Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Plot Thickens with Fake 1998 7542

We have a friend who is a hard-core investigative journalist. He went to Afghanistan to document CIA's unsavory practice of extraordinary rendition by interviewing tortured detainees. He uncovered race based kills taking place during Hurricane Katrina and triggered a federal Grand Jury investigation.   In another Frontline documentary, he brought to light incompetent coroners who wrongly convicted parents of infanticide.

Me, I'm just an enthusiastic tea drinker with a blog trying to find some interesting aged pu-erh for a reasonable price.  So I asked my hard-hitting journalist friend what I should do about this vendor who sold me a fake 1998 CNNP 7542.  Because I had already opened this cake, I cannot get a refund.  

He pointed me towards state anti-fraud laws. He also mentioned "Federal prosecutors could use wire fraud and telecom laws -- essentially using the internet to perpetrate fraud -- to prosecute. " Heavy duty!  I actually don't want to prosecute this vendor.  I just want him to sell good pu-erh and not mislead clueless buyers with false advertising.

My friend also recommended that I gather more information on my blog. Several people have come forward on my previous entry as having been fooled by this very cake. Thank you for this public service.  Two mentioned they buy samples first to prevent this kind of thing. One commentor said he would never buy from Jim again.  I understand his disgust and I'm not sure why Jim would sell a cake that would generate such a negative backlash.

Puerhshop.com is one of the largest North American vendors with 156 pu-erh selections. Admittedly small compared to Yunnan Sourcing's 1000 pu-erh selections, but puerhshop is big for a Western vendor.  They press their own American Hao brand cakes and their 904 has gotten a favorable taste review from Hobbes despite the kerfuffle with the misleading labeling.   I ordered the American Hao Chocolate Bar. It's good- they somehow managed to Americanize shu so it tastes more like roast coffee than pu-erh.  It's the perfect  beginner's shu that I was looking for to convert some of my friends for which the Menghai flavor is too much of a leap.  I really want PuerhShop to succeed and create more of a market for pu-erh in the states.

I would consider PuerhShop as being responsive and having good customer service. One of the dianhong packets were torn in transit and they promptly gave me a refund.  So when I wrote Jim regarding this delicate matter, he inexplicably forwarded me to a taobao item which he says is the "same tea cake where I got mine". Even a brief glance at the wrapper(taobao on the left, puerhshop on the right) indicate these cakes are not the same. 

The character spacing on Jim's cake is highly unusual and does not match any of the CNNP wrappers I see in books, magazines, or on the web. The wrapper is also unusually thick.  But I don't care about the wrapper or authenticity or some other cake in China.  Is the cake he sent me old and if not, is it good?  This particular beeng I received  is young and boring- two strikes. If it was old and bad or young and good, I would not bother complaining so publicly at all.


Think of the delicate ecosystem of the world pu-erh market from tea farmer all the way to the drinker.   This web includes countless middle men and middle women you never see.  Maybe this cake went through various inflations in price and age. Maybe it changed hands 4 times and gained a few years each time. Abuse of the system exists because the lack of verifiable information.  But you have to think, here's a cake with no identifying date, it's supposedly 15+ years old and who knows where it's been.  Who can really vouch for an age of a twentieth century sheng except by taste and experience.  This is where the premium for a vendor's experience comes in-  you pay for the fact they tasted and sorted out the fakes and duds for you.

Despite appearances, I did not buy this cake to do an exposé.  I was pathologically driven by curiosity to buy this cake.  Why would such a big vendor risk his reputation by selling something so questionable?  I intentionally bought a whole cake knowing it was a fake because I thought I would have need to send out samples to various parties to confirm this is no 1998. But it was so so beyond the pale of a doubt that it's a youngster, I really don't need further confirmation. If I can tell so readily as other buyers did, then Jim must know this cake is no 16 year old.  I also thought the 7542 would be a more interesting fake than just another weak-ass subpar sheng.  This 7542 makes my other boring sheng(FTMs et al) look good. To boot, I actually don't think this 7542 is even a legitimate CNNP.

The statue on the left is the infamous Getty kuoroi.  Forgeries abound in the art world and even prestigious institutions like the Getty get taken for a ride.  There was enough controversy that they had to revise the label- "Greek, about 530 B.C., or modern forgery".  I guess if Jim had put in a caveat, I would not have even been interested.   Would people buy a cake of dubious provenance?  

At a certain point when buying aged cakes, it's based on vendor trust.  Should I support a vendor who knowingly puts cakes of questionable origin for sale?  Do I have to be weary of any other cake that I might buy from them.  This isn't some shady Chinese backstore without a return policy. This is the United States dang it with consumer protection laws!  I won't be looking for justice through Judge Judy although the thought of making her inspect different cakes and do an aged sheng tasting does fuel a brief comic fantasy.  For now I think I'll pass and begin my evaluation through other Asian vendors.  It really is too bad as I like the spirit of their operation and love 2 day shipping. Sigh.

22 comments:

  1. Hello,
    "Should I support a vendor who knowingly puts cakes of questionable origin for sale?"

    Nope. I think you should ask for refund. Returning a thing only when not open is maybe valid when you buy the real thing. However, this obviously is not the case. If you order a bed and get a table instead, I think that returning the thing is a perfectly valid thing, even if you used it. It's not your problem, it is a problem of the vendor.

    If you don't get the refund, I do not think the reaction of puerh public will be too favourable towards the puershop.
    Jakub

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  2. I agree with Jakub here - if it's pretty obvious it's fake, you should ask for a refund.

    Jim's Taobao link is not the same cake at all. The neifei has different words on it. The second line for your cake ends with "gongsi" 公司 (company) and the one on the Taobao item is "chupin" 出品 (produced by). Cannot be the same thing.

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    1. Even more baffling- when I wrote him that the wrappers were not the same, he wrote back

      "The fact is that the wrapper of our tea cake is much more authentic than the one at Taobao. Don’t you agree?"

      I have to work tonight so cannot make progress but Friday I will work on constructing undeniable proof. Jim's cake has a fake wrapper- it's unnaturally thick and the close character spacing for the Chitse Beeng Cha- I have never seen on any CNNP cake.

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  3. I just went to puerhshop and took a look - the cake in question, which is pictured there, is NEITHER the one you received, nor the one on Taobao. The neifei is yet again different. Very odd.

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  5. Quite odd. One can only conclude that the vendor is either unaware of what he is selling or is deliberately faking it. Neither option inspires confidence. I would definitely ask for a refund.

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  6. I will never order anything from Jim ever again between this cake a fake 09 8582 and the recently added dixing I ordered does not seem to match others descriptions of the cake. I think Jim is a con artist. Three times is to many for an honest mistake.

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  7. We have added another 'scandalous' 7542 - a vintage 2006 tea that looks like being produced last year!

    When I said "same tea cake where I got mine", it really means it is from the same true Kunming storage, as it looks so young, and the broth is still yellowish.

    Please, provide some solid evidence to back up your claims.

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  8. That's really interesting PuerhShop! So you would like me to purchase your 2006 tea that looks and tastes like it was picked just last year? Why would I do that? The whole point in me purchasing aged Puerh is because it is just that... AGED.

    Perhaps I should also seek out 12-year old whiskeys on the market that look and taste like they were made in 2010. I could therefore waste even more money!

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  9. Hi, Marshall 33 Fields. The fact is that 'our 2006 tea that looks and tastes like it was picked just last year' - that is someone's assessment, not mine.

    As I put before, you cannot judge a tea's age by its appearance alone.

    Did you try it to say so?

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  10. Hi, PuerhShop. Since you ask, I did in fact try a sample of this supposed 1998 7542. Isn't the internet grand?

    If I had paid for a 1998 tea and received something this young and unremarkable I would ask for a refund. If the dealer who had sold it to me did not remedy the situation appropriately, I would no longer purchase from that dealer. End of story.

    I don't plan on investing in the 2006 cake. That dog don't hunt.

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  11. Respectfully agreed if you have any doubt against a product by not buying it. My point is that it cannot be called as a 'fake' or something bad simply because the tea was not meeting with your expectation/imagination.

    Many, including myself, liked our 1998 7542 cake just fine.

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    1. I am drinking it right now...What a wonderful tea as it steeps out...on 7th steep now...delicious. A bargain for $78.00. These people are foolish.

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  12. PuerhShop,

    Expectation for a 1998 tea is pretty straightforward. One only need compare it to comparable teas that old. Expectation for a $60+ per cake tea is also straightforward. One only need compare it to similarly priced cakes. This tea didn't live up to either. Seems like a fine reason to call it 'something bad.'

    As the seller of such a cake, I would think you would use a little more humility/imagination in responding to your customers' feedback.

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  13. Please find a $60+ per cake that beats our 1998 7542, please quote the place you got it.

    Much appreciated!

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  14. I was looking at this tea the other day and I want to understand the criticism here: the OP bought this tea, tasted it and based on the taste and his experience with puerh teas in general decided it was not the vintage it said it was. Am I correct in my understanding?
    Thanks.

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    1. Yes, handfuls of drinkers who have bought this cake including myself have been disappointed by how extremely extremely young it it tastes. It's also expensive for what it is. You can read the comments from the other posts tagged puerhshop. I can trade you a sample.

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    2. For under $100.00, you would be hard pressed to find a one year old sheng, much less a 15 year dry aged? What do you want for nothing? A high quality dry aged sheng at 15 years old will run you well over $500.00. You get just what you pay for in this world. Ohhh Yeah just what is a 'hard hitting' journalist? I doubt he is hitting anything very hard...The tea is a fine tea for under $100.00 USD. Get a grip on yourslf.

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  15. Wow this is still going! LOL
    That's why I love your posts H!

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    1. When you google 1998 cnnp 7542, this site is the second suggestion. So....Yes, I thought the whole thing was silly for so little money. If the cake in question was over $400.00 maybe??? The line about 'hard-hitting journalist' got me more than the tea, which for under $100.00 is a delicious bargin.

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    2. No comments? Didn't think so.

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    3. Wow- didn't realize a troll popped up during my absence. If you like such bland dry sheng with no mouthfeel for that price, more power to you. I 've got no shortage of better teas bought eight years ago at tenth of the cost so I need not bother with the current dregs of the market. Drink on.

      H

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