I covered how to buy from taobao through an agent in the previous post. Knowing how to order is only part of the battle. There is literally an ocean of teas on taobao and samples are not normally offered. While there are decent teas to be found, there’s also an ocean of crap and overpriced teas. Even amongst the vendors that do indeed offer samples, it’s a long process of trying teas and re-ordering. That makes finding and selecting teas very important.
- As an alternate to picking your own teas you can join in the group samplings that people like Toby and LP are doing.
- One of the biggest consumer holidays is the world is the Chinese singles day (11/11). If you are interested in buying tea via taobao, that is a good day to do so.
Searching for Teas
If you don’t read Chinese characters, Babelcarp is your best friend. This is especially good for pu’erh or hunting something specific. The carp has a significant database of factories and regions. If you are using the search function of taobao it’s easy to type in a year and a region/factory to see what comes up. Finding teas might be intimidating, but I suspect the limitless amount of possibilities in tea hunting on taobao may be quite fun.
Rating System (Volume!)
There’s a rating system to taobao vendors that’s visible on each item page. The icons indicate volume. It should be forewarned that volume doesn’t necessarily correlate with reliability or even mean that they don’t sell fakes. There are definitely high-volume vendors that aren’t totally reliable, the icons simply show if they’re dealing a lot of tea.
Ratings in descending order:
- Gold Crowns.
Some teas are more well-suited to order from taobao. Due to its labels and wrappers, pu’erh is an easy target for the bao. Armed with knowledge of a few factories and babelcarp, it’s easy to traverse the bao endlessly through tongs and warehouses of potential pu‘erh purchases. This doesn’t mean that finding quality pu’erh is easy. Those tongs and warehouses of tea are filled with plenty of dodgy tea and teas that have been ruined by poor storage.
- Factory teas can be well-suited towards taobao. Dayi productions or famous ones are the exception, due to the possibility of fakes. If you buy those, best to do it on a specific recommendation on a case-by-case basis rather than random searching.
- Premium teas will always inherently be risky on taobao, due to the lack of samples.
Taobao is packed to the gills with teaware too. There’s also the added benefit of being able to skip over the agent phase and order direct through taobao forwarder. While it’s probably not the safest idea to buy yixing on taobao, for purely function teaware, you can find decent, usable items for much, much cheaper on taobao. Probably more so than tea. There’s two major concerns here. (1) Shipping will be expensive. There’s no getting around this, especially if you’re ordering larger items i.e. a tea tray. (2) If they’re not packed well, they will break. Returning items isn’t an easy possibility, so if it breaks along the way you will be out of luck.
These are generally much more of a gamble. Sampling is difficult and a pile of leaves are hard to verify without the benefit of a label and pictures aren’t very reliable to verify how good a tea is. That doesn’t mean there’s not worthwhile tea out there, just that it is probably harder to find.
Like ebay, taobao is home to many different vendors. Some are not good and sell fakes, others are more reputable. A good way to wade through is by targeting certain vendors that have teas and storage that you like.
MX Tea, https://mx-tea.taobao.com/
A good source for Guangdong stored factory tea. There’s a lot of Xiaguan and Dayi productions. The storage varies, but they’re based in Guangdong and the storage is usually from those areas. They’re the odd vendor that also carry samples for many of their more expensive teas.
A couple picks:
- 2006 Menghai 0622
- 2005 Xiaguan FT8653-5
Donghe Pu’er, https://donghepuer.taobao.com/
This is the outlet of a big dealer. More fancy, famous, expensive stuff. A good place to sample some of the famous teas.
Eight Immortals (Baxian), https://8xiantea.taobao.com/
A place to buy daily, functional Wuyi tea.
Official Producer Outlets
These are often TMalls, but can be bought through the same way. Oftentimes, it’s not really worth it to buy direct. You can find these teas cheaper through their dealers rather than directly through the producer.
Chensheng Hao https://chenshenghao.world.tmall.com/
Yibang Chamasi (Tailian), https://shop68782776.world.taobao.com/