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Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

Level Contributor
69 posts
2 reviews
Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

We have just returned from a wonderful 2 week holiday in China however fell hook, line and sinker for a VERY professional and slickly executed scam in Shanghai.

Walking through People's Square, we stopped to take a photo and were approached by a very well dressed Chinese couple, about late 20s. They were very friendly, very clean cut looking and the guy spoke very good english. They were asking where we where from and telling us about themselves (they were on holiday in Shanghai). The guy even gave us his business card, which showed he was employed for a well known global IT company in an engineering role.

After 30 minutes of talking, they told us they were going to a tea ceremony in a near-by street and asked if we'd like to join them (apparently it was "tea festival" time). I was a bit cagey (I guess women are more cautious about strangers than men are) but my husband agreed to join them and even thought it was a great idea.

We went into a nearby building, which was a bit run down, got into the lift and entered the tea house. We were the only customers there and were seated in a small room, just the 4 of us. There was no menu shown, just a lovely hostess who only spoke Chinese and gave us 6 teas to sample. The young guy interpreted for us and explained the tale of how the tea originated, etc etc.

After an hour we had to get going, so we asked for the bill. The young couple said they'd split the bill with us but my husband insisted we pay the bill as they'd been such wonderful hosts !! We'd also spent the week dining out on great food at a cost of approx USD$4.00 each so ASSUMED the bill would be on a similar par.

Well, the bill arrived, and my husband forked out USD$240 !!! I was silent with shock !!! The young couple even bought some boxes of tea, which they paid for themselves. They then walked us out of the building, along the street then said they were going in another direction so we parted with them. They wished us a wonderful holiday and were SO genuinely pleasant.

Yes we were plain stupid and yes far too trusting, but the entire scam was SO slickly executed we had NO idea we were being scammed until the bill arrived and it hit us a few hours later that it MUST have been a set-up.

We can look back now and say we should have refused to pay the bill, etc etc, but I guess at the time we had NO idea what a tea ceremony would cost so also had a glimmer of hope the entire experience may have been legit.

We have since heard this is a very popular scam so please don't get fooled as we did.

Apart from that incident we had a wonderful time in Shanghai and plan to return one day....however NOT to a tea ceremony !!!!


Southern California
Level Contributor
1,710 posts
1. Re: Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

Sorry that happened to you. Unfortunately, this type of scam is VERY popular all over China, especially in cities like Beijing and Shanghai. The painting scam is another good one!

Level Contributor
69 posts
2 reviews
2. Re: Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

hey I must also add that I am sure not every tea ceremony in Shanghai is a scam, there must be hundreds of genuine wonderful places to enjoy the tea experience, so please don't let my "scam" experience put you off enjoying a tea ceremony whilst in China.

Destination Expert
for Tokyo
Level Contributor
25,676 posts
30 reviews
3. Re: Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

if you follow strangers to wherever as a result of THEIR solicitation, you are going to be scammed.

South Pacific
Level Contributor
4,865 posts
5 reviews
4. Re: Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

Yes, the darn tea scam is everywhere in China!!!

5. Re: Tea Ceremony Scam in Shanghai - BEWARE

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