Chinese financial speculators are caught in a buying frenzy for a variety of tea that has seen its prices soar to levels only rivalled by the finest wines.

The rare tea, picked from bushes in the tea gardens of the Ming Dynasty emperors, has become the latest craze for wealthy investors with their sights on a quick profit.

Prices for the Dahongpao tea - which is grown only in a small mountainous area of eastern coastal province of Fujian - have increased tenfold since the middle of last year, with online tea traders selling a single kilo for more than £1000 ($1624), the country's state media has reported.

"I never thought it would get so expensive," a tea producer, Wu Zongyan, said. "It's one price one day, another price another day. Between when we pick the leaves and when it's ready to sell, the price has already gone up."

Chinese traditionally prize tea as the symbolic heart of national culture and believe that in terms of varieties and taste differentials, it is a rival to wine.

China is prone to extreme speculative bubbles as opportunity-starved investors seek a home for their cash outside the traditional stock and property markets, which are themselves notoriously volatile and speculative.

Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald