Essay

“Like Diamonds or Fine Wine”

The most precious teas in China and Koreaby Joan MacDonald

Why does some tea cost more than fine wine and occasionally exceed the price for its weight in gold? While researching her latest novel, The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, author Lisa See sampled many cups of tea, including some of the world’s rarest and most expensive. To set the scene for characters whose destinies are entwined with China’s wild Pu’er trees, See met tea farmers, tea masters and high end purveyors, who shared their vintage varieties, including a cup made with tea that cost $1,000 an ounce.

“Everywhere we went, we drank tea,” said the author. “Luckily for me, people wanted us to taste the teas that they were most proud of.”