers of these tea leaves, the remaining 70% of nutrients are found in the excrement. Hence, it makes a great fertilizer that is full of polyphenols and amino acids.
Produced by a wildlife expert from the Sichuan Province of China, the tea comes in small quantities. That is the reason why the price is so high. I mean, at $35,000 per pound, it is not in everyone’s budget. Boasting a malty aroma and nutty flavor, this tea is a delicacy.
1. Da Hong Pao – $600,000 / pound
With roots tracing back to the Ming Dynasty, Da Hong Pao is the most expensive black tea in the world. With a price tag of $600,000 per pound, these luxurious leaves are harvested from plants that grew on the Wuji Mountains for over 300 years. The last leaves were harvested in 2005, hence its exuberant price. With one gram of those leaves costing $1,400, it is 30 times the price of gold.
The best tasting Da Hong Pao comes from the only six mother trees that still exist on the planet.
Embodying the true characteristics of the mountains, the leaves offer a layered body that have notes of mineral, earthy flavors. Boasting a lively finish, the leaves brew a deep red hued tea, and the name itself is translated into “Big Red Robe”.
If you want a taste but you cannot get your hands on the real Da Hong Pao, there are a few tea brands that offer a cheaper version of this tea that comes from newer plants from the region of Wuyi.
There you have it: the 13 most expensive teas in the world! Do you think you’ll be willing to give them a try?
Grab your favorite mug, settle into a cozy spot and savor the rich aromas and delicious taste of any of these magical potions that has been cherished for centuries.
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