Teaparker has posted not one, but two articles on his blog to urge consumers to beware of the common traps in the puerh business:
1. Puerh leaves from outside areas are shipped to the 6 famous mountains of Xishuangbanna and resold by the local tea farmers. Being on site is no guarantee against this fraud. The situation is most serious in YiWu, currently the most sought after location.
2. Plantation puerh is sold as wild puerh, or is mixed with wild leaves. Only a few experts are able to recognize this after the leaves have been pressed as cakes or bricks.
3. Wrapping paper is easy to fake, and there is a wrapping industry in Yunnan that is capable of producing any old and famous wrapper.
4. Puerh seems to be a good investment as its value continually rises over time. This has prompted many big merchants to invest in young puerh, which created a shortage and rising prices. So far, this frenzy is feeding on itself. How high the puerh prices can rise also depends on the intrinsic quality of the tea itself. Worthless young teas will become, guess what, worthless old teas!
In the second article, Teparker continues with these recommendations:
1. In Taiwan, celebrities have became puerh fans. They may be good in their respective fields, but that doesn't make them puerh experts. Don't fall for tea that is advertised as being drunk by a celebrity.
2. If you want to buy, then taste first. If you can't taste, then don't buy. (Note: This may be practical with a store, but online it's harder to implement. Nevertheless, I always give samples of teas you're interested in with the first order, so that you can taste before committing a big amount of money.)
3. Older is not always better. A good young tea quality and proper storage are necessary to improve puerh over the years.
4. Each tea has it's story. Listen carefully, but remember that you are buying the tea and not the story. Some stories will try to impress you with mythical dates (cultural revolution) and you'll have to be even more careful.