fake puer tea

Food Fraud and Fake Tea

Thanks to a blog post from the NPR blog, The Salt, I recently discovered this Food Fraud Database.

The long list of fraudulent and dangerous food additives is daunting. Not that we needed evidence of mankind’s thirst for increasing profits at the expense of consumer welfare. No doubt our leaves are also victim to the trend.

A search for ‘tea’ returns around 20 results of bad additives and trickery; colored saw dust, Prussian blue, and copper salts. Prussian blue?! That is a lovely pigment, but I wouldn’t want to find it in the bottom of my cup. The next time you encounter a particularly blue-ish black tea, you might want to call a doctor.

In addition to these, there are also several results for teas of wrong “botanical origin”, that is, ‘tea’ that is not tea at all.

fake puerh tea
A tea I once had that was made with pressed red tea and presented as puer

Fake Tea

The research that snared my interest above the rest was the  “tea of non-authentic geographic origin” test. Any puer lover, or tea lover of any kind for that matter, ought to know this is a common form of tea fraud.  The scientists seem to have studied the origin by:

Classifying the variety, production area and season of Taiwan partially fermented tea by near infrared spectroscopy

Where would one acquire such a machine? How wonderful it would be to save time drinking fraudulently labeled puer. Zapping leaves and knowing their region, variety, and maybe even date? Swoon.

Puer fakes are everywhere. From my recently mentioned worst Bingdao fake in history, to some really convincing 80’s Xiaguan bricks I plan to mention in a future article. I am really yearning for a magic tea lasergun.

Is this Laobanzhang? Zap. Nope.

Is this Taiwan Oolong?  Zap. Nope.

Where can i buy this mystical machine?

Maybe my fantasy is romanticizing the accuracy of such a device, but it is still nice to dream. Given that these tests were conducted by trained scientists with fancy labs,  we common folk will probably need to wait until their is an infrared spectroscopy function and app for our iPhone 79s.