Chinese Adulterations of Tea.

Scientific American 24, 10.12.1864

The following article on the above subject, from the pen of one of the most experienced tea buyers in this city, will be read with interest. The two general classes of tea known as "green" and "black," are both subjects for chicanery. The Chinese to meet the demands for tea, are often "obliged" to "make up" the styles to "suit the eye," of the "foreign barbarian,;" and if at the same time they can deceive the palate, this is lucre gained. To accomplish this, they use leaves, flowees, roots, barks, buds, seeds and stems of shrubs, plants, and trees, foreign to the real tea. The class "green" is more generally known to be colored. To meet this predilection among the Americans for the "verdant", the Celestials use Prussian blue — ferrocyanide of iron — a deadly poison; gypsum — sulphate of lime — or plaster of Paris, such as our farmers use as a manure, turmeric - the root of the Curcumalonga, used as a medicine and a dye, to make this beautiful "green." Sometimes the drug indigo is used in the place of the Prussian blue.

To color the "blacks," a preparation of iron — a most deadly poison — is often used, as well as the juice of certain bark. The leaves of the Epilobium augustiflorium (excuse the length of this name, as it is botanical), the Gardenia florida, as well as its flowers, are used to mix with teas. The leaves of the Camelia susanqua and other varieties of the Camelia; also those of the Rose, their buds and stems, and the leaves of the Olea fragnans as well as their flowers, with a host of other, are mixed in with true tea, for the purpose of adulteration. Indeed, there are so many leaves growing in China that resemble the tea leaf in shape and color, that they avail themselves of this species of fraud for the purpose of increasing the wealth. The writer has often taken these foreign leaves from packages of tea; some of which possess no more tho flavor of qualities of tea, than the autumn leaves of our own forests. Lie tea is the dregs of all that pertains to real tea. It is made from the sweepings of the China tea packing houses, consisting of the broken leaves of all the various tea, both "green" and "black," damaged and spurious, dust and dire, cemented together with rice water, or the "serum of the blood of animals," and rolled into grains. If for "black" tea, it is colored with a preparation of iron; if for "green," it is colored with turmeric, Prussian blue, and plaster of Purls, and in appearance is a good imitation of delicious gunpowder tea. The proportion of mineral matter in the genuine tea leaf, is from 5 to 6 per cent; in the lie tea, from 37 to 45 per cent; chiefly sand and vile impurities.

This lie tea is imported to this country — particularly the lying gunpowder. The writer has a sample out of two thousand boxes which were sold in a New York tea sale, at four cents per pound; and a tea judge would, from appearance, decide it to be worth fifty cents or more per pound. This stuff, put with true "green" tea, will make a mixture deleterious in its effects upon the constitution of the drinker, and makes up a real lying compound. Another variety from the same source, called "little tea," "tea endings," "tea bones," — anomalistic in name, as well as quality — is imported to this country for the purpose of adulterating wholesome and good teas. This is the sweepings of the "consisting of the dust of "green" and "black" teas, passed through sieves to make it uniform in size. There are millions of pounds of damaged teas, musty, decayed, and those that were once infused, brought to America, and find their way into the stomachs of even the fastidious. The wild tea pleat affords vast quantities of leaves, which are made into a kind of miserable tea, used for adulteration. It is sold for from five to fifteen cents per pound, and even more.

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