Fake Puerh Dilemma

Fake Puerh Tea: 3 Ways to Avoid Common Scams

Real or Fake? The Puerh Tea Buyers Dilemma

There is a lot of discussion of authenticity in the Puerh tea community. Newcomers to Puerh tea hear the word “fake” bantered around and become frightened before even owning a Puerh tea cake. “Is my tea real or fake?!” they wonder, afraid of dipping a toe into the water. This article will help shed some light on what real and fake mean in the context of Puerh tea and how to ensure that you are happy with your tea regardless of its authenticity.

Real Puerh Brands and Brand Name Puerh Teas

The Situation: Large Puerh tea brands have factories that produce thousands upon thousands of metric tons of tea. Companies like Dayi or Xiaguan have billboards in airports and panels of the sides of buses. Not to mention very costly commercials on television. This immense marketing budget is part of their business model, which is brand based and depends on large volume with big mark ups. Due to their popularity and mass-market advertising, many smaller producers fake their products in an attempt to earn money from the same big mark-up without having to spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns. The result is a market flooded with fake brand name teas.

Xiaguan ad
An advertisement for Xiaguan at a major metropolitan airport. What is your tea money going towards?

How to Avoid the Fake Puerh: If you want to avoid faked brand name tea, avoid large productions and famous companies. Nobody will take the time to make a fake version of a lesser known tea. There are plenty of quality teas in the market that are from smaller brands and productions. If you ignore the hype, you won’t end up with a fake branded tea!

Dayi ad
Bus ads for Dayi don’t come cheap!

Real Old Arbor Puerh versus Plantation Puerh

The Situation: Only a very small percentage of the Puerh teas produced each year come from gushu [old arbor] trees. The price difference between gushu tea and tea from smaller bushes is very large, so many producers unscrupulously mark their small bush teas as gushu in order to command a much higher price. Other fakes include heavily mixed material. True gushu carries a big price tag and is always from a small production.

old arbor tea limb
Old arbor teas can never support massive productions

How to Avoid Fakes: The large factories rarely (see: almost never) produce any purely gushu teas due to the nature of their business. (i.e. it is impossible to make 50 ton productions of gushu as there simply is not that much material) Use your best judgment and buy the teas that you enjoy for the price you can afford. If you are overly concerned about being duped, sticking within a comfortable budget will reduce the heartache if a tea does not meet expectations. Rather than judge the tea on whether it is old arbor or plantation, focus on whether the tea is high quality and fits your budget. This problem is perhaps the most difficult for tea drinkers to solve, but it involves finding a trusted producer with smaller productions. I also encourage people to hone their own taste buds and try to study with knowledgeable Puerh drinkers who can help guide them in learning to differentiate between old arbor and plantation. Unfortunately, this skill is very difficult to pass on via a blog. Personal experience is the fastest road to understanding.

Real Aged Puerh Teas versus Fake Aged Puerh Teas

The Situation: Many older teas have no dates stamped on their wrappers. Even wrappers with stamps can be faked. Since aged teas often command a higher price, many sellers will take younger teas and mislabel them in an attempt to obtain a higher price.

aged Puerh tea
How old is this tea? Or more importantly, is the tea good?

How to Avoid Fakes: First, do your homework. Check the market value of a tea, the wrapper, and the leaf, then see if the price makes sense. Teas with a too-good-to-be-true price tag often are! Second, remember that age is just a number. If you want to avoid a lot of trouble, we recommend focusing on the quality of the tea rather than the age. Trust your own taste and stick within your budget. After all, if you really enjoy a tea, a misrepresentation of age becomes less important. Who wouldn’t rather have a spectacular tea from 2008 than a terrible tea from 1998? With older teas, the exact date of production is often near impossible to determine, as aged teas can change hands several times over the course of ten or twenty years. When in doubt, trust what is in the cup, instead of fancy stories.

So, What Should I Do to Avoid Fake Puerh?

For those who are scared senseless about the real or perceived authenticity of teas, the best solution is to abandon an attachment to what is or is not real and to focus on the quality of the tea in the cup in front of you. For most casual tea drinkers, they will save a lot of pain if they find the best quality tea that fits their budget instead of chasing after minimal or expensive productions like Bingdao old arbor or 88 Qingbings. For those who are set on chasing the rare teas of the world, there is an inherent danger. For the adventurers, the best is solution is to arm yourself with knowledge and jump into the Puerh fray.

And one last word of wisdom, as a person who has had teas that range in the tens of thousands of dollars per cake range, the most expensive tea is not always the best tea. Market forces determine price. And the market is not focused on your taste buds. Trust what makes you happy and you won’t find yourself in a bind.

Two Dog Puerh Tea Blog

Three More Non-Puerh Related Things from Yunnan Spring

Puerh Bloggin Return

I am adding h’s to my puerh for this post because I am an SEO sell out who wants to show up on searches for “puerh” in google at least once. But if this post is any indication of puerh edification I can potentially provide to new readers, they are screwed. Furthermore, I don’t even know if that is how SEO works. What I do know, is that if you google “Puerh Blog Bathroom Tile Young Vixens”, this will be the first result.

Here is more non-tea related non-sense from my Spring in Yunnan. I swear I will get back to puerh blogging after I catch my breath. In the meantime, take a look at the top three interest bits from the back end of my trip. I saved the pictures of a water buffalo being butchered (an honorable mention coming in fourth place) in favor of the following.

1. Bathroom with Tiles of Young Vixens

Sensual tile
Front view of the hotel bathroom, complete with sensual tile
Toilet view puerh town
Toilet view
Toilet tank sticker model
Toilet tank sticker model

For those of you keeping track, that is not one, but two attractive young women who will be staring at you while you drop some kids off at the pool. What makes this aesthetic decision of placing this tile all the more enjoyable is how intentional it is. Somebody sat down one day and thought, “You know what would be a great idea? A picture of a scantily clad vixen in a nighty right above the squat toilets in my new hotel. I love having beautiful women watch me take a dump, and I assume the guests in my hotel will as well.” Which is great logic, if you want to telegraph your taboo fetish to the world. And for the record, I am not judging people with such fetishes. I don’t want anybody checking my browser history anymore than the next guy; my only point is that this tile may not have been the classiest choice for a hotel bathroom.

2. Raw Sour Olive Moonshine

Moonshine tea
Moonshine steeped with sour fruit

Drinking moonshine is a mandatory task on trips to meet with tea farmers. Some brew their own booze, others buy high octane swill from the local distillery. This bottle was one of my favorites from the entire trip. This tea farmer from lower Hekai village bought the  50%-60% corn alcohol from a local still and then steeped it with these raw olive like fruit. If you eat the fruit fresh it is incredibly sour, but after the sour wave passes there is a wake of sweetness in the mouth. Couple that sour/sweet combo with the burning/warm of the liquor and you have yourself an interesting shot. The pork in the background of the picture was also delicious. Props to the pork fat for preventing my stomach from being scorched to death by the liquor.

3. Myanmar Medicine Lady

Myanmar Medicine Woman
Yamaha, I am waiting for payment for product placement

Nothing like a woman with a bindle full of heavy prescription strength medicine from Burma to soothe what ails you. Want to treat that malaria? No need to drive to that pesky hospital 5 hours away on mountain roads, just pick up some Mefloquin some this lady. Discontinue use if you start seeing pink elephants.

Her presence adds convenience to villagers who are a long journey from the nearest health clinic, but you have to wonder about the safety of these drugs, when even mainstream pharmaceuticals in major Chinese cities have had a questionable quality control track record. The elder women smoking and chatting with her did not share my concerns.

Woman smoking a pipe tea blog
Woman smoking a pipe at the pharmacy