26 April 2011

Errors at Vital Tea Leaf

After reading a news piece online about a vendor called Vital Tea Leaf, I visited their site and found a few...let's call them "errors" to assume the best...in the listed ages of their pu'er teas. I wrote the following letter via their contact us page:
There are some significant errors in your pu'er catalog regarding the ages you approximate for your teas.
Qiang Ming "Yiwu Zhengshan" - 2002, you say "15-20 years"
Pingxiwangfu - 2006, you say "12 years"
Ruipinhao "Qiu Xiang" - 2008, you say "5 years"
It's important to have credibility and build customer trust when selling teas that are so often faked and misrepresented. I would appreciate it if you would work to that end and correct these errors.
Also, many of the cakes you list have broken picture links. With such short descriptions, it's difficult to have any idea what tea you're selling.
I have not heard back.

It's disheartening to see such errors nowadays, when all one needs is a dictionary and Chinese auction sites to get some idea of a (post CNNP) pu'er's age. Even if I assume Vital Tea Leaf bought these teas believing the ages their supplier indicated, my opinion is that they don't select pu'er well and/or that they probably didn't pay the right price for it.

Also, the Ruipinhao and Pingxiwangfu cakes probably have date stamps on them. This is equivalent to seeing a website selling a 2007 Bordeaux wine as a 2001--when the bottle says 2007.

So, as always, buyer beware. Choose your pu'er vendors carefully, and do your own research.


Anonymous said...

That place is a scam. I've been to their stores a few times and its a joke. Those cake are clearly only a few years old. I think someone on yelp commented awhile ago confronting them about new dates stamped on 10yr+ cakes.

MarshalN said...

I know someone who bought some stuff from them and sent me a sample -- in this case a traditionally stored (borderline wet) cooked puerh claiming to be 30+ years old. I haven't tried it yet, but now that you mention these guys, maybe I should.

ken said...

I have been to both Vital Tea Leaf stores. First time was a blessing. I have never been to a tea shop and was only visiting Chi town. It opened my eyes to the world of Chi tea and I left with a bunch of everything. I got sold a 10 year old cooked caked and still have a bunch of it. But my eyes were opened to china tea. I found after a few months of learning as much as I could landed in the raw puerh world where I will always be. This is my cup of tea. I must give thanks to all and the great offerings from YS tea. Thanksgiving landed me back in chi town visiting with friends and I visited Vital teas other store. They do not have a clue about puerh. Not their cup of tea you may say. But I was grateful left with a smile on my face. The only puerh they had was a box of Tuo Cha from Xiaguan do not know what year and that I paid too much for but a memento from my trip and I will not be going back to Vital.

Anonymous said...

They sold me the "tea" in the image below. They said it was bamboo green specially developed by a monk...

Link to macro-image of "tea."

Here is the link to the product on their page:


My experience was similar to Ken's. Now that I know more I realize many of the things they sold me simply were not what they said they were.

Bearsbearsbears said...

Yikes, @anonymous (#2), that's not even green tea! That's bamboo plant leaf.

For what it's worth, I bought 100g (3.5oz or so) of that tea in China for ~$10 in 2006, and according to taobao, I severely overpaid. For your reference, 100g of that tea is 14 rmb, or about $2.50:


Which works to just over $10/lb. Which makes their price of $400/lb a 3900% profit margin.