Having visited many different tea exhibitions in Taiwan and China we can tell you from first-hand experience that many of the tea dealers there are promoting less-than-par tea. What we thought would be an introduction to perhaps some of the more rare teas Asia has to offer, many of the companies in fact were big productions showcasing run-of-the-mill teas the were less fragrant and of lower quality than many of the teas you can buy at any random tea shop on the corners of Asia. Many dealers arrive to these exhibitions claiming they have some of the best teas a certain area or mountain etc. have to offer but the reality is these teas appear to be the remains of what no one wants.
We tried many of the teas at exhibitions including ones held in Taipei at the Nangang Exhibition Center and found that most of these companies lack business and hence are looking to make a name for them. What is interesting however is they either offer poor-tasting products or think people are too dumb enough to know the difference. Many of the green teas offered have qualities similar to that of Lipton tea bags, which is basically another way of saying tea that either didn’t make the cut to higher-end production or lacked in post production process quality was put away in another bin for supplying low-quality tea demand. Anyone who has had tea at least a few times can tell the difference based on taste and fragrance, and we are not sure what the reasoning is behind these dealers’ decisions.
Perhaps it is because they lack business due to access for higher-quality teas or perhaps they have a certain amount of supply they are trying to offload at a lower price. The impression we got on the other hand was that these teas were their many stashes that came from the healthiest farming methods in China. And then it hit us. Most likely these tea companies were using chemicals to spray their teas to boost growth and overall production, hence the reason for the taste. Rather than using ethical practices to produce the best tea they can come up with many makers are more concerned with obtaining profit, especially in China where crops are increasingly more expensive to maintain and the competition more fierce.
Perhaps though these vendors do not know their farmers or production crew take such standards but if that is the case this just screams lack of oversight and incompetency. A tea dealer is almost always involved with the farming in some way such as oversight or logistics if not the actual picking and planting. At the very least, the dealer should have an experienced and refined palette that is able to determine good tasting tea or at least have the conscience to display organic products that have not been tainted.
These observations are what we noted from most tea dealers participating in such events. Not all of them are bad but for every 10 dealers it seemed like at least 7-8 were questionable, which leaves us worried about the future of tea developments in China and Taiwan. There is more sound practices coming from Taiwan due to better oversight and morality put into the tea business from what we have seen but this doesn’t mean the island gets off scotch free. Unfortunately, many of these teal dealers do business with brands such as Teavana so we suggest you look to trusted dealers and teas such as the ones listed on this site to find healthy and organic options.