"Sold!" With the closing crash of the gavel, the 2003 Makaibari Silvertips DJ-131 became the most valuable tea ever purchased at a Calcutta auction. The journey to that record-setting day is an extraordinary tale of a chain of events that began earlier this spring and culminated in an exceptional bidding war.
While tea auctions generated unparalleled excitement during the 19th century, they largely have been replaced by the expediencies of modern commerce. The remaining teas sold at auction typically achieve little fanfare. Now and again, however, an event of special significance ignites interest and rekindles the excitement of the classic tea auctions; during the exhilaration, teas can realize record prices.
Perhaps the most notable example of this occurred at the closing sale of the London Tea Auction on July 29, 1998. At the grand finale Charity Auction, participants enthusiastically overbid for teas, partly in a charitable gesture, and partly to generate some of the energy that many of the old-timers remembered. Each lot inspired more spirited bidding until the final lot of a single 44-kilogram chest of Ceylon FP remained. Two companies long steeped in the history of London tea - Twinings of London and Taylors of Harrogate battled head to head to secure this symbolic chest. When the dust settled, Taylors of Harrogate walked away with the prize at an unheard of £555 ($924) per kilogram! Along with a rather ordinary tea, the high bid purchased a piece of history, as well as a place in it.
Recent auctions in Calcutta have created similar excitement. Knowing that the quest to purchase the year's finest teas generates healthy competition among the most active buyers, premier tea estates often produce a special tea. Occasionally, a single lot will fetch a record-breaking sum as firms vie for the honor of securing the top lot of the season. At this year's auction, a special production Darjeeling tea from the Makaibari estate stole the show.
"Upton Tea Imports was founded in 1989 with the objective of providing the North American tea drinker with
the finest teas available. We purchase teas from reputable brokers and estates worldwide, dealing only with
sources who are capable of providing top quality teas. We sell directly to the consumer, thus ensuring the
freshest product and fairest pricing."