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Friday, July 28, 2017

An eBay Fake

This week I received a tea in the mail from a reader asking for an assessment of a tea he was not too sure about. With some queries, I discovered the tea was purchased on eBay from Fengyuan Teashop, an online retailer with obvious fakes. When you see 1990s teas selling for $40, of course these are too good to be true. Other tea bloggers have written extensively about puerh faking, and in this case I found a few flags. Personally, I have found some pasted teas may be decent enough to drink. So I can always approach a tea with at least a little hope of finding something drinkable.

I look nice for my age.
The tea was listed as a “1998 Menghai Tea Factory Zhangxiang” with Guangdong storage. The eBay seller offers a number of Hong Kong storage teas, so initially I expected very wet storage, however the reader still had the custom’s slip which stated Guangdong as the origin. The wrapper provided the first flag, which is that the ink seems rather new.


Another flag is the unattached neifei. Although certainly a neifei may detach on its own, this one has bug bites along the top. Now I’ve had many a bug-bit wrapper, but the actual wrapper has no bug bites which it should if the neifei looks like this. I suspect the neifei is faked or taken from a real tea consumed long ago, and subsequently added to this beeng. Or if you have a bug-laden warehouse, maybe all you need is to place a stack of fake neifeis in storage and eventually the stack is bit along one side. Steaming a bit of leaves is an easy way to attach a fake neifei. 

One bug-bit edge, but the nei piao looks much newer.
All the signs so far add up to “re-wrapping,” which is a no-provenance humid tea in a copied wrapper or even a real wrapper from a long gone tea. The nei piao appeared fresher and not bug-bit, again another flag. I noted the nei piao had a muddy smudge along the back corner as if someone had thumbed through a pile of them with dirty fingers.

Definitely some wet storage.
The leaves have evidence of wetter storage, but no mold and the tea has a graphite smell which is often the case of well-aired but more humid storage, in this case Guangdong dry, or what I’d classify as “traditional dry” if I had no information on the storage origin. The reader said the cake arrived in shrink wrap which is common with aged teas sold in China to keep out humidity, preserve the tea and keep the cake from falling apart. Shrink wrap on older tea has a certain caché, suggesting a high value tea, an easy illusion for a fake tea to convey. Really, the storage aroma is pleasant; I like the slightly humid and metallic odor.

More evidence of wetness, mushy spots.
Not quite as enticing are the human hairs in the tea. An occasional hair is not really a flaw in an older factory tea, but when I find three hairs I start feeling a dirty sloppiness in the tea, and more turned off from actually drinking it. Luckily I did not find any pubic hair, which is where I draw the line.

One hair at 11:00 position.

I brewed up 8g of tea using boiling hot water. I did not have the courage to use a gaiwan and instead picked Yixing and pre-heated the teapot as hot as possible. I rinsed twice and did a taste-and-spit of the two following brews. The next brew turned out much darker, but alas the tea completely lacks any flavor apart from a light tartness, which is a shame because the storage flavor is quite nice. I can see the tea had some very aggressive aging initially with at least a few years of drying. Unfortunately a slight chemical residue is present which numbs the tongue.

A little tough to see, reddish hair at 4:00 position.
I found a third hair in the tea I broke off.
Otherwise the tea simply lacks any flavor at all and little to no presence in the mouth aside from the numbing. I did not want to continue with the tea any further at this point, and chased my single cup with a Rolaids to sop up any unpleasantness. The wet leaves are larger and leathery and simply did not have enough bitter juices to survive the wet storage punishment and convert into an aged flavor. All I taste here is the fairly decent lightly wet storage.

The leaves don't look bad at all,
the proof is in the cup.
I did not suffer any after effects from the tea, but this one is a tosser. Perhaps the reader had the same thought, but tossing is difficult and sending the tea to me is a way to defer the decision to someone else. I will keep the tea for a bit in case the reader wants it back, but I cannot suggest drinking it. Hopefully my friend has better teas to drink instead.

The tea has a nice color, a shame really.
Looking at recent feedbacks for the online seller, I see that most recent customers have purchased newer teas. Perhaps not all teas sold by this vendor are bad, but real 1990s tea cannot be bought on eBay and certainly not at the $30-40 price point I see on many of the vendor’s “old” teas.

Nothing to taste here.
Real 1990s teas are at or well over $200 on the low end, and very scarce now. Luckily this particular tea is no longer for sale in the vendor shop, but I would not be surprised to see it "miraculously" appear for sale again someday.








1 comment:

  1. Hi Cwyn,

    please please please review this tea

    https://teabook.myshopify.com/collections/shop/products/limited-edition-premium-agarwood-ripe-puerh

    Should be good for a laugh. I think it is for real, a bit late for April Fools.

    In anticipation.....

    ReplyDelete