Tea can range wildly in price, depending on flavor, variety, and quality. Some high-end teas are very expensive, but none come close to an antique tea brick that sold recently at auction for more than $1 million, and the buyer says he thinks he got a deal.
According to Want China Times, the compressed "cake" of tea was produced during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), China’s last dynastic period, and sold at auction earlier this month for 7.6 million yuan ($1.24 million). The buyer insists the tea brick is worth even more than that, and says it could have gone for 8 million yuan ($1.3 million).
Tea bricks are made by pressing hundreds of layers of whole or finely ground tea leaves that have been packed into molds and pressed into bricks and allowed to ferment under controlled conditions. Tea bricks were the most commonly used kind of tea in China before the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and while they’re comparatively less popular today, fermented tea bricks have seen a distinct increase in popularity recently.
Wang Qing of the China Tea Marketing Association said the fermented tea sales have been booming in China lately, but the increased demand has made the quality of tea on the market inconsistent. High-quality tea bricks improve with age, which makes them appealing to collectors and tea snobs. But it’s virtually impossible for a neophyte to tell the difference between tea grades, he said, and a lot of young, lower-quality teas are being passed off as the good stuff.