Do you think some tea companies hire fake people for promotion ?

Reason is I’m reading reddit for tea and noticed daily or weekly some company Yunnan-source always have a post like “look at my new tea”. When I posted about this, I think they silenced me. What is your opinion on fake people making fake review or post ?

69 Replies
tperez said

Sure it’s possible that some companies do that, but Yunnan Sourcing is very well known and has been around for a long time, I highly doubt that they need the attention.

A year or so ago it was constant What-Cha haul posts on Reddit, I think YS is just the current popular company there.

YS had plenty of fake shill accounts exposed on r/tea too, it is part of the reason why I left. Large communities allow for degenerate behavior with little accountability.

Really? I had no idea that happened to YS on r/tea. Terrible that a company would do that. Let the tea speak for itself!

“plenty of fake shill accounts”? The story expands with each retelling. I read the r/tea topic in question several times and the end result. Scott explained he had a separate account to ask tax questions and he apologized for the way he used it. He also stopped posting on r/tea. His tea does speak for itself.

It went a bit deeper than that, but ok.

Arby said

I’d be interested to get a link to that thread. I must have missed that, but I feel like I can’t recommend YS if Scott actually misused multiple accounts.

Google Yunnan Source fake accounts. It is locked for no good reason.

Even at Reditt -55 Comment Karma is quite an accomplishment.

I don’t judge reddit truthfulness by karma #s as it is easily gamed. I read the arguments and posts and judge from there. But if that’s how you form your opinion then nobody is stopping you lol.

I read your posts, your opinions. :D

gerry1234 said

Does anyone know if Jas-eteas premium teas is still in business? I ordered a piece of tea ware 3 weeks ago. The funds were taken from my account within 2 days, but nothing has been sent to me. I tried to contact them by phone and email. They have not responded to the messages I left and sent. Wondering if anyone knows about this company?

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I definitely think that some companies hire fake people (or they use friends / family anonymously), but I don’t have any proof.

As for Yunnan Sourcing – there is an odd love affair with them over on Reddit and some other forums. You are right that there are practically daily posts from people posting images of their ‘tea hauls’, and these seem to be celebrated. And yet, we once had a customer do the same for our teas (completely surprised us!) and it was criticized and received a bunch of down votes.

Public bias is a real phenomenon, and is far more powerful than anything nefarious.

Come to think of it, I also noticed one time a newbie posted about his tea from a small new company, he was also down voted and criticized. Then I realized something was off in the tea reddit that when people post about tea from Yunnan-source, they are always positive review and never criticized. Completely opposite reaction which was suspicious.

meowster said

I remember seeing your haul post on reddit.

I did not like it either, but that’s because (from what I can recall) the teas were labelled as “green,” “oolong,” etc. with no more specificity. YS bags always have more info on the bags.

That’s just a bad haul pic imo. Comparable to the teabag haul posts.

I upvote YS (and various hauls from different vendors) when:
1) I’ve personally tried those vendors and liked them, so it makes me happy that other ppl are supporting them as well.
2) when there’s discussion/recommendation/review from the op or others about specific teas in the haul

Hi Meowster,

I really appreciate the feedback on our packaging / labeling. Part of our design aesthetic is to keep things as simple as possible, and to that end we originally decided to only put the ‘high-level’ tea type on the front, with more specific information on the back.

Since then, we have developed more relationships with local stores who, like you, would prefer the majority of the information up front.

To that end, we will actually be rolling out a new label in the near future to give more information, such as “Dong Ding Heavy Roast” instead of “Oolong”.

We are still a new company (launched November 2017), and our focus first and foremost is on our tea. We know that our teas are often 20-40% cheaper than similar quality tea from competitors, and we are very happy to state that we have even been able to source from top-quality farmers who historically haven’t dealt with US vendors. We know that this helps give our tea a step-up on the competition.

meowster said

I was commenting mostly about why I think the haul post from you was not liked by the r/tea community.

I can’t comment on how your prices compare to competitors. I might try your teas someday.

However, a couple reasons that would deter me from purchasing (other than my unreasonably large stash):
1) prices don’t actually seem cheaper. Your Jin Xuan is more expensive than Tea Ave and BTTC. Those are just two quick checks from competitors.
2) low variety. It does not seem possible for me to qualify for free shipping while not committing to large amounts of tea that I haven’t tested out.

Now that I looked at your site more closely. I can see that your vibe is going to be more similar to Dazzle Deer than to specialty vendors (FLT, White2Tea, CLT) or wide variety stores (like YS, What-cha, etc).

That’s fine, but comparing yourself against or judging larger vendors for their popularity seems… silly considering your newness and difference in appeal.

1) You are comparing prices without comparing quality. Our Jin Xuan and Dong Ding are the absolute best we could find. Nobody else carries them from this farmer.
2) Low variety is two fold: We are new, so still in the process of adding new variety. Also, we want to maintain ‘relatively’ low variety to prevent decision paralysis which we believe is a major problem for people newer to tea when they first come upon other sites / stores.

As for Dazzle Deer – there are a couple major differences between us and them (at least my perception of them from perusing their site).
1) We select significantly higher quality tea leaves. If we sold our teas at Dazzle Deer’s prices, we’d be selling it for less than what we pay the farmer (after significant negotiation).
2) We source directly from farmers, not through middle-men, sourcers, finders, or distributors.

As for FLT, White2Tea, CLT, etc…. We have tried some of FLT’s Charcoal roast Dong Ding (comparable to our heavy roast). We like ours more. And ours is (slightly) cheaper.

meowster said

I mean… quality claims are hard to substantiate, especially for a new vendor. I’m not going to dispute that, but using that combined with the claim that you’re cheaper than equivalent quality competitors is pretty meaningless.

No more comments on your business. Best of luck to you.

Thank you. I appreciate the feedback. It is very difficult for new vendors to garner trust in this industry – it must be earned.

We hope to someday count you not only as a customer, but a repeat customer (a sign of satisfaction).

Some people like meower judge quality of tea from the number of words/adjectives used even if they can’t really verify those lol…for example he’ll like 1800s fujian province monkey-picked monkey-hand-rolled dragon-bitten duck-fermented winter oolong with 9001 feet elevation. lol

Brian said

shots fired :-P

meowster said

eye roll.

I was commenting on why I did not like the haul pic from leafy green. The pic (as I recall) had no info on the teas purchased other than “oolong” and “green.” That’s nice, but I don’t get more out of that.

A typical haul pic I like include more info on the teas and hopefully some discussion/recommendation in the comments.

Anyway, Leafy Green and I discussed why I thought their haul pic was not as well liked by r/tea, and everything was peacefully resolved. Some ppl just like drama and YS-hating for no apparent reason and won’t see logic.

Whatevs. I’m sure YS (and all the other vendors who hire “fake ppl” to post haul pics) won’t lose business over this.

We appreciated meowster’s feedback and one of his complaints (lack of info on front label) is something we have heard before and is/was already in the process of being updated.

There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism – in fact, it is encouraged.

Next time we pay somebody to post a haul pic, we’ll make sure they take a picture of both sides of the bag so you can see more details.


Meowster – if you give us a follow, I’d love to send you a PM.

Sent you a message Meowster – Just a heads up, not sure what the notification system is like here.

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YatraTeaCo said

r/tea has a massive hive mentality, and this was actually explained to me by some members when I asked why the sub skews so heavily away from Indian/Indian sub-continent teas. I’ve learnt that, generally speaking, there is a preference for Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese teas on that sub. And among vendors, YS is a definite favorite.

I saw some topics related to YS’ multiple accounts. Some people vehemently defended YS, while others were very vocal in their criticism.

Given the hive mentality, can a relatively new company gain some traction by inviting friends, family, creating fake accounts? Possibly, especially if you have a handful of people starting “haul” threads.

I’ve never done that and won’t. Maybe I’m the dumb one but I have real trouble with my conscience. I’ve LOVE for someone to naturally post favorable reviews of my teas. It happened once and I was overjoyed! Will keep plugging away and hopefully it’ll happen again!

Ken said

I think part of the reason for that is Indian teas dont have the same level of quality that Chinese teas do. They get a little stuck on the mass produced black tea. That being said, Nepal and some African growers are starting to branch out a bit.

With the internet its possible that smaller farms experimenting with other tea types might start to break in more. Ive had some very good tea from Vietnam and Indonesia. I think we might see some improvements from Darjeeling as well.

YatraTeaCo said

IMO Indian teas definitely do have the quality (I won’t compare quality across two regions, to me that’s apples and oranges). Its more a problem of mass produced tea being many people’s first introduction to Indian tea. The supermarket broken Assam tea, or the Darjeeling blend.

There is so much more to Indian teas than that. And I’ll rope in Nepali teas into the discussion as well, since most of the tea is grown in the east, close to Darjeeling, and shares similar terroir.

The notion that quality isn’t prevalent in Indian teas makes me sad, but something I’m trying to change.

Nice catch. The tea reddit vendor list is also weird in that Yunnan Source has like 3 companies there and only Chinese or Japanese companies made the top, and zero Indian or other tea countries…

meowster said

I think the vendor list is sorted by upvotes when they were compiling, so yes, it speaks to the fact that ppl on that sub prefer Chinese/Japanese/Taiwanese teas.

Idk about that, more than half of the top vendors in the list were like suggested by one person/mod lol. If you can’t see how that is suspicious then you need to see an eye doctor.

meowster said

It’s literally linked there… if you can’t bother fact checking, maybe you need to see an eye doctor

yeah, I don’t think you even read the actual voting thread lol

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VoirenTea said

“some company Yunnan-source”

Disingenuous. You know exactly who you’re talking about. Calling posters fake without proof is going to drive new people away from a community. There are reasons YS is one of the first places people find or are recommended.

Imo the proof is in the pudding. I don’t notice any other tea company have the “look at my new tea” posts so often as Yunnan-Source. Not sure what proof you want, maybe you want fake people admitting they are writing fake reviews? lol

VoirenTea said

All you are saying is “lots of people are posting about this, so they must be fake”. I mean, that’s even worse than the nose smiley accusations.

(There was a time I was in the minority for using smileys without noses – plenty of my colleagues still use them. It depends where you learned to internet).

Newbies are more likely to post tea haul posts on reddit (a community of more established people seem to reserve theirs for instagram at the moment, and I expect there are ones on FB but I don’t look there). Newbies are also likely to buy from YS first, or at least early on. Newer newbies see those posts and it’s self-sustaining. You don’t actually need anything nefarious to be going on for that to happen.

@tperez is right about the What-Cha haul posts – there have been fewer of them right now than there have been in the past. Might be a new rush when new spring teas get there, I guess.

More generally, I don’t like the rhetorical devices used by a small handful of posters about this kind of stuff. They go like this:
1. Clickbait headline
2. Controversial assertion
3. Maybe a tiny acknowledgement of doubt, quickly forgotten.
4. Summing up that adds more insinuations to the initial accusation, with no extra proof added, and speaks of the entire thing as if it were all certain now.

I mean, there’s a hole in their thesis there. If you’re accusing someone of something, the burden of proof is on you.

I’m just stating my observations about the statistical anomaly of Yunnan-source posts flooding the tea reddit. There’s no thesis here. There’s no crime here to demand burden of proof. Why so defensive lol? Btw, your post is full of misdirection, whataboutism, assumptions and ad hominem.

meowster said

Statistical anomaly? lol

YS is large and (relatively) old. It makes sense that they have a large following.

There’s a reason YS and What-cha have the most haul posts. It’s because their massive catalogue is conducive to purchasing large hauls!

They also interact with customers a lot from what I can tell. Scott posts a lot of videos I think, and Alistair (I might’ve misspelled his name) writes personal notes in the order. Both things make customers like them more as well.

Yunnan-source and What-cha are not the only large tea companies lol. There are lots of big famous tea companies and other smaller specialized companies but these two dominate at least 80% of reddit tea hauls lol. If you cannot see how this is suspicious and possibly fake people with fake reviews, then you need to see an eye specialist.

meowster said

They are the ones that are popular for new ppl and, yes, reddit. If a newbie goes to reddit, he/she is likely to find others who like those companies, then they purchase, then they post their haul posts. Is it that hard to believe?

Honestly, your account seems more fake. No followers and not following anyone. I’m pretty new here, and I have those too. And you have no tasting notes or any other sign of participation other than disparaging YS… Hmmm I wonder if you’re a YS hater.

Popular yes, but 80-90% of tea hauls posts popular? Nope.
As expected, with no actual rational argument, resorting to ad hominem and criticizing account age is your last resort lol

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tperez said

Lol “the proof is in the pudding”? I see no pudding…

Yunnan Sourcing has the most tea haul posts so obviously the only explanation is that they’re fake… If you look back a few months/ a year ago you’d be seeing tons of What-Cha tea haul posts. It’s what’s popular there right now

“It’s what’s popular there right now”

I think this is likely the truth. As I said above: Public bias is far more powerful than anything nefarious. It has become “socially acceptable” to post hauls from YS, but not from smaller companies.

I would complain… but someday I hope ‘tea haul posts’ about Leafy Green will be swarming r/tea due to our mass appeal and quality, and, sadly, some will likely accuse us of fake posts too.

Everybody hates the King. Right now, that is YS. Bravo to them.

Bluegreen said

I think the reasons for “hive mentality” and relative neglect of “other companies” are simple: selection and price. Yunnan Sourcing has a tremendous variety of teas covering a dizzying multitude of types, years and packaging options. And all kinds of tea pots, cups, coasters, picks, strainers, tea pets… Finally, their prices for 50g are often similar to prices that smaller shops charge for 25g and that makes a difference.

It is a one-stop shop for people who like Chinese tea, a Walmart of teas. It would be nice if someone created something similar for Indian teas – this niche is still open.

YatraTeaCo said

There are sites that offer vast ranges of Indian teas. Vahdam is a good example. Teabox as well. These are companies with setups in India, fairly close to the major tea producing regions.

They are also competition for me. My curated list consists of 11 teas at present. Theirs is far more extensive. Yes, I would like to fit in the niche of being a purveyor of fine Indian teas, especially since I am US based, and that’s what I am attempting to do. But it is tricky – I cannot take on 50 estate teas at once, purely because I am relatively new. I have access to any quality of any tea grown in India and Nepal – I am very very fortunate to have strong connections with the actual producers. But its baby steps for now.

I don’t have a problem with YS or anyone dominating the discussion. They’ve earned that right. Us smaller companies have to keep chipping away, provide a great product with exceptional service, and hopefully start getting a little more recognized on the tea sub-reddit, or Steepster, or wherever. Then any perceived hive mentality works in our favor!

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Gitana said

Yunnan Sourcing is a well respected and trustworthy company. They do well because they sell good tea and treat their customers fairly. But because most of their selection is shipped from China, which takes several weeks, most people do not buy casually from them. They place a large order because it is the most efficient way to get what they want.
My last purchase was not from Yunnan Sourcing, though I have bought from them in the past and will do so again. I bought over 6 lbs of tea. If I had posted a picture it would be an impressive haul. But I am not the show off type. My point is that generous purchases of tea are not unusual. Some people just like to show off their shopping prowess like hunter posting pictures of his kill.

mrmopar said

Well noted. I generally just add them in the cupboard and don’t do many ‘haul’ photos.

Dustin said

Yeah… but 6lbs is an exceptional amount of tea! I want to see pictures of that haul! LOL!

Gitana said

Sorry Dustin. I am retired now and drink less exotic tea than I used to. My 6lbs haul was from Harney and Sons. Tasty but pretty cheap. Still, I was able to retire at 49 in part by not being too selective with tea. Let’s see…live on a sailboat in the Sea of Cortez before 50 or drink great tea? Hmm…tough choice! Of course I’m bragging…I am not humble about it at all! Haha!

If you drink half a pound of tea a month (which is quite high for most people), then you were spending ~$90 a month on H&S tea, vs. maybe $140-$200 from a high quality vendor.

So you were saving ~$80 / month (probably much less), or $960 per year. And that is using very conservative assumptions. You probably drink closer to 1/8 to 1/4 pound of tea per month, saving ~$20 per month, or $240 per year.

I’ll take the great tea :)

Gitana said

I drink 5 “pots” (about 500 ml each) per day. I prefer western style and I like Flavored teas like Earl Grey. I seldom re-Brew my leaf because the flavor is too weak for rebrewing. I buy 3 months at a time. That 2,925 grams / 3 or about 2 lbs per month.
I am retired, I have time to drink whatever I want.
After a life time of drinking tea I have decided that I like my cheap tea. Nope, no ceremony, no mindful contemplation of flavor or aroma. Just tea.
I find my preference to be freeing.
The funny thing about enjoyment is that it is an active thing. One chooses to enjoy or not. No terrior, estate or hand picked anything can give enjoyment to you. Funny enough I enjoy my tea now as I ever did when I sought out the best I could afford.
As you can see my prior comment was a bit tongue in cheek. Sure, I could buy better tea and drink less of it but my enjoyment would not be higher.

Half a pound of tea a month is totally doable: it’s six grocery-store 20-ct boxes of whatever bagged stuff you like. Harney regular-line tins are 1.4oz each, Bigelow bags are 1.18 oz.

You are definitely drinking low quality tea if you cannot re-steep your loose leafs lol…This is almost always the case for blends or flavored teas which are low quality masked by flavoring. That’s why I only drink pure loose whole leaf with no added stuffs.

When we sell at local markets, we typically brew ~15 grams at a time using 1L of water and we steep it 4x, adding about 0.75L each time. This is a total of 3.25L for 15 grams of tea. The taste is delicious throughout.

Given that Gitana drinks about 2.5L per day, that would be the equivalent of ~12 grams, but we will round up slightly to 1/2 an ounce. 30 days in a month = 15 ounces per month, or 0.94 pounds.

So, with a higher quality tea that can be re-steeped multiple times you only need ~1 pound per month (actually a little less).

This is why, in certain instances, a more expensive tea, which can be re-steeped more, is actually more cost-efficient than a cheaper tea.

That isn’t to say that you should always buy more expensive teas! Everybody’s tastes are different, and you should buy whatever tea that you enjoy most, at whatever quantity you want.

I’m not doing all this math to argue any particular point, just to perform a mathematical exercise for theoretical purposes to (hopefully) educate anybody that cares to read it.

Dustin said

Starting to panic thinking that retiring = drinking cheaper tea! Are retirement or fancy tea really the only two choices?! LOL!
*all this said while drinking a cup of Celestial Seasonings

Retiring at 49 is pretty damn impressive! And living on a sailboat?! Hard to say you took a wrong path in life, cause that sounds really nice.

Dr Jim said

I’m retired, but have a $1k per year tea budget which I usually exceed. Of course I don’t live on a sailboat, but own a home 4 miles from my grandkids. It’s all about choices. One of my choices was to work until 65 at a job I enjoyed.

Babble said

If you choose to spend money on tea, but not a lot of money on other stuff, it evens out.

I imagine you – Dr. Jim – don’t live a lavish lifestyle otherwise.

Gitana said

Yes, Dustin, retiring young was a nice choice! My body and mind are still fit enough for adventure.

As Dr Jim says, it’s all about choices. We sold our house and cars and an assortment of toys. We have reduced all of our belongings to just what is on the boat. Boat life is actually hard work. This isn’t about laying around on deck drinking fruity rummy drinks. We spend many days working on repairs and something always needs maintenance or repair. But it’s satisfying in a way my career never was.

The real choice we made was to stop working to buy more stuff. Stuff begins to own you. Consider that though carefully Dustin and you will find a happy medium between never retiring and good tea.

Dr Jim said

Babble is right re my lifestyle: Buddha said the key to happiness is not getting what you want but wanting what you get. My biggest splurges are travel and golf. Tea is #3.

Dustin said

I do wish I had less stuff, but between having two young kids and working from home as an artisan, I seem to have all the stuff. Someday I’ll set it all on fire and walk away from it! ;)

Babble said

I can relate Dustin. One way to see how much stuff you have is to move!

Last year when Hurricane Irma was supposed to be a direct hit to my house there was a real possibility it could destroy everything I owned. And I thought to myself, “As long as everyone is okay… is that really that bad?” Luckily everything was safe.

Gitana said

Well, you never really get rid of stuff. But you make choices. I gave up a generous teaware collection,but I brought over 1,000 colored and graphite pencils, paper etc on board. I have more art supplies than clothing. Choices. I can draw naked. I can’t draw by the seat of my pants!

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VoirenTea said

I went back 11 days chronologically through r/tea (300 posts). There were no YS closed packet haul photo posts in that time (1 What-Cha, 1 Chawangshop, a single one from a couple of other vendors).

There were 3 posts with pictures of tea from YS – two cakes open to show leaf, one bi luo chun being drunk. One of the cake posts was from TheOolongDrunk and was just before he reviewed it… There was a post asking for recs on what to buy from YS.

Does that really look like daily fake posts? This isn’t a long enough sample to say much, but it’s better than nothing.

(I’m not saying this is a useful exercise, but a feeling that YS is being posted about all the time can be inaccurate if one doesn’t get annoyed by all the other posts being made).

You can go back and observe the posts from the past year and you will see what I’m talking about, but I can see why you would only go back to 11 days if you are a Yunnan-source fan/friend.

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Babble said

Do companies hire fake people? Oh I’m sure.

Does YS? Naaa. I think it’s more of “look at this cool thing” I’m doing. For instance, when Pokemon Go was big everyone was posting pics of their Pokemon play. It’s the cool thing to do.

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YatraTeaCo said

Again, the haul pics don’t bother me. Personally, I doubt established vendors like YS or What-Cha need to resort to those tactics. Not that the tea sub-reddit is the be all and end all of selling tea online, but once you are accepted as a trusted vendor with the right mix of product range, quality, and price, people will refer newcomers to you over and over again, and will naturally purchase from you repeatedly.

The challenge, for small vendors like Leafy Green and us, is to create that trust factor. Perhaps I’ll start a topic one of these days related to how one goes about establishing trust as a new tea vendor.

Error said

just keep sampling. That’s all we can do :-)
I had 25 samples order last night , most of it tea cakes and not the cheap ones. Next day had another 12 samples etc. Just keep going, don’t stop. These hauls or "look what Ive got from XXX " doesn’t work in my opinion. If too many people posting it from one vendor it gets too obvious. Don’t worry, smaller biz are better. Less expenses. Big ones have to hire people so the prices are higher. At the end of the day many tea drinkers can see that. Keep your style do the good tea and u’ll be OK. Customers will pile up like snow ball which is not rolling fast but constantly. Your site seems to be simple, clean , user friendly …good job. Too many options keep customer confused and causing those multi sampling orders coz naturally want to try everything.
If any big vendor misusing accounts for marketing strategy , it means the business not doing well and need to push. Very easy to spot it is just need to compare. How many of those “hauls” appeared 4-5y ago and how often now :-) because 5y ago doing the tea biz was very simple, at least in CN. Tea was still relatively cheap. Now days is expensive and lower quality. Worldwide economy is not in “green” either so if u hire some people to help with biz, u definitely having a hard times now ( I mean in China at least coz salaries gone up as well) .

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mrmopar said
Message deleted by author.
Gitana said

Mrmopar, that link is blank. Would you please post again?

mrmopar said

Couldn’t get it to post.

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