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FAQ - Why is Yiwu tea so expensive?

So this blog post title is based on one of the most common questions I get from potential customers or other interested parties. With the best single-estate teas from Yiwu increasing price at source, almost year on year, I feel like it's worthwhile trying to share my own experience in this topic using more detail than is feasible in a message or short email.

In this article, I will first summarise, in part 1, the main points which factor into the general price and then, in part 2, I hope to explain some more nuanced points with relation to our teas.

[TL:DR] To over-simplify, certain Yiwu teas have an exceptionally high demand exacerbated by a poor supply causing their market price to be much higher than most other regions and popular terroirs. The people who recommend single-estate teas appreciate those teas differently from people who strongly recommend drinking blends.

Part 1: How is tea valued?

When thinking about the particular value of tea, there are actually many different aspects of tea that relate to the value and these can be explained in different ways using different perspectives. In this part of the blog, I am going to summarise using the simplified perspective of reduced supply and/or increased demand as the main market forces for increasing pricing.


Whilst producers may or may not have enough direct financial incentives to produce teas with a more desirable appearance and aromatic dry leaf characteristics, it is often those teas that will have more comparative value at the latter end of the supply chain. After all, it is typically much easier to teach a consumer to appreciate the appearance and dry leaf aroma than it is to teach them about the other aspects of value, so many producers increase the demand for their 'low-quality teas' by focusing on these aspects of their products.

An experienced trader or tea drinker will typically be able to make some initial judgment about a tea by the appearance and smell of the leaves and or packaging. For the leaves, the picking standard/style, processing, storage, and indicators related to the specifics of these can strongly affect the marketability. An example of this is the price of Huangpian vs. the graded Maocha of the same production - some customers may actually prefer the taste of Huangpian but the overall supply/demand ratio for it is indeed very much lower.

Photos: Gaoshan Gushu 2021 Spring Maocha vs. Gaoshan Gushu 2021 Spring Huangpian

Another aspect to consider is that packaging can heavily influence the demand for the actual tea, even sometimes in spite of the contents. For example, luxury packaging may multiply the perceived value several times over whilst on the other hand, some (especially older) buyers appreciate simpler, more traditional packaging and refuse to buy modern packaged products. This is a good example of how the market fragments once more nuance has been brought into these observations.


Another factor related to packaging is the influence of a famous brand or the reputation of a specific tea. In the online marketplace, where the market is particularly fragmented, a good, visible brand or reputation can influence demand for a tea much more than any other factor in this list. Word of mouth recommendations are particularly important, and arguably even more so in the world of tea where more and more options are seemingly popping up every day. In a similar way, a plain white wrapper tea can be recommended by one or more influential members of the tea community and that could potentially cause demand to skyrocket well beyond available supply. A good market example of brand usage is the influence and marketability of different products from Menghai Tea Factory or their modern day brand name, Dayi (大益). A Dayi-branded modern Yiwu blend will almost certainly be priced much higher than its best single-estate composite leaf direct from producers. It's also important to note that blended cakes are a very different animal to single-estate and even different vendors create their own brand value due to the different preferences on their single estate teas too.

Pictured: Some products by Menghai Tea Factory


In specific regions, particularly when talking about specific ancient trees gardens of Yiwu, there are a limited number of trees and their limited accessibility deep in the forest means that they produce a limited amount of tea each season, especially when compared to younger, more densely packed smaller trees. This lack of supply compared to the consistent, exponential growth in demand means that prices have increased year on year for the most exclusive productions. The differences between high production gardens and low production areas are extreme, typically showing two or three extra digits on the price of the most popular trees, which in turn is compared to fewer digits in terms of production quantity.


Actually, there are comparatively a lot of ancient trees all over Yunnan and other parts of southeast Asia. However, each region produces different teas and not all are recognised for their qualities in the same way. In general, the forested mountains of Xishuangbanna, whether Yiwu or Menghai, have had higher demand and therefore prices in recent years, but as micro-terroirs or even single trees are being picked out for their unique qualities, the specific supply/demand ratio changes dramatically. We can now see specific micro-terroirs or single trees being marketed in a way that was technically impossible to trade with the mass-market as few as ten years ago but, fakes aside, they are now being made available to collectors and even the open-market as the puer enthusiasts now specifically seek to experience these specific teas. Of course, this brings forward the issues of transparency and trust which are often also limited in supply.

Photos: Dayi Bulang plantation vs. Gaoshan village Ancient Tree vs. Yishanmo Ancient Tree


In thinking about specific experiences, many will remember a tea by its 'taste'. Now there are many aspects to 'tasting' that we can expand upon in a different blog, but I hope that it is sufficient for this summary to say that a unique and positive tasting experience will usually lead to more recommendations and therefore lead to higher demand. It's worth pointing out though, the recommendation of a 'good daily drinker' which may typically describe a less unique drinking experience can also drive up consumption just as much, if not more. So pricing issues aside, it is more often the willingness to recommend and share experiences and the related influence of such, and not just the pure, inherent qualities of a tea that affect demand and therefore pricing.


Specific to Puer, but more and more related to other genres these days, age is important to consider. There's a cost to store tea, considering both risk or opportunity costs. Also, even just simply dwindling stock due to consumption over time, means that the supply of aged tea naturally lowers over time. The nuances of pricing 'collectible teas' or 'antique teas' are too complex to summarize here and remain in the realm of true collectors and not the average enthusiast, and I much prefer to remain on the consumer side of the market.

On a more direct note, there is also a major concept to consider related to the fact that Puer is supposed to change over time, and what you got at the start will be different a few years down the line or what you thought wasn't particularly enjoyable can turn into something enjoyable. This change over time also leads to a change in demand over time which may lead to rather sudden changes in price.

Part 2: Nuances that specifically affect the price of our product offerings

Yiwu Tea is arguably the most sought after puer tea in China

Yiwu is one of the first regions of puer tea to be known and distinguished by its terroir through a combination of its history, tradition, and recognition through initial investors from Taiwanese and Hong Kongese tea enthusiasts. The overall low production of ancient tree tea and a strong reputation for tea that ages has always ensured demand to be high.

China is also by far the largest and most mature market for premium Puer. The ever-growing number of puer tea hobbyists find time to visit tea shops and now even the tea mountains regularly to find the best single estate teas. These numerous hobbyists are very active in the market and tea networks, helping to build and maintain the reputation of the great teas despite the numerous ways that more nefarious producers and traders take advantage of the situation. As the growth of international enthusiasts of Yiwu tea also continues to increase, this situation creates a consistent increase in demand year upon year.

Direct and Online Market Disruption

Another factor many farmers and processing units now have access to direct consumers who will purchase at near retail prices. This affects the perception of value at the source meaning fewer opportunities for traders to buy at trade prices. With the farmers and landowners only selling their best leaves at the highest possible prices, those not buying directly from the farmer having to pay even more for the best available teas. While this disruption seems like a good thing, there are just as many negative side effects on the market. An example is how less famous villages and less unique terroirs struggle to take any real advantage as the more popular places end up with most of the trade.

Wholesale vs. Retail

As tea producers and sourcing specialists, our main business is based on wholesale trade within China where tea is typically sold as boxes or bags of typically 10-20kg and orders would realistically start at 100kg and typical orders are usually 500kg or tonnes depending on production quantity and quality. It's worth noting that the markup on wholesale is much lower and so the business does need to move at least several tonnes to even start being viable.

We select some of the best and most valued teas available to us are low production, single-estate teas and these do not lend themself to wholesale for two main reasons - the quantity available is also too low and the profit margin for low quantity wholesale doesn't match the cost or effort required to source and sell them. Another more personal reason is that, while it is still technically viable to 'wholesale' these teas rather than not trade them at all, we note that many traders who buy these teas wholesale will likely 'blend' the tea to increase the quantity/margins whilst still trading them as single-garden/single-estate which, as a dishonest practice that makes their business viable, carries a high risk of damaging the reputation of our own sourcing and transparent practices.

Also, working inside Fangcun, one of the largest tea markets in the world, we can see that the market is saturated with blended Yiwu teas, the vast majority of which we would definitely describe as low quality. Our position is about trying to find a viable way for us to ensure real Yiwu tea is available to the market to maintain and continue to build the good reputation that high-quality Yiwu tea has.

Retail partners

We realise that, as a small family business, we are unable to directly serve our teas to all of our potential customers. As we continue to seek out and work with retail partners, we have to set an agreeable retail price that is still competitive in the market and expand our efforts to share our single estate teas with tea lovers across the globe. While we are happy to sell directly to customers through our website, we know that there is still much more that can be done to enhance the overall experience of a good cup beyond the trade of leaf itself.

Market Influences

At the time of writing, the development of Yiwu and Xishuangbanna over the last ten years has been astonishing. The main mountain roads have been all been expanded and paved. New transport links, whether highway, rail or air, have all been put into place and at least partially, if not fully, completed. With more accessibility comes more tea tourism and the opening up of the market. In fact, you are likely reading this as part of the investment and expansion of this market into the international arena. All of this development has come to fruition due to the extensive investments made locally and, whether it's the expected ROI, increased cost of living, real estate prospecting, and many other market factors, the basic cost of tea at source has increased, leading to price increases throughout the supply chain.

Final Word - It's the Tea Life that matters

This blog is just a summary of key points worth understanding and while there are probably many other points to cover, it's typically outside of any individual vendor or consumer's control. If anything, prices help you narrow down the options whether you want to focus on value or premium teas. While it may be helpful to understand it all, please don't let it distract you from the true joy of tea.

For my own recommendations, if you consider yourself still new to tea, try to set a budget for exploring tea and go ahead sample as many different teas as you can, and as with anything new, having fewer expectations can actually be a good thing. Whether new or you have a bit more experience, try to connect directly with different tea people/vendors and get some more specific recommendations based on where you are with your tea journey. Once you have tried a good selection of teas, it is also worth reviewing your opinion of experiences you've had in the past - you might find your preferences may change over time too (or maybe not?). Just like any hobby, enjoy the process and experience, and also all of the interactions with the people. Finally, try to share your joy of tea with others where possible - my most enjoyable teas are definitely the ones I've been able to share.

If you've read this far, thank you for allowing me to share this much already and I would hope that I share a cup with you directly at some point, whether in person or online.

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