Lawmakers, tea farmers and activists called for a suspension of tea imports from Vietnam, after the Department of Health discovered residue of a banned pesticide in Vietnamese leaf tea imports earlier this month (see article here).
The department found more than 0.09ppm of dicofol, a pesticide prohibited from use on tea plants, in 21,000kg of tea leaves imported from Vietnam, Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) told a press conference at the legislature yesterday.
“It’s shocking that so many tea leaves were found with a banned pesticide in such a short time,” Lai said.
“Tea imported from Vietnam is often sold as Taiwanese tea or made into tea-based drinks,” she said.
This is not an unusual circumstance in the tea world. The international tea business revolves around price and not quality, and right now the cheapest tea is coming from Viet Nam, Africa, and South America. That it is being sold as being a tea that originates in Taiwan in this case, is business as usual. Go down to and pick up a box of tea at your local grocery store, and see if you can determine where the country was where the tea was grown. Notice I say grown as opposed to produced. Production can mean a lot of things. The tea market depends on deception.
I just returned from Taiwan where the authentic producers are struggling to survive. You will notice from the story that there were complaints, but nothing had been done. Anywhere good quality tea is being produced from Taiwan to Darjeeling, fake tea abounds. These are not rouge companies. In Taiwan the government is so corrupt that a lot of tea producers have given up hope for the future. The government has even taken step in areas like Ali Shan to close down tea gardens. The profits from fake tea are so much higher.
It is interesting to me that Taiwanese are not tea drinkers, at least in Teipei. A Starbucks is easy to find but try and find a tea house or tea shop. Coffee has become popular because a major cultural influence in Taiwan is America. So where does all that fake Taiwanese go? A lot of it goes to the mainland, but a lot of it comes here too, and Taiwan doesn’t inspect tea being exported with the same kind of rigor as the Chinese government.
So what can you do? Ask a lot of questions from whom you buy from and if you don’t like the answers don’t buy. Don’t think that because it is a well known brand that you will get good answers.