08 July 2008

Ali Shan Anti-Fake Labels

An interesting news story in the Taipei Times indicates tea growers will use a new system to indicate real Ali Shan oolong. Inside each tea package will be a cotton swap and liquid. When the emblem on the exterior of the package is wiped with the liquid, the emblem would change color. Created by a biotechnology firm, the local Ali Shan tea and tourist industries hope this will protect consumers and secure profits for the farmers.

Like so many things in Asia that are faked, could this new measure be faked as well, or simply be stolen? Forgers may discover the specific biotechnology impossible to duplicate, but I imagine that a simpler, cheaper, already extant chemical color changing system could be substituted by tea forgers. It'll be interesting to see how well these new anti-fake measures work in practice.


~ Phyll said...

Dubious and ambiguous.

"Customers who purchase genuine Alishan tea will find a cotton swab containing a special liquid inside the tea package that they can use to verify the authenticity of the product, Lien said."

So, what recourse do consumers have (which according to them are mainly Chinese tourists) when they find out AFTER buying, ripping open the package, taking the special liquid inside, and swabbing the emblem (inside or outside the package?) that the tea is fake Alishan?

I think most tourists who buy prepackaged teas don't open them until they get home, wherever home is, or give them as gifts to family and friends. And isn't that gonna potentially create an embarrassing situation if the gift turns out to be fake? And won't this potential embarrassment be reason enough not to buy Alishan oolong for gifting purposes?

There are still many things unclear how this "technology" will help the industry trademark and the Alishan farmers.

Jason Fasi said...

Those are great points.

The article doesn't discuss how they plan to protect consumers who purchase fake tea. Mere notification of fake tea would cause anger, but if there's no accountability in their plans, what can an angry consumer do?

I didn't think to ponder how one could risk losing face. An interesting cultural quirk to this kind of anti-forgery. I wonder how many Chinese and Taiwanese would rather assume tea is real than know for sure it's fake, as a matter of face?