Tea is definitely becoming one of my favorite drinks.  Now that we have an official “tea cupboard,” there is no shortage in the house.  But it took a while to stock up that much, and a big factor in the process was price.  No doubt there are high-quality teas and sub-par teas, and you can bet that the better tea will generally be more expensive.  So how much is too much money to spend on a few tea leaves?  And what do the prices look like these days?

free tea at The Panda InnOn the one hand…
Last weekend, my mom, my sister, and I went to a restaurant, The Panda Inn, a nice sit-down place serving Chinese food.  After taking our order, the waiter brought us a pot of tea and three cups.  Initially, we thought that the tea had been misdelivered and belonged at another table.  But it turns out that The Panda Inn provides free tea before your meal.  Free tea.  That was the first time I had seen that.

I’m not exactly sure what type of tea it was, since I had never tasted it before, and I somewhat inconveniently forgot to ask, but it was certainly interesting and I enjoyed it.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all restaurants provided well-brewed, free tea before your meal?  Not very practical on the restaurant’s part, but an appealing thought nonetheless.

most expensive teabagOn the other hand…
I think that some teas and tea-related items are far too expensive to be worth it.  Then again, if tea is really your passion, maybe it falls in the same category as taking an expensive trip to Australia every winter.  Here are some examples:

  • The Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong has the world’s most expensive high tea.  At $8,888 per couple, it is probably the last outing anyone would have for a while.  At least you get a bunch of high-priced foods to go along with the uber-expensive tea.
  • The most expensive teabag in the world is being used to raise money for charity in Manchester, England, and contains 280 diamonds.
  • One very pricy tea is the Chinese oolong tea Tie Guan Yin.  It’s named after the Buddhist god Guan Yin.   The cost is £1,700 per kilogram, which is about $1,500 per pound.  On the up side, you’re supposed to be able to re-steep the leaves up to seven times before they lose their flavor.
  • Dà Hóng Páo is a Wuyi red tea. According to legend, a Ming Dynasty emperor’s mother was cured of an illness by a certain tea, and some of the original bushes that grow on a rock on Mount Wuyi still exist today.  At one point, less than one kilogram of tea was harvested from these plants each year, of which a portion was retained by the Chinese government.  In 2005, the remainder of this original Dà Hóng Páo was auctioned off, often for millions of dollars per kilogram!  Wow.  Apparently, it’s usually reserved for much honored guests in China.