Transparency in the Tea Industry?
Hello, I’m just dropping by to start discussion on transparency. I believe that a common marketing technique for companies is to tell their customers to question everything, and spread the message of “transparency”, only as a way to ensure that their customers do not question THEIR tactics. I believe that forerunners in the industry should be setting examples for other companies and TRULY spreading knowledge and transparency, NOT the other way around.
While it may seem that the companies we buy from are the ones that should be spreading the truth, unfortunately that is not so as long as greed and money is involved. The quest for truth begins in you. Question the ones that tell you to question everyone else.
With that advice, I leave you this.
A discussion about the recent puer release by Verdant Tea: https://www.reddit.com/r/puer/comments/3w68ff/does_anyone_actually_believe_this/
Someone certainly believed it was from 1800 year old trees, they are sold out. The link above doesn’t seem to bring you to the whole discussion.
the steepster sheng group buy is in for 2 of each cake. http://steepster.com/discuss/12151-2016-sheng-olympics-group-buy
Oh, well at least the scam is shared a bit across many people.
Or, maybe we are drinking leaf from teh oldest tea tree in the world. We cant miss out on this chance of a lifetime golden opportunity
What I would like to know, (and what many others question in the thread) is how good the tea would actually be. These are uncultivated tea trees dating to before tea or puerh was really a thing. There must be a point where the tea made from the leaves just aren’t good to drink. Don’t even get me started on how they could have just plucked it from protected trees…
Regardless of what is going on here: The three cakes (which sold out) will be part of the Sheng Olympics which means that there might be quite a few people who will taste and report on the taste not about claims that are going around. I’m in the same boat as everyone else right now, being that I dropped $200+ with them on Cyber Monday, meaning I am waiting for Verdant to answer the questions being asked of them. With all of that said, I hope there is absolutely no drama spill over in the group buy because a lot of money and effort/time is going to be put into it.
It looks like this account was created just so you could target Verdant. I’m not defending them, but even your bio says:
Pissed off ex-verdant customer
Yes, it was. I am tired of being lied to and I think it’s important for others to know the truth as well.
+10 to what Marzipan is saying. The tea community should be hear for the right reasons. Does that mean we don’t get violated like any other customer being sold to using ‘possible’ advertising skills? Heck no, we are just as susceptible. If you ever look into the way that foods are labeled and the legality behind putting ‘all natural’ on a product you’d feel violated to belied to constantly as well. I think with the Reddit conversation already going on, there isn’t a need to throw more punches though it would be nice for others to be aware of something else; say, presenting this like it’s news.
My reaction to a thread like the reddit one is to be less likely to buy from the popular vendor who started the thread and is taking shots/swipes at other vendors (at least two in that thread). Hardly anything about the tone of that thread is constructive or informative. That can be pretty typical of Internet “discourse,” but it communicates more to me about the attacking vendor than anyone under fire…
I was SO going to stay out of this, but…..the problem as I see it is this – Verdant themselves made a really big deal about “transparency” and challenging other vendors to step up and be more transparent while this is not the first question that has come up about their practices. If you read ALL of the threads (which are linked in the reddit thread) including all the Tea Chat threads – it raises questions and I think the discussion is healthy.
When a claim is fairly outrageous, and I have to agree with the “popular vendor who started the thread” 1800 year old trees is pretty hard to swallow. Especially from people who moved to China to be near sources, etc. I expect them to be more knowledgeable about the way things work, the availability of tea from trees of that age (if those tress even exist) and for them to not be taken in by those kinds of claims, assuming that is what happened.
I understand there are livelihoods at stake here, but when you charge the extremely high prices Verdant charges (for pretty much everything), you should expect to be able to back up your claims.
Whether or not you shop with the “popular vendor” is up to you. I for one appreciate someone who has the kind of credentials/experience sourcing tea from China weighing in and calling attention to the issue. That popular vendor is one of the few that I trust to be honest and not spew a bunch of BS all over the place. I disagree with you that nothing in that thread was constructive or informative – there was quite a lot of information given about why those claims are questionable at best.
ETA: there were TWO popular vendors in that discussion and they were pretty much in agreement and similar in tone but you only mentioned one.
shadowrider I could be wrong and I apologies in advance but based on your account you’ve never had an experience with popular vendor started the thread on Reddit or much of other places. You are welcome to shop around with bunch of vendors and then make the sum ups.
All this mess wouldn’t happened if Verdant wouldn’t claim their teas are so ancient
When I made the post on Reddit, I simply linked the 1800 year old tree product on their site and asked “Does Anyone Actually Believe This?”
The response was overwhelming, because myself and many other people felt it was an absurd claim. It was followed by other stories of Verdant’s past scams and over-charging from their past customers and bloggers, as well as other tea experts and vendors weighing in with their educated assessment as to why the claims are absurd as well as the addressing the ethical aspect of picking leaves from trees that are that old (although I don’t think people actually believe the production was comprised of leaves from such an old tree).
I think the reddit thread contains alot of thoughtful responses in it, but there is also some anger and disgust as well. When someone in the tea community violates the trust of so many others through their careless or ill-intentioned actions the people who suffered have a right to speak out. Whether they be customers who spent their hard-earned money to buy something, or tea scholars whose job it is to research and share the truth or even vendors who work hard to be honest and educate their customers.
I have for 13 years been in involved in the Yunnan tea industry. I have lived in Yunnan full-time for 11 of those years and spend another 4-6 months a year there now. For all those years I never called out other vendors because I was concerned that people would say it was motivated by competition. I guess in my older age I start to worry less and I felt so strongly upset about Verdant’s claims that I just needed to ask the tea community on Reddit if people were actually buying that story.
Everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion about my motivations but I think people who know me and my business would agree that I am an honest person with good intentions for tea consumers.
I was gonna write my own opinion but after reading your post YS, I don’t feel the need anymore. Amen to that.
The Reddit thread has been cleaned up a lot since yesterday. A lot of responses were deleted. Edit never mind, it is posted twice. The /r/puer one is the one with all the vitriol.
Wow – I walked into a sacred cow here it seems. Yes, I’ve purchased from them, as well as the two vendors who I saw swiped at in that thread. I’ll settle up on my group buy in and then will be out of here. And I was so excited to stumble on this forum! I almost didn’t post and in retrospect I shouldn’t have. I just react so negatively when I see businesses take shots at competition – it comes across as poor form to me, but obviously just my opinion. Questioning the 1800 year claim is legit – just would prefer to see it come from the market, not the competition. And sorry, but also IMO, when I read through it, much of the thread was nasty and snarky.
I read through the reddit thread and agree with schadowrider – many of the comments seemed spiteful. Not being a puerh drinker, I’m unable to weigh in on this debate. However as a customer, these allegations if proven true would undermine their credibility.
Verdant more than any tea vendor touts their business ethics and honesty as what sets them apart from their competitors. I’m curious to see what Verdant’s response, if any, to this will be.
Dear schadowrider im very sorry and i apologies if i made you feel this way. if you go back and read my comment i started “I could be wrong and I apologies in advance”. I didnt mean to offend you.
Thanks – no problem boychik, and no apology necessary — your specific post didn’t offend me (although I did want to clarify that I had purchased from all of these vendors).
@shadowrider, You are important and your opinion is VALUED! Don’t leave the site as I think you will find the best people on here. I can understand and I hope the vendor in question will post an answer. I hope my comments weren’t wrong but I trust the guys I posted about.
^ This. Steepster really is a great community. We might not always agree, but the discussion is educational and very rarely mean or snarky. If it was I wouldn’t be here.
Thanks — yes, been learning a lot here; would be my loss!
boychik: Actually will be in City next weekend for work; aiming to have a dinner (or two) at Sanctuary T, and will be at Tea Drunk sometime Saturday and/or Sunday afternoon — I’ll PM you.
I never buy my pu based on stories it came from 1000 yr old trees. I buy if it tastes good to me. Nobody can prove the age of the trees.
I agree with Boychik. You can never judge how old the tea trees were. You have to judge by how much you like the tea. Having not tried Verdant’s sheng I don’t know how to judge them.
I’m personally not a fan of Verdant’s pu. I’ve tried at least 6 and haven’t been impressed, especially for the price. It’s why I’ve unloaded a bunch on the Pu TTB each round hoping someone else likes them. Sorry guys.
Buzzwords are the bane of my existence.
As for aging a tree, there has to be a way to do it other than cutting it and counting rings, I mean we have a good idea of the ages of a few ancient trees (Angel Oaks often comes to mind) but what it is I am not sure.
Also, now I admit I am not an expert in tea trees, but wouldn’t a tree of that age be bigger? Every ancient tree I have seen has been a massive sprawling thing, even trees that are usually quite small are big when they start being in the 200+ years old range.
Just a VERY cursory search found me this: http://teaurchin.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-worlds-oldest-tea-tree.html and if you compare it to the picture of the trees Verdant has in its listing….welll, Verdant’s tree is tiny, you can tell by the surrounding foliage, moss, and lichen patches. Granted I am also willing to believe the tree could be stunted if it was grown in an alpine environment (I have seen plenty of old yet tiny alpine trees in the mountains) but I do not believe that the 2,100m height listed counts as alpine.
Just my musing since I honestly am not at all sure.
I’m not going to say I’m surprised. This is why I stay out of the Pu-erhs. I love them, and respect them. But unless I am there in Yunnan buying them….I only take it at face value.
@Amanda. That’s a really interesting article. I agree with your opinion that the tea plant doesn’t look to be the right age. Though I don’t think the picture that the teaurchin blog is showing is correct. It looks to me like a Camellia Sinensis hybrid.
*Edit. Found another blog that mentions this specific tea tree as a different variety (http://horsesmouth.puerist.co/bada-wild-tea-tree/). I’ll see if I can find the article for why they thought that.
**Edit yet again. Found this article which seems to be talking about the Camellia taliensis as a separate species. TL;DR taxonomy is a pain in the arse and no one should study it. ever. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3890520/
Camellia Taliensis is quite good. It gets mixed into tea cakes to add some thickness, it is a sweet varietal. YS sells whole cakes of it, their Jinggu line. I don’t consider that varietal any form of scam.
Nope, I don’t disagree Cwyn. My comments about Camellia Taliensis are completely unrelated. Was just in reference to the teaurchin blog that Amanda was referencing.
Good to know about the tree being a Camellia Taliensis, gotta love taxonomy (not really, it is a giant headache, and has caused me to smash my face into the keyboard more than once) also good to know about YS having some, I will have to try it because that kinda thing is right up my alley.
If anything this has taught me how little I know about the tea trees in Yunnan, if anyone runs across some good references about them please let me know, I feel the need to educate myself more in tea botany.
Soggy, you might want to check your sample stash first? YS has been making these cakes at least four years now, maybe longer. You might have some already. The varietal is recognizable by really fuzzy light beige leaves in the cake. I probably have some left I can send you, just drop me a PM.
Well I have been wanting an excuse to reorganize my sample pile ;) I shall rummage and see what I find!
@Cwyn – are all of the YS jinggu cakes the Taliensis material? I think I have a couple and now I want to try it myself.
That I don’t know, but I have found the Taliensis in other YS teas. The regular Jinggu arbor cake is a Taliensis cake, if you try that one you start to recognize the varietal after that. Again, look for the really fuzzy leaves.
Amanda, I think Allan tried it today. Look for his pics on IG. Very pretty fuzzy fat leaves
I’m curious about Taliensis now. Does anyone have a sample they’d be willing to sell or swap me for?
@Blodeuyn – I will look at my jinggu cake and see if its fuzzy and if it is, I’ll send you some. This assumes I can find it.
MzPriss, that just cracks me up. The Jinggu area of teas sold by YS range in price from about $27-50, depending upon the year. The price goes up by a couple of dollars for each year in age, but in general these teas are very reasonable. I noted to myself awhile back that mrmopar has the 2011 Jinggu, which I think is sold out. Hehehe I doubt he wants me to mention this. Hehehe
@Cwyn – I looked at my YS order history and I have at least on 2011 Jinggu – so I’m off to dig through the shengidor
Funnily enough, Ive just drank a camellia taliensis, 2015 Old Arbor Yue guang bai, its a white that has been processed for longer and pressed into 200g cakes from YS.
Its nice, another one of those stronger white-type teas ive drank a few times recently
I’m about to bust into this little baby 2011 Jing Gu mini cake. It is a very inexpensive ($8/100 gram cake) from Yunnan Sourcing. I’ll update after I try it. @Blodeuyn PM me with your address and I’ll send you some.
Rummaging through my stash and notes, turns out I have had it in the form of the Jing Gu Silver Needles, but I do not currently have any in my stash. Clearly my next order will be more of those silver needles because I remember really liking them…alas that I wanted to try something new on my recent order and got different needles of silver fuzz!
@Blodeuyn – I was following you before. Am I somehow not now? I will check and fix that. And I sent you a PM
Oh yes.! Ive just stuck the review up of the 2015 Yue Guang Bai, looks the same as that mini cake is also from Jing Gu, and is like a lovely sheng. Did 3g grandpa style 90c – It was lovely!
warm wavey cha qi as well as lovely huiguan. winner
@Rasseru – I’m liking it. Sweet and surprisingly tasty with nice little bit of relaxation. $8 is a great deal for the little mini.
Time just runs differently in China. I was horrified to discover that the thousand-year-old egg actually only takes a few months to prepare.
There is a way to measure age of a living tree: take a core sample. But realistically, why bother? It’s an old tree. ’Nuff said.
Tea sellers will claim a huge factory production run is pure gushu, or top quality material from LBZ, this one special 50s cake was bought from an old man at a market, Christ himself planted the trees, it was picked by monkeys because the air was too thin for humans, or whatever. Just the same as anyone with a vested interest in selling cars, electronics, drugs, food, makeup, clothes and so on will tell you a story you want to hear.
Your tuition fee for this tea semester has been paid, welcome back next year :)
Has anyone asked Verdant about this?
Edit: reading the reddit thread now…
Transparency in the tea industry is like asking for transparency in advertising though…. now, I should stay out of but I won’t.
If you go through the history of companies who have had allegations on their claims you would see that Verdant is the most recent followed behind with Whispering Pines. Go back a year and you’ll see Mandela…
Unfortunately, it’s hard to know if it’s people trying to make money or if there is some sort of understanding that isn’t clearly communicated in the translating part or the intentions of the seller were for what you read and understand to be completely different.
You’re upset, I get that. I was the same way when I was buying all the same types of tea from vendors thinking there might be a superior product only to find out that they all source from the same farms and just market them different. How often do you want to say ’I’m drinking some green tea’ versus ’I’m drinking some High Grade Mountain Rain Dragon Concubine High Fragrant Dream Inducing Green Tea’?
However, think about how lucky we are to have the internet with a tea community that helps bring awareness to the tea world. Most of us can’t visit the farms and go to the expos, but we have the ability to discuss online what is going on and figure out how the tea world is expanding. Tea culture is growing and that is why we are seeing so many new products being released and companies on the upcoming. That means that there will be pressure to appeal to customers because they know what sells. Let me backtrack here, this isn’t towards Verdant, I’m just being vague. Just like you, I am a member of this community and I want to see it excel; just be sure to think about the best way to go about that.
Side note: Verdant did move their headquarters from the US to China to be near their farmers so lets please give them time to respond because I can’t imagine how much dedication went into moving to China to source tea for their growing business.
My first instinct is to contact Verdant and let them know about the threads. Not to create accounts just to bash them. Let them respond, whether it’s “mea culpa” or otherwise
I own a company as well, and sometimes there are posts on forums that I need to deal with as well. I hate it when they fester before I get a chance to address them. If you feel strongly enough about the issue, vote with your dollars. But why go on a bashing crusade? This isn’t a bashing type board anyway. Leave that crap on Reddit.
Marzi I agree with you that Steepster isn’t a bashing type board, but I don’t see anything wrong with letting people know that there are questions and letting vendors respond to those. People here spend their money on tea and if there are questions, they should be addressed. Tone is always an issue of course. I’m pretty sure Verdant is well aware of all of this, but in case they aren’t I don’t see anything wrong with letting them know either so they can participate in the discussion. It would be an opportunity for them to demonstrate their transparency. So with that in mind, I’m forwarding a link to this discussion. ETA – and that is now done.
The tea usually speaks for itself in the cup and brew.
Maybe we could have a Vendor question thread where we could post questions for the Vendors to reply to?
I will say, all I deal with have always answered any question I have asked them. In turn I stick by my “enablers” that supply me.
eBay , Aliexpress and TaoBao are filled with these 1000 year old tea claims. We all have to judge and caution ourselves when we see these things.
I will say the active Vendors on here I trust to sell me what they say they have. I have never been disappointed and the Vendor above in this discussion has always been a ‘Straight Shooter’ in my book. The other one in the Reddit thread is in the same ‘trusted’ category for me.
These guys are not out to pass judgement, but just seek the truth as we all do. We see these claims every day. Mainland China is full of more forgery than probably the whole North American continent. I feel good that the ones I deal with separate the wheat from the chaff in the tea market for me.
Thanks to this posting, I was sucked into reading numerous threads until very late at night. I am un-glueing myself from this computer screen and going to bed. However, I am amazed at how little of the tea community I have seen. I’m very happy to have discovered this thread.