The price of well-aged Pu’er tea has soared in the last two decades. Meanwhile, the Chinese government has been encouraging high-end tea culture, developing its potential as an alternative to the wine culture abroad. The country takes justifiable pride in this high-grade commodity it produces.
According to Sam Lin, the high-end Pu’er tea market began witnessing rapid growth in the 1990s, with increasing numbers of middle class investors joining the purchasing upsurge formerly dominated by the elite.
In a quiet tearoom situated in the busy Mong Kok area of Hong Kong, several stylishly dressed young people are learning tea art with tea master Eliza Liu. “It’s just like drugs. I think I’m addicted to it,” 21 year old student Yan Ganxing says. “By learning tea art, I think, I’m learning China.” Having attended the class for six years, Yan still considers himself “a beginner in this field.” The students first observe the color of tea in each cup and take in the fragrance. Then they taste the tea, savoring its flavor, as they listen to Eliza Liu explaining the value of the well-aged tea.
It was reported that in 2002, a quantity of prime-quality Pu’er was bade at 250 U.S. dollar per gram in an auction. The very rare Dahongpao oolong tea has also been known to fetch a price this high. But artists such as Eliza Liu question the extortionate prices. They prefer to lay emphasis on the long-term status that tea enjoys in Chinese medicine and philosophy.
The fancy tearooms which have emerged in London and Sydney are indicative of the success of this venture of exporting the high-end tea culture. Liu and her students also believe that the culture they are so fascinated with is not in the least a mere trend. Being very devoted to promoting Pu’er tea, Yan says: “Before learning about the tea culture, I had a lot of friends who thought that it was an activity for senior people. Now I guess they’ve all changed their minds.”
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