Tea Ceremony Scam

A common scam in China is the ‘Tea Ceremony Scam’. As scams go it is relatively painless, certainly compared to experiences I have had in Japan where I felt in actual danger.

The scam starts off with a couple of young (attractive) Chinese ‘students’ coming up to you and making conversation. The story goes they are in Beijing (or Shanghai) for travel and plan to try a traditional tea ceremony. They invite the unsuspecting foreigner to join them.

When the scammed and scammers arrive at the tea house they are presented with a range of teas, and taught about Chinese tea culture. It is really quite pleasant, until the bill comes. The bill can range from 600 RMB to 2,000 RMB which is a lot.

I was lucky to avoid being scammed thanks again to my ability to speak Chinese and my oppressive friendliness. When I entered the tea house I started up conversations with everyone around me. I talked enthusiastically about China and how it differed from New Zealand. By the end of the ceremony the owner, and his friends (or heavies?) had joined me. When I was presented by the bill I was a bit shocked, 500 RMB. My disappointment must have showed because a mighty debate started in a dialect I didn’t recognise between the boss and staff. Finally, I was advised that the tea was a gift and welcome to China. I made several attempts to pay them but they refused. Even the scammers in China were nice!

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