by ali on August 1st, 2014
Recently we added a 2006 Autumn Lao Ban Zhang Puerh to the website, at £180 this is one of the most expensive teas we have ever sold and the price might come as a shock to those who are unfamiliar to the Puerh market. So why is this particular tea so expensive?
The Puerh market in general is experiencing a prolonged boom, prices are doubling year on year and there is no sign of this slowing down. As well as being drunk, Puerh is also collected, collectors will often store their teas for years whilst the value increases and then sell them on at great profit. Lao Ban Zhang teas are THE most sought after teas with drinkers and collectors alike and have maintained the title of the ‘King of Puerh’ for the last decade or so.
Lao Ban Zhang is a small, remote village sitting at about 1700m up Bulang Mountain. Though the village has been producing Puerh tea for hundreds of years, it is only in the last half century or so that the tea has gained in popularity and it is only in the last decade that the tea has become so valuable. At the end of the nineties LBZ mao cha (unfinished leaves) sold for about $1 per kilo , these days a buyer would struggle to purchase a kilo of pure LBZ mao cha for less than $800. The tea is considered to be the most delicious and ‘energising’ of all Puerh, but there are also other reasons behind the colossal price tag.
In the 1950s Lao Ban Zhang Puerh was selected as a tribute tea for Chairman Mao Zedong, this immediately brought notoriety to the village. Since that time LBZ Puerh was coveted by any serious Puerh collector (or drinker). However, prices really began to explode after 2007 when the Chen Sheng Tea Factory signed a contract with the majority of the farmers and became the major buyer of the tea. This meant that the factory had control of the market and were able to set the prices (A small minority of the tea is still sold to outside buyers). Furthermore, collecting Puerh is a major status symbol in China, so as the middle classes get richer more and more people want in on the action, so there is now a huge demand for LBZ Puerh but a very limited supply.
This has of course, led to problems. Fake LBZ teas are extremely common in Chinese tea shops; many factories use a very small percentage of LBZ material and blend it with other teas, but call it a LBZ. Some factories don’t bother using any LBZ material at all (making is extremely important to only buy from a trusted seller). LBZ village has also had to employ 20 guards to prevent people smuggling non LBZ leaves into the village to be processed and sold as the real deal.
We have been lucky enough to acquire 14 cakes of 100% Lao Ban Zhang Puerh. This particular tea was made by members of the Mengku factory who made an expedition to LBZ to collect leaves. This is a beautiful tea to drink, but also a fantastic investment piece, lay it down for a few years and watch its value go up and up.