Tea is a deceptively straightforward beverage: take some tea leaves, and add hot water. But there are some crazy expensive teas out there that make your pricey coffee shop concoction look humble. Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, and myriad blends, sources, and variations mean there are tons of special types of tea, some of which are wildly expensive. The rarer and harder to harvest, the more expensive the tea, and these varieties are some of the most expensive around.
Most people probably won't ever have the occasion to taste any of the rarest teas on earth. And, considering some of the sources of these expensive teas, most people probably wouldn't even want to taste them given the opportunity. Still, it's fun to read about them, and wonder what possessed consumers to seek out these teas from strange sources in the first place.
Though Narcissus Wuyi Oolong tea isn't necessarily rare, it's a tea that ages well. That means that, like wine, older batches can be worth considerable sums of money. One box of Wuyi Oolong from the 1960s was valued at over $100,000, making it a highly desirable item.
Named after a Chinese myth similar to the Greek story of Narcissus, this tea is famed for its heavy, dark brew and its honey-like scent.
To be clear, not all Da Hong Pao is wildly expensive, but the real stuff, which comes from just a few bushes in Wuyishan, China, certainly is. According to legend, these few bushes produced a tea that cured an emperor of illness, prompting him to respond with a gift of a beautiful red blanket. The name Da Hong Pao is a reference to that blanket, and the most expensive tea comes from those legendary bushes.
There are numerous derivatives made from plants descended from those antique bushes available for less money. But for the real legendary beverage, you'll have to be ready to shell out roughly $10,000 for a single pot. Prices are likely to go up even more, since the original bushes haven't been harvested since 2005.
Panda dung tea is primarily known for its association with... you guessed it. Cultivated by panda enthusiast An Yanshi, this green tea is fertilized with panda dung. Yanshi claims that, because pandas retain only 30 percent of the nutrients in the bamboo they consume, this green tea is even more nutritious than regular green tea. At about $2,873 a batch, that's an expensive promise.
Yanshi says the tea will be beneficial for weight loss and cancer prevention, but many people think those claims sound like a load of panda dung. Still, the profits are being donated to an environmental fund, so even if the tea doesn't work as promised, at least the money is going to a worthwhile cause.
Tieguanyin is an oolong tea named for a Chinese goddess of mercy, Guanyin. The tea itself is famed for its processing and powerful flavor; according to experts, Tieguanyin contains more aroma in its leaves than other teas, giving it a prized taste that can be brewed over and over again without losing its flavor.
Like many other famous teas, Tieguanyin also has legends behind it. Some claim a Buddhist monk discovered it after a dream given to him by Guanyin, while others say it was first offered to an emperor as a gift. Whatever the case, true Tieguanyin, harvested in difficult to reach locations, can be priced at around $1,500 per pound.