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Sunday, January 18, 2009

A County in China Sees Its Fortunes in Tea Leaves Until a Bubble Bursts - NYTimes.com

A County in China Sees Its Fortunes in Tea Leaves Until a Bubble Bursts - NYTimes.com: "A County in China Sees Its Fortunes in Tea Leaves Until a Bubble Bursts

By ANDREW JACOBS
Published: January 16, 2009

MENGHAI, China — Saudi Arabia has its oil. South Africa has its diamonds. And here in China’s temperate southwest, prosperity has come from the scrubby green tea trees that blanket the mountains of fabled Menghai County.

Over the past decade, as the nation went wild for the region’s brand of tea, known as Pu’er, farmers bought minivans, manufacturers became millionaires and Chinese citizens plowed their savings into black bricks of compacted Pu’er.

But that was before the collapse of the tea market turned thousands of farmers and dealers into paupers and provided the nation with a very pungent lesson about gullibility, greed and the perils of the speculative bubble. “Most of us are ruined,” said Fu Wei, 43, one of the few tea traders to survive the implosion of the Pu’er market. “A lot of people behaved like idiots.”"

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