I find that there are two things that the web will never run out of — puerh cakes purporting to be of Yiwu origin, and yixing pots that are supposedly Qing dynasty.
Let’s just pause for a moment to think — how likely is it that there will be an endless supply of such things on the web?
Take Yiwu tea for example. I remember in 2006, every cake out there claims to be Yiwu. Of course, if you’re selling young puerh, you want your tea to be from Yiwu — it’s the most famous of the mountains, and for the most part people have no way of telling if you’re lying or not. So, you slap the words “Yiwu” on a cake and voila, it’s Yiwu, and you can sell it for 10x what you could if you call it Jiangcheng. Add words such as “old tree” “wild” and the names of a few villages, instead of just “Yiwu”, and it seems more authentic. Now you can sell it for 20x the original price. Never mind that the amount of tea out there that claims to be Yiwu probably outnumber the amount of tea that the whole Xishuangbanna county produced in a year. It hasn’t stopped people from doing it. In the last few years producers have gotten more, well, inventive in their claims. “Yiwu impressions” and that kind of name are now more common. Consumers have caught on, and so the game has to change for the sellers to stay ahead.
More recently, we seem to be seeing the same thing with Yixing pots that claim to be Qing, at least in the English language world. Somehow, everybody has a Qing pot to sell, often for the bargain basement price of under $1000. Many of these so called “Qing” pots are suspect at best, frauds at worst. A walk around Taiwan or a search online can yield many similar looking pots for a fraction of the price, none claiming to be Qing, and to think that such things can be had for the price on offer, well, I have a whole bunch of Qing pots to sell to you for $500. When an authentic piece of work can go for thousands in the place where it came from, why would anyone sell it for hundreds online?
Unfortunately I find the tea business to be full of such sorts of schemes and half-truths. Somehow, there’s always a supply of buyers ready to jump in for things like this. Be careful out there; tea “masters” abound who are only too happy to take your money from you.