How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

One of the intentionally aged teas, Pu-Erh has a loyal following.

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How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by Sententia » Jul 31st 10 1:42 pm

I'm going to be placing a order from jas-estea, of a Menghai Factory tea but I'm curious. I've read how many knock offs of the tea exist and the authentic now come with a special "ticket". I was wondering if my 2008 Menghai's will come with similar tickets?

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by Drax » Jul 31st 10 2:13 pm

Nicolas has an extremely good comparison (and lots of detailed pictures) of fake and real pu'erh, with a Menghai Dayi:

http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=12141

So unfortunately, even having a ticket like the one you show does not guarantee authenticity. But as he notes toward the end, the real evidence is in the taste.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by Proinsias » Jul 31st 10 2:36 pm

Nicolas did mention that buying from somewhere like Yunann Sourcing is a pretty safe bet, and I think Steve at JAS-eTea gets much of his tea via Scott at YS, or via his supplier.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by Sententia » Jul 31st 10 2:40 pm

Thanks for directing me to that presentation !! Very useful!. After analyzing the tea, I'm quite certain its real so I'll try it. I didn't think such a underworld of fake tea existed !! wow.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by hop_goblin » Aug 1st 10 5:11 pm

With Pu-erh prices falling, counterfeits are not as much as an issue as it once was. Purchasing Dayi or XiaGuan are not such a big problem since prices have stabilized. However, buying particular mountain growth ie., Lao BanZang, or other limited growths and aged puerh may present more of a problem.
Last edited by hop_goblin on Aug 2nd 10 1:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by zhi zheng » Aug 2nd 10 4:46 am

In the end, there's not really such thing as fake 'Pu er'. There's only fake packaging. The tea's either good or it's not. It's possible that a tea in a 'fake' wrapper could be better than a tea in a 'genuine' wrapper. :D

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by alan logan » Aug 2nd 10 10:03 am

zhi zheng wrote:In the end, there's not really such thing as fake 'Pu er'. There's only fake packaging. The tea's either good or it's not. It's possible that a tea in a 'fake' wrapper could be better than a tea in a 'genuine' wrapper. :D
"semantically" speaking, yes. but the expression "fake pu er" (or fake tea generally) makes sense as it is used to mean that the very content of the conterfeited wrapper is in there to pretend to be the tea corresponding to the real wrapper. Out of its context (wrapper) it is not so much "fake" as "something else", and I guess it could be more accurate to say "substitute" or "ersatz", but the context leads to perceive the "fake" side. in this case, "fake pu er" is metonymy.
were the "ersatz" in some other wrapper or under other name, the perception of "fake" would not be triggered.
And the reverse, ie original product in a counterfeited wrapper, is rather unlikely to be found.

but then, imagine an ersatz (in a counterfeited wrapper) which appearance would deliberately imitate the original : then the word "fake" is accurate. the degree of imitation also matters I guess.

but, like in paintings, imitation and counterfeiting is a huge field and there are"conceptual" nuances. a "forgery" could be classified as imitation, fake, counterfeit, avatar, ersatz, clone, reproduction... I think what makes the big difference for us is the intention and if there is a lie behind it.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by wyardley » Aug 2nd 10 6:49 pm

You could also have "fake" puer in the sense of tea from border areas outside of Yunnan, or in the case of things like GYG, which used to be sold as puer.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by alan logan » Aug 2nd 10 7:14 pm

well, i don't think gyg have ever been considered "fake" ; as for now (since august 08 i think --you can check on teadrunk forum, there is thread about that, or on lifeinateacup blog) they have been "outed" of pu er definition but do not become "fake" just for this reason. they were properly labeled so why fake ?

as for border pu er, one thing we may want to consider is that botanical borders and geopolitical borders do not necessarily coincide : same type of trees can grow on each side of the border between china and another country, on same or closely similar type of soil and ecosystems. so can we say "fake" in case some leaves located beyond the line are picked ? I don't think so. of course with the new criteria established, a cake made with leaves 100m beyond the border can not be named "pu er" strictly speaking, but well... at some point limitations induced by legal/offical definitions are a bit arbitrary. Location only is not the touchstone for "fake"/"real".

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by wyardley » Aug 2nd 10 8:11 pm

alan logan wrote:well, i don't think gyg have ever been considered "fake" ; as for now (since august 08 i think --you can check on teadrunk forum, there is thread about that, or on lifeinateacup blog) they have been "outed" of pu er definition but do not become "fake" just for this reason. they were properly labeled so why fake ?
From what I've heard, GYG has been sold as puer at various points. GYG of course isn't fake if it's sold as GYG, but if a vendor wraps it differently, or sells it as puer, I think you could have a case for saying it's "fake" (as in, it's not puer).

As far as border tea, you could probably make arguments for either case. However, I imagine that if tea from border areas were sold as puer in China, it could very conceivably be considered mislabeled. And I do think there's some value to having some sort of standard in the same way that French wine or Italian tomatoes have certification standards. You can make a Burgandy or Bordeaux style wine in another area (using the same type of grapes), but you still can't call it a Burgandy or Bordeaux in France, even if it's grown just outside the official area, and even if the terroir / growing conditions are similar.

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Re: How can you tell a fake Pu Erh ?

by alan logan » Aug 2nd 10 8:36 pm

yes, i understand what you mean and why you would say "fake" in such a case. Yet I would think this a hypothesis where what zhizheng said applies: the tea was not in the first place manufactured to imitate appeareance of some other tea (ie pu er), but at some point somebody took this genuine tea (whatever its value and quality on the market) and wrapped it with the paper of another no less genuine tea.
there is no act of counterfeit on the tea, it is not like it were deliberately manufactured to imitate and replace another tea (in this case the lie would be here in the making).
plus, the "new" wrapper used could not be counterfeited either, it could be perfectly genuine per se.
=>no fake, but a super fast one being pulled.

same conclusion as for mislabelling : mislabelling and counterfeit are two different things. (as for french wines and terroirs, a special type of law is involved, close to copyright concept ; if you sell eg an Italian wine as Saint Emilion you are illegally using a name that is property of st Emilion, and you could be convicted for that, but not for counterfeit on your italian wine, ie on the product itself; if you make a ticket imitating that of st Emilion this would be counterfeit on the brand, but still not on the product, although there would also be illicit sale; but if you take wine produced on st Emilion land and modify it or blend it in a way not allowed by st Emilion -and in fact i know of no way that would be allowed, this would be counterfeit on the st Emilion product... lots of possibilities)

but I am sure there are (at least theoritically) cases when it would be difficult to decide for sure if it is fake... or something else. counterfeit and deception is a refined art :mrgreen: