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Many pu erh enthusiasts keep hunting for the rarest and oldest pu erh tea. And why wouldn’t they? There are few things in the world that are as satisfying as tasting some very old, properly aged tea that only very few people have tasted.
There are many lower quality aged pu erh teas on the market and since the big pu erh tea craze around 2008 the market for counterfeit tea cakes has been hard to avoid when dealing with older tea.
So people keep hunting for older and older tea cakes, but what are the actual oldest tea cakes that you can still find today?
SHORT ANSWER – What Is The World Oldest Pu Erh Tea?
Only one pu erh tea that is far older than a century remains intact and on display. That is the Gold Melon Tribute Cake. Most teas of this age have either decomposed or been brewed.
The following pu erh teas are of interest, sorted by age:
3. Pu erh teas from the early to mid-1900s
2. Chen Yun pu erh cake
1. Gold Melon Tribute Cake
There may be other old or even older pu erh teas still out there, but only the following are known to still exist. Maybe someday another tea collection containing these rare tea cakes is discovered.
3. Mid-1900s Old Pu Erh Teas
There are many old teas from the 60s, 70s, and 80s for sale that you would be able to purchase and drink. Although you will need to pay a hefty price for such old tea in good condition.
The aging process changes the tea material and may destroy the cake after this many years. Only teas that have been stored relatively dry and in a controlled environment can be expected to have survived for long.
Many teas from the years between 1920 and 1960 have been purchased and consumed during the pu erh tea craze around the year 2008. At this time the prices jumped exponentially and old pu erh tea became a status symbol.
Those tea cakes from this era that have not been consumed or destroyed are mostly found in one of two places.
For one, you will be able to find these teas in the inventories of specialty stores. If you have a large budget that can go up to tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can purchase one of these consumable historical artifacts.
The second most common place for old tea in a somewhat good condition to end up is the controlled storage of a tea investor.
Pu erh tea that is properly stored in a controlled environment will properly age. Such aged tea can yield high returns on investment if you know who you can sell it to.
2. Second Oldest Tea Cake
The second oldest pu erh tea I was able to find actual information on is barely 120 years old. This old tea cake was produced by Chen Yun (陈云号).
This tea producer was well established late during the Qing dynasty. Based on this information the pu erh tea cake must have been produced around 1900.
The exact origin of the tea is not known, but educated guesses are based on the manufacturer. The leaf material used is mainly from Manla and Yiwu in Yunnan.
1. Oldest Pu Erh Tea
Now, at last, the actual oldest pu erh tea there is today. This type of tea has a long-standing tradition, but very rarely will a tea survive the centuries.
The Gold Melon Tribute Tea, 金瓜贡茶, was found in an antique tea collection. It was stored and protected within the Forbidden City in Beijing, China. In the 1960s the tea was discovered and displayed.
This pu erh tea is about 200 years old and was originally produced in the Yibang tea mountains in Yunnan, China. This large and rather round pu erh cake was most likely a direct gift to the emperor.
There’s a lot more to learn about tea! If you are looking for a good place to start, I highly recommend the book Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. You can check its current price on Amazon here.