As an irregular expatriate to China, I am quite alarmed to find out there is in fact a “tea scam”. There is no fake tea, but sub-standard tea. This is the thing about China these days. You will get what you want in most cases, but depending who you are dealing with, it might not be the “standard” that you are expecting. Since I drink quite a bit of Chinese tea, this news is refreshing.

Maliandao Tea City (?????) is located at Beijing, and is home to about 11 shopping centers with 1,200 shops. According to the news report, tea sellers purchased cheap tea at Fujian for about 120 RMB (500grams), and sell at Maliandao for 250 RMB or higher.

250RMB is about $36 USD. We normally do not buy tea in excess of 500 RMB. But anything above 250 RMB is supposed to be good quality.

She said experts can determine the quality of tea by looking, touching and tasting it. But amateurs are at the mercy of the sellers.

“There is no ‘fake’ tea, only substandard tea,” Zhang Xi, general manager of Maliandao tea city, was quoted by Beijing’s official news website Qianlong.com as saying.

“We are trying our best to stop price scams by doing a monthly check on 30 randomly selected tea shops.”

Unusually, there have been no complaints of substandard tea in Maliandao, according to the Xuanwu district industrial and commercial bureau.

“It’s hard for a customer to realize they have been deceived,” Liu Yingdong, a regular customer to Maliandao told METRO.

“Only experts can tell the class of a tea by sight,” a shopkeeper from “Guanyinwang” tea shop told METRO. “When the qualities of different teas are very close, it’s hard to tell the difference between one worth 160 yuan, 240 yuan, or 380 yuan.”

“From only a quick conversation, the seller can tell if you really know tea or not,” warned Wang Gang, a regular customer to the market.