Tea sale aims to make pots of cash

First auction dedicated to tea is expected to make HK$10m, with one lot valued at HK$1m

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 6:14am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 November, 2013, 6:14am

The city's first tea auction expects to pull in up to HK$10 million as mainlanders drive up the prices, with one box of tea leaves expected to fetch HK$1 million.

Fortune Auctioneers will auction more than 190 lots of tea, teapots and utensils from private collections from Hong Kong, Taipei, Beijing and Guangdong.

Tea expert and auction planner Vincent Chu Ying-wah said the "Sensation of Tea" auction would be the first in the city to sell exclusively tea and tea-related items.

He said he hoped it would make HK$8 to 10 million and expected buyers to be mostly mainland and Hong Kong tea collectors and antique dealers.

"We have had a tea-drinking tradition for a really long time, just like the French drink wine," he said. "Chinese people have got wealthy and tea is a necessary thing [for us]. This is why the price of tea still keeps going up."

He said he hoped it would be the first of many such auctions.

The prize lot is a 20kg box of narcissus oolong tea bearing the Wu-Yi brand which has been valued at nearly HK$1 million. The tea was exported to Singapore in the 1960s and passed through many hands before being brought back to Hong Kong by a local collector who bought it from a Malaysian-Chinese tea connoisseur from Penang.

Also going under the hammer is a 350 gram cake of pu'er tea manufactured at the highly reputed Menghai Tea Factory in Yunnan province and valued at HK$500,000.

Chu said the leaves were some of the first to be picked in the 1950s after 20 years of war, when tea was rarely harvested.

He said the "long rest" gave the leaves a stronger flavour. Over the last 60 years, they had acquired a smooth, "silky" texture, and an aftertaste and fragrance that could still be sensed half an hour after drinking.

Chu compared the tea's quality to that of 1982 Château Pétrus wine, a six-litre bottle of which sold for a record HK$726,000 at auction in Hong Kong.

Other highlights include teapots by master potters - such as Gu Jingzhou, Wang Yinxian and Jiang Rong - all valued at about HK$1 million, as well as Japanese silver kettles and other utensils.

"Chinese tea has a long history. There is profound meaning behind every step of the production process, from harvesting the tea leaves to tasting the result," Chu said.

The auction will be held at The Park Lane hotel on November 23 and will be open to the public. A preview will run from November 19 to 22.