Tea Bubble Bursts, Leaving Chinese Broke
Boom and bust results in a bitter fate for tea-growing heartland
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 17, 2009 10:51 AM CST
Dealers and horses transporting tea leaves walk on an old street May 20, 2005 in Kunming, Yunnan Province, China.    (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Thousands of people in China's Yunnan province were left in the cold when the country's red-hot tea market collapsed last year, the New York Times reports. The newly affluent nation went wild for the Pu'er region's distinctive fermented tea—said to reduce cholesterol and cure hangovers—during its decade-long boom. Investors rushed in as a small group of traders cornered the market and drove prices sky-high—only to see prices crash as the cartel cashed out.

"Most of us are ruined,” said one the few tea traders to survive the market's implosion. “A lot of people behaved like idiots.” The speculative frenzy that surrounded Yunnan's tea market was mirrored around the country as the nation's nouveaux riches poured money into soaring stock and real estate markets, then saw billions of dollars in paper profits wiped out last year as the economy started to slump.