The appearance of a tea alone does not tell the full story.
I was asked to appraise this tea a while back. I was told it was an old Liu An that was bought in Hong Kong many years ago. The basket is wide and flat and definitely shows some age. Judging from external appearances it would appear to be an old Liu An tea basket. Unfortunately this is a fake using a common practice of compressing low grade ripe puerh as a substitute for genuine Liu An.
The tea leaves are usually dark. Once the pour of hot water hits the leaves, the façade vanishes and the true worth of the tea is made known. In this case the distinctive aroma of ripe puerh filled the air and the truth is revealed.
It is worth noting that any group of commodities that attracts money will be a magnet for deceitful businessmen and producers to peddle fake goods. This is commonly the case for fine arts, wine, whisky and tea. Fake commodities are destructive to an industry, creating falsehood and misunderstanding that negatively affect the reputation of not only the product but the industry as a whole. In the case of age teas (ex. puerh, heicha, liu an, liu bao) the rampant trade and availability of fake products far outnumber those that are genuine. It is a perilous situation for newcomers making their way into the world of age teas. My advice would be to do your homework and find out as much about a product as you can before delving deep into committing big financially.
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