China is an exciting destination for so many reasons. Most travellers visit to explore its rich history, with the country’s tea culture a particular highlight for those with all tastes and interests. As a result, visiting a Chinese tea house tops many people’s itineraries.
Visitors and locals alike go to tea houses to enjoy more than just a great cup of tea. In China, tea houses are a place of relaxation and entertainment, and have been since ancient times.
The tea itself unlocks a number of benefits for your health and well-being, with some varieties even thought to cure all manner of illness. There is however, a dark side to tea house culture in China.
Tea house scams are on the rise throughout many Chinese cities and towns. In this blog post, we explore exactly what is involved in this common scam, how to avoid falling victim, and what the country is doing to fight back.
What is the tea house scam?
As going to a tea house is so ingrained in Chinese culture, it makes them a must-visit for tourists from all over the world. Scam artists have subsequently seen a gap in the market. There have been many warnings by the Chinese government, hotel and hostel owners, and friendlier locals to avoid attending tea ceremonies that are touted on the streets.
What you receive on arrival is an uneventful tea ceremony and a huge bill for the privilege. Two unsuspecting tourists were charged 2,114 Yuan – that’s £229.75 or £5.22 per sip!
When they fell victim to a tea house scam in Shanghai. To cap off the experience some scammers even try to steal your money, credit cards, and identification.
How can I avoid being scammed?
Visiting a Chinese tea house is a great experience, which means you shouldn’t let the tea house scam stop you from enjoying this vital part of Chinese tradition. Being on your guard and avoiding scammers is however important.
Scam artists come in all forms, and you should avoid visiting tea houses that are advertised on the street, or by a seemingly friendly local. Most of these scammers look pleasant enough and have all the skills to lure tourists into a false sense of security.
Many that promise to show you to an authentic tea house to attend an equally authentic tea ceremony are young, have a student-like and trustworthy appearance, and speak near-perfect English. Some even pose as tourists, claiming to want to share a traditional tea house experience with a fellow traveller.
Travel blogger Nina talks about her experience when she fell victim to a Chinese tea house scam:
“Traditional tea ceremony with a local guy was one of my favorite things in Shanghai and everything seemed normal until my friends, traveling around China, told me that traditional Chinese tea ceremony is one of the most common travel scams in China. I even tried to convince them that these high prices are really normal and that traditional Chinese tea ceremony is just a very expensive thing to do there.”
If you do want to attend a tea house, do so after researching the establishment and going there of your own accord. There are a number of great tea houses in China, most of which have excellent reputations.
What are the government doing to protect visitors?
Local communities and the government are fighting back to protect visitors from the all too common Chinese tea house scam. If caught out, fraudsters face time in prison and heavy fines of up to 500,000 Yuan (£50,000). The tea house in question will also have its trading licence revoked.