Counterfeit tea

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Tillerman
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Thu May 10, 2018 5:14 pm

I am preparing a presentation on counterfeit tea for the Northwest Tea Festival. Although I am interested in this topic in the broad sense, I will be focusing on the Taiwan tea industry and fake Taiwanese tea. If you have any stories or information you'd like to share please jump in. Thanks
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OldWaysTea
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Thu May 10, 2018 5:26 pm

In Fujian sometimes people will add sugar (If I remember correctly, at about a 1% by weight of wet leaves) during the processing. I've been told that the easiest point is before the leaves are rolled since they are already wet, pliable, and can dissolve and absorb the sugar. The result is that the tea does indeed taste a bit sweeter, but the fraud is easily discovered. During the drying process the sugar gets a little warm and takes on a slight malty taste. Additionally the tea will brew much more red than would be normal.
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Baisao
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Sat May 12, 2018 12:10 am

I've encountered (more than once) Jin Xuan that had either powdered milk or non-dairy creamer added to it. The humidity from my fingertips picked up a sticky substance from the dry leaves. Of course, the tea was terrible and not at all like genuine Jin Xuan.

I've also encountered Da Hong Pao that was actually roasted baozhong. The flavor was unmistakable. To be fair, I bought some because it was delicious and inexpensive.
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Bok
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Sat May 12, 2018 1:00 am

I find that quite often in Taiwan: teas that are not what they are supposed to be, but the price tag is fair for what it is, so in the end it doesn’t hurt.

Lack of care for precise descriptions is quite common these parts, not necessarily with malign intentions.
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Baisao
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Sat May 12, 2018 1:20 am

Bok wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:00 am
Lack of care for precise descriptions is quite common these parts, not necessarily with malign intentions.
The desire for scientific-like conciseness seems to me to be Western and at times neurotic. I’ve had Hong Shui that was low oxidzed but that’s what the maker calls it. I don’t consider that a counterfeit Hong Shui. Same with Taiwanese yancha or Bi Luo Chun.

However, there are counterfeit teas like the adulterated Jin Xuan and the Chinese Da Hong Pao that was made from roasted Taiwanese baozhong.
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Tillerman
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Sat May 12, 2018 11:15 am

Bok wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:00 am
I find that quite often in Taiwan: teas that are not what they are supposed to be, but the price tag is fair for what it is, so in the end it doesn’t hurt.

Lack of care for precise descriptions is quite common these parts, not necessarily with malign intentions.
I agree. But the problem is often sorting out those intentions.
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Tillerman
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Sat May 12, 2018 11:21 am

Baisao wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:20 am
Bok wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 1:00 am
Lack of care for precise descriptions is quite common these parts, not necessarily with malign intentions.
The desire for scientific-like conciseness seems to me to be Western and at times neurotic. I’ve had Hong Shui that was low oxidzed but that’s what the maker calls it. I don’t consider that a counterfeit Hong Shui. Same with Taiwanese yancha or Bi Luo Chun.

However, there are counterfeit teas like the adulterated Jin Xuan and the Chinese Da Hong Pao that was made from roasted Taiwanese baozhong.
What to many is a clear cut position: that "counterfeiting is wrong" seems to me to be much more nuanced. And I agree, quality for the price should be the prime consideration. Bur what about - say - faux Fushoushan? The tea is often better than the real stuff (which is only so-so in my estimation) but the vendor is trying to use a well known (and trademarked) name to increase profits. Can any lines be drawn in these shifting sands?
Ethan Kurland
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Sat May 12, 2018 3:26 pm

Tillerman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 11:21 am
Can any lines be drawn in these shifting sands?
You ask interesting questions & do a lot of serious work and thinking. Thank you.

I get my view of all this turned around by dealing with non-drinkers. Yesterday, I was retailing at an International Festival & giving out samples of excellent tea that most people liked a lot. Surprised by the price, I found no one cared about the details that would help explain prices. They simply found they liked something but did not like a price higher than Lipton teabags to such an extent. A couple of people bought tea, but not my very best.

Actually, they came to the same conclusion that Bok, I, and others here, often come to: the better medium-grade teas are the best value for $. And, sampling makes information and misinformation about teas almost totally unimportant.
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tealifehk
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Sat May 12, 2018 11:09 pm

Apparently customers tend to go for the middle-priced option more than the lower- or higher-priced options when offered a choice, so you may have been seeing classic consumer behavior at work there!
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Bok
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Sat May 12, 2018 11:26 pm

Let’s face it, people who are willing to pay for premium quality - and do understand what they are drinking are in the minority. I frequently come across foreigners here in Taiwan who desperately try to import their super market tea bags... those people can’t be helped.
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Baisao
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Sun May 13, 2018 10:08 pm

Tillerman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 11:21 am
What to many is a clear cut position: that "counterfeiting is wrong" seems to me to be much more nuanced. And I agree, quality for the price should be the prime consideration. Bur what about - say - faux Fushoushan? The tea is often better than the real stuff (which is only so-so in my estimation) but the vendor is trying to use a well known (and trademarked) name to increase profits. Can any lines be drawn in these shifting sands?
I’m hard pressed to draw lines in instances like faux Fushiushan, Taiwanese yancha (often better than Wuyi!), Taiwanese Bi Luo Chun (so very different than it’s Chinese namesake!), or a lightly oxidized Hong Shui. Most of the above are not produced to type but are frequently better than the “real” thing.

I don’t get caught up in names because I see tea as fluid and dynamic. Innovations are occurring in nearly every farm, frequently blurring lines. We can see it all over the place.

Tangentially, someone recently posted a video showing the “24 steps for Lu Yu’s gongfu cha”. Ignoring the obvious silliness of associating Lu Yu to GFC, this person then went on to iterate a very basic session, breaking it down into murderous steps. The entire spirit was killed in doing so. This is why I say this kind of behavior is neurotic. I make tea. I’ve never parsed it into steps. Gongfu cha is a living thing and so is tea production.
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Tillerman
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Mon May 14, 2018 12:35 am

Baisao wrote:
Sun May 13, 2018 10:08 pm
Tillerman wrote:
Sat May 12, 2018 11:21 am
What to many is a clear cut position: that "counterfeiting is wrong" seems to me to be much more nuanced. And I agree, quality for the price should be the prime consideration. Bur what about - say - faux Fushoushan? The tea is often better than the real stuff (which is only so-so in my estimation) but the vendor is trying to use a well known (and trademarked) name to increase profits. Can any lines be drawn in these shifting sands?
I’m hard pressed to draw lines in instances like faux Fushiushan, Taiwanese yancha (often better than Wuyi!), Taiwanese Bi Luo Chun (so very different than it’s Chinese namesake!), or a lightly oxidized Hong Shui. Most of the above are not produced to type but are frequently better than the “real” thing.

I don’t get caught up in names because I see tea as fluid and dynamic. Innovations are occurring in nearly every farm, frequently blurring lines. We can see it all over the place.

Tangentially, someone recently posted a video showing the “24 steps for Lu Yu’s gongfu cha”. Ignoring the obvious silliness of associating Lu Yu to GFC, this person then went on to iterate a very basic session, breaking it down into murderous steps. The entire spirit was killed in doing so. This is why I say this kind of behavior is neurotic. I make tea. I’ve never parsed it into steps. Gongfu cha is a living thing and so is tea production.
Well said!
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Mon May 14, 2018 8:26 am

I might be the odd one out here. I actually think that tea names are important and have useful meaning. If a tea is originally named based on the location, cultivar, and process used, then no other tea should use that name unless it follows those same rules.

That isn't to say that you can't make a Dong-Ding styled oolong in China, or a RouGui style in Taiwan... just re-name it to something that appropriately captures the changes so it is clear that the Taiwanese RouGui isn't from Wuyishan (e.g. if it is grown on Alishan in a RouGui style, just call it Alishan RouGui).

To translate the issue to wine, it makes sense to me that 'champagne' must come from a specific grape and region in france, and anything else is just 'sparkling wine'. This allows the essence and flavor differentials that are associated with real champagne to be preserved, so that consumers can have a better expectation when they purchase their beverage.
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Baisao
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Mon May 14, 2018 10:46 am

chofmann wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 8:26 am
I might be the odd one out here. I actually think that tea names are important and have useful meaning. If a tea is originally named based on the location, cultivar, and process used, then no other tea should use that name unless it follows those same rules.

That isn't to say that you can't make a Dong-Ding styled oolong in China, or a RouGui style in Taiwan... just re-name it to something that appropriately captures the changes so it is clear that the Taiwanese RouGui isn't from Wuyishan (e.g. if it is grown on Alishan in a RouGui style, just call it Alishan RouGui).

To translate the issue to wine, it makes sense to me that 'champagne' must come from a specific grape and region in france, and anything else is just 'sparkling wine'. This allows the essence and flavor differentials that are associated with real champagne to be preserved, so that consumers can have a better expectation when they purchase their beverage.
It would make life easier for us, but try making them do it. :lol:
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Tillerman
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Mon May 14, 2018 5:08 pm

chofmann wrote:
Mon May 14, 2018 8:26 am
I might be the odd one out here. I actually think that tea names are important and have useful meaning. If a tea is originally named based on the location, cultivar, and process used, then no other tea should use that name unless it follows those same rules.

That isn't to say that you can't make a Dong-Ding styled oolong in China, or a RouGui style in Taiwan... just re-name it to something that appropriately captures the changes so it is clear that the Taiwanese RouGui isn't from Wuyishan (e.g. if it is grown on Alishan in a RouGui style, just call it Alishan RouGui).

To translate the issue to wine, it makes sense to me that 'champagne' must come from a specific grape and region in france, and anything else is just 'sparkling wine'. This allows the essence and flavor differentials that are associated with real champagne to be preserved, so that consumers can have a better expectation when they purchase their beverage.
I agree with you in principle, however, there is NOTHING in the tea business that comes close to the AOC, DOC etc. systems. And despite AVA's, the US wine industry is a major offender in many ways. The champagne issue was "resolved" due to trademark and GI issues tied to TRIPS discussions (and the work of the Napa Valley Vintners.) The only trademarks on tea regions, so far as I know, are the ones in India (Darjeeling, etc..) the Long Jing one in China that restricts the use of the Long Jing name to teas from Zhejiang province, the trademark on Fushoushan in Taiwan and perhaps the Zeelong mark in New Zealand. The likelihood of coming up with protected GI's in the tea world anywhere in the near future are remote. at best.
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