Saturday, September 22, 2012

Moving Non-Humorous Controversy to Teachat

To keep the tone of this blog congenial and focused on what I do love about tea, I thought I would start posting what I find egregious(and lacking a sufficient humorous angle) on teachat.  When I noticed something newly suspicious on Verdant Tea about a 2006 Tiandiren Bulang being too prohibitively expensive to import and will be offered only through their special Pu-er Reserve project,  I couldn't help but alert the public:

http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=17766&p=228490#p228490

I was a bit surprised to see that my public service efforts against vendors who upcharge 900% have a backlash this month.
  • on teachat -  David Duckler has responded indicating that he will improve his transparency and include a $40 Fuhai.  Mentions he chose Star of Bulang because it had the closest flavor profile to a Yiwu. MarshalN responds with fact and reason. Verdant Tea's business manager Geoffery Reiff shows that the 2006 Tiandiren Bulang they carry is not the cheap $11 Bulang but a more expensive version  $33-$50.  If you consider a sub $50 beeng too prohibitively expensive to import, there's something wrong with the margins of your puerh business IMHO. 
  • on steepster - I wouldn't expect any less in Verdant Tea's strong hold where they miraculously dominate the top 7 spots for best puerh of all time.  Insult to injury, a supporter has reported me as being malicious for stating the plain fact that Yongming and Tiandiren are low-end factories producing budget cakes not worth $156. However she removes her insult laden post.
  • on redditSpoonvonstup- reviewer of 41 Verdant Teas on Steepster- has wagered -  "I'd eat both of my shoes if David ever tried to "pull a fast one" on anyone." Never addresses the core issue of Verdant Tea's massively overpriced cheap factory puerh.
  • on MarshalN- Bonnie, an ardent Verdant Tea supporter has shown up to take a stand against tea snobbery of those who find fault with Steepster or Verdant Tea's exorbitant pricing.
If people want to drink way over-priced low-end pu-erh and never really experience better teas for the same amount of money or much less- who am I to tell them otherwise. The two defenders are coming from a subjective emotional defensive angle and I don't want to touch that.

15 comments:

  1. Well, people will either listen or they will not. Yes, reasons such as "only 12 followers" are particularly stupid (after all, Frodo had 8), but that's how people tend to think. "Thought by masses" is better than reason voiced by a single person.

    I've been bashed several times myself, trying to show people that they really do not need support resellers and mid-men; generally in vain. The self-importance and desire not to show that one could do better is very strong I guess.

    Anyway, although it may not be the cheeriest thing to say - looking at the discussions from afar, they tend to be slightly humorous actually :)
    Good evening and do not let the backlash depress you!
    Jakub

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    1. Dear Jakub,

      Thank you for your kind words. I was feeling quite grumpy about this whole affair wondering why I bother at all. I was trying to do a public service to the new drinkers.

      But the key question in my mind is if Verdant Teas is scamming or being scammed. A tea vendor who knows Chinese would definitely know Tiandiren and Yongming are really low-end pu-erh factories. Too suspicious. Given the evidence, I think Spoonvonstup would have to eat both his shoes. A sheng which tastes like oolong IMHO should raise red flags...

      It's funny and not funny at the same time...

      H

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    2. I'd echo Jakub - people will either listen or they won't, and surprisingly, there are many perfectly smart people otherwise who happily fork over good money to known scammers, because they think of these people are "tea master" or some such. I think in retail, something like 300% markup is generally pretty reasonable in tea - because of shipping, packaging, cost of running business, need to buy food to feed oneself, etc. However, doing it while misrepresenting the tea is not cool. I'm usually not too worried about people marking up their tea, but I have a lot of problems with people who hide info or who misrepresent info. David Druckler, it seems to me anyway, is doing that.

      And as I've mentioned on the teachat thread, if he can be easily undercut by a Taobao merchant selling the same thing, well, then he shouldn't really be selling this tea.

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    3. I would agree with Jakub that those type of "controversies" are more often than not humorous...

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  2. As someone taking his first steps into the world of pu, I must say that I've personally appreciated your efforts. Most, if not all, people, when confronted with information that greatly contradicts their current opinions, respond emotionally. I agree with Jakub that some people just won't listen because they don't want to. It's part of human nature, sadly. But I'm writing this to show you that some do listen. I've learned a lot from this whole harangue. I hope that if in the future you come across something superbly egregious you will consider posting about it here, at least occasionally. :)

    Aaron

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    1. Thank you Aaron. Egregious posts probably make for more exciting reading than tea reviews- I'd rather read about a juicy scam over tea tasting faintly like fruit.

      When I was blogging 6 years ago, even when I had a terrible tea, I just didn't want to write about it. Mostly because I didn't know enough, or sometimes the tea vendors were so nice. Even now I run into terrible teas from vendors I like and I don't write about them out of choice.

      Hster

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    2. Hster,

      I would echo Aaron's reply in that what you are doing, or anyone who points out similar problems, is a good thing. You will find that most people don't really want to learn, they want others to tell them how great their opinions are... no matter how flawed. So sadly, I am sure feathers will be ruffled.

      It is comforting reading that you struggle with writing about terrible teas. I did this slightly the other day, but am careful about it. I have, what my husband refers to as an 'acerbic' manner of speaking at people when I criticize. I am learning how to tone this down, so I have stayed away from the bad reviews so far. :)

      Eric

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    3. Eric,

      You were kind enough not to mention the vendor for this "shockingly flat" tea and it really is one of the rare reviews where you fault a tea.

      We should just start a new anonymous blog called crankyteaguys and just post as brutally honest as we want for bad teas. Wait wait- shah8 already does that! Actually Jakub too.

      Hster

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    4. I think for quite a while I was the resident grumpy guy, and then I decided to get out of the business.

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    5. You were better than any of us IIRC. Actually I was reading your teachat response to David Ducker and all I could think of is "Go go marshalN!"

      http://www.teachat.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=17729&start=15

      I'm just an amateur but I did learn at the feet of the master.

      Humbly H

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  3. Very interesting reading, I am also reasonably new to the whole tea world, luckily currently live in Asia so I get ripped of by tea merchants directly rather by arrogant middle man :)....but it is very refreshing to see that there are many knowledgeable and integral sources of information from blogs like this one allowing people to make an educated choice about what they buy...whether they chose to use this information or not is up to them..

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    1. Dear Greg,

      Can you tell when a tea merchant is trying to rip you off? Or I guess it's knowing to what degree you got ripped off. But the best ones probably make you feel good about paying more or you don't ever know that you got ripped off.

      In Egypt, foreigners get perpetually ripped of with the simplest possible transactions. So when I buy water, I try to go buy water from someone who will rip me off 20% and not 100%+.

      Hster

      H

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    2. I guess it is all in the art of maximising profit according to how much the customer knows....

      I have been in different tea shops in china where the guy next to me gets quoted a price in English and then when asking in Chinese you start at about half or even less...that was in a more commercial busy tea shop in shanghai. Some even outright ly say since your speaking Chinese I ll give you a better price, which I guess is still a little more than locals would get but to be expected really....

      Other than that, the usual question of how much are you looking to spend, say x/Jin, then curiously most tea seem to be in that range except the one you really liked during the tasting...which of course ends ups being 10-20% more...

      One tea shop where I buy oolong also has a few puerh, although the owner doesn't rate it himself, he showed me a few cakes. I tried a couple and bought a shu. Noticing there were some interesting looking square cakes at about 20$..by the time I returned next time they had gone up to about 60$...

      My favourite though is not as much a rip off rather then withholding information...you see my regular tea shop is owned by a lovely couple, the laoban being a bit more cold and reserved while his lady is very open and always cracking a joke.

      On occasions I go there and drink a cup, buy some tea or just get on my way home. One time, after a long evening chatting the lady brewed us some of their own aged, 7 years old oolong, which was really lovely so i ended up buying some. A few weeks later having a friend's birthday I returned to the shop to buy some of that special brew...only this time it was the old man in the shop...I tried as hard as I could but he didn't even gave it away that he knew what I was talking about....7 years oolong? We don't have such a thing...have some Alishan he said....I left with another tea thinking my chinese had either got worse or he must have sold out...

      Only 2 months later, same setting, drunk on tea, end of evening, the old man feels generous and treats us to his 7 year old oolong...

      Same thing happened again when I wanted some taiwanese Tie guan yin, again I had bought some a few weeks before and having a friend visiting we went back there to get some more for his return. This time the old man said that he sold out of Taiwanese Tie guan yin but had some lovely Chinese one...we tried, wasn't as nice I thought but my friend got some anyways...few days later I returned and had a cup with the lady, asking about what my friend got she mentioned that although running low they still had some Taiwanese left over...the laoban is very proud of his teas and for most of them roasts himself, etc, so I think it is really a case of him deciding whose palate is worthy of drinking what tea...

      And of course if your going to get ripped off it is always better with a smile and a cup of tea....

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    3. Dear Greg-

      Your story of the cranky laoban is most perfect for a comic book on your adventures in Asia (by any chance do you sketch?). I love the fact that one has to prove oneself worthy to get the good stuffs. Internet tea buying just isn't satisfying in comparison.

      H

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  4. Haha, Bonnie is so awesome :-D I love that kind of posts - I don't think that anyone outside America could write this.
    Jakub

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