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Wednesday, March 5, 2003

At 200,000 yen a bag, this is the world's costliest tea


Staff writer

Forget Starbucks, Tully's and Doutor. If you're after a real quality brew, perhaps it's time to enjoy Chinese tea at its best.

News photo
Kazuo Kodera, president of Kaito Brothers Co. in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, shows off two very expensive tea bags -- the 7-gram gold variety (left) sells for 200,000 yen, while the silver (right) goes for 100,000 yen.

So says Kazuo Kodera, a Tokyo-based importer of Chinese food and tea who made the winning bid at an auction last September in Fujian Province for the world's most expensive variety.

The 55-year-old Kodera, president of Kaito Brothers Co., paid 14.3 million yen for just 1 kg of the tea, which is produced in Anxi, Fujian Province.

A variety of Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy), it is a classic, "moderately" oxidized brew.

Kodera is the first Japanese to win the bidding. Only 2 kg of the tea is harvested each year, and usually wealthy individuals from Hong Kong or Singapore snap it up, Kodera said in an interview with The Japan Times.

"Two years ago, I got to know that tea of a really precious quality can be picked in the area near my plantation," said Kodera, who owns a tea plantation in Fujian Province. "With the help of local farmers, I had a chance to taste the tea. I was enthralled by it."

The taste -- a little sweet with a great aroma -- will captivate people, said Kodera, who has been doing business with China for the past 20 years.

To yield tea of such high quality, the plantation needs to be fertile, and must have just the right amount of sunlight and precipitation. A thick fog that occasionally covers the plantation is also essential to produce high-quality leaves, Kodera said.

He is selling the gold-ranked tea for 200,000 yen per 7-gram bag and the silver-ranked variety, for which he also won the bid, for 100,000 yen.

Surprisingly enough considering the faltering Japanese economy, he has already received orders from several wealthy individuals, including a tea ceremony instructor.

But for others desperate to taste tea at its extravagant best, Kodera will serve it for 10,000 yen a cup at the weeklong tea fair that begins March 18 at the Ginza Mitsukoshi department store.



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The Japan Times

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