How to Know if Your Teak is Real | The Truth part 7 - The Old City


Why’s Teak So Darned Cheap?

Before we get to The Truth part 7 - The Old City of Jerusalem, I'll tell you a little story...

Not too long ago a woman wrote to us, asking why she can buy a teak shower bench from (not to be named) for a fraction of what we price our bench at.

Good question!

Why indeed.

At Teak Culture we’re always on the hunt for Indonesian teak suppliers who can...

  1. Build us quality products
  2. At a reasonable price
  3. As quickly as possible

So, one day, I discovered a factory with a contact person who spoke impeccable English (a true rarity).

I was thrilled.

I asked him to quote me a price to manufacture the teak shower bench we designed, and currently sell here on our website.

They of course came back with a ridiculously high price. As expected.

So we did the pricing dance, going back and forth, playing cat and mouse.

And finally, they agreed to our requested price! 

Now that was completely unexpected. In fact, unheard of. 

Typically, our “requested price” is much lower than what we're actually paying to our other suppliers.

Because I know we're going to be haggling up in price. 

(This tactic is covered in Negotiating Prices 101.)

Well, I was obviously stunned, but thrilled, that this factory could produce our shower bench at a lower cost. And of course I jumped at the opportunity.

So the next step in the procurement process was for them to build us a sample bench, based on our blueprint, and ship it to us by air freight. All standard procedure.

Will miracles never cease!

It usually takes a factory about a month to build us a sample.

And usually we pay for the shipping, but the cost of the sample is on them.

Well, they not only built a sample bench in one week, they also paid for the shipping.

I was loving this company!

However, when we received the sample, and put it together—we couldn’t put it together.

The measurements were all wrong.

Ok, no worries. These things happen. After all, our products are all handmade. So it takes a while for a factory to get the manufacturing part up to snuff.

Which is exactly why we ask for a sample before we issue a purchase order.

So they built us another one, and shipped it to us—also on their nickel.

Well, the second shower bench was spot on.

However, there was something amiss on both the first and second stools that was bothering us.

The color of teak

The teak was darker than expected, and a bit too uniform in color, as was also the grain.

It’s understood that teak can have color and grain variations. The reasons are many.

Nonetheless, in our purchase orders we state that all products must pass a third-party inspection before the supplier gets paid.

These inspections cover everything one can think of–even a smell test—to ensure our customers get exactly what we are advertising.

To that end, in our purchase orders, we state in simple English, a long list of criteria to be adhered to so there can be no misunderstanding.

For example, we state:

The teak used to construct our products

  • Will not be recycled, not reclaimed, not stained, not chemically altered to appear as teak

Ok, let's cut to chase…

To this company’s credit, they admitted that couldn’t sign the purchase order.


Because…30% of the wood in the bench was not teak!

And to hide the non-teak wood, the entire bench was stained so it would have a uniform almost sort of teak color.

So, to answer that woman’s question…there are many reasons why teak can have a price too good to be true.

The above is just one of those many reasons why.

Now, on to our continuing, ever-popular saga…The Truth, part 7…

BTW, if you’re new to this not yet Pulitzer Prize nominated memoir—start at the beginning right here. Or, just wait for the movie to premier on Netflix, starring Brad Pitt.


The Truth part 7 - The Old City of Jerusalem


We rode up, up, and ever higher through the barren, hard-bitten Judean desert in our ancient (circa 1930s) blue-painted bus.

Creeping along at not more than 10 miles per hour, I expected the bus to expire in a last gasp of belching fumes before we ever reached Jerusalem.

And the higher we went the narrower the road became. The rocky hills on both sides closed in us, robbing us of air if not hope of ever arriving.

Then the dry, hot air wafting into the bus through its open windows, parching our skin, began to mercifully dissipate.

We sensed, and even smelled, cooling wisps of fragrant air.

When the bus turned a bend in the road we saw, out the left side of the bus, a world like none other open up before us.

A breath-robbing vista of endless undulating hills and deep valleys filled with magnificent monuments from ancient civilizations.

We were entering the eternal city.


Through fissures in the cloud-laden skies, the sun streamed down brilliant golden rays of light, dappling the landscape.


It brought to mind once-seen, or imagined, engravings—scenes from the bible—holy metaphors of God’s munificence and majesty.

And I wasn’t even religious.

So for me it was another Keanu Reeves moment.

And I said it out loud.


We were now riding along the top of the Mount of Olives.

Then we descended into a valley and up a hill.

Curved down streets lined with metal-working shops until we pulled into the Arab East Jerusalem Bus Station.

Well, that's being a bit over generous. It was basically a large dirt parking lot.

Nonetheless, we were glad to be done with that bus ride and back on terra firmer, that is until…

Hordes of yelling street urchins, some as young as five or six, enveloped us.

Hawking everything from Chicklets to hair combs they pushed their wares in our faces. begging for a purchase.

street urchins 

It was a scene from a Dickens novel written in Arabic.

We quickly learned that acknowledging their presence with a smile and a “no thank you,” only served to excite their persistence even further.

The only remedy was to ignore them and push through.

Rolf, playing the Pied Piper, led us to the hostel that would be our homebase for the next few days. 

It was located across the street from the Damascus Gate, one of the eight entryways in the walls surrounding “the old city” of Jerusalem—walls built in the 16th century by the Muslim conqueror Suleiman the Magnificent, sultan of the Ottoman Empire.

 Damascus gate

The hostel Rolf chose for us appeared to have been built in the 19th century. It may have once been a hotel for pilgrims to the Holy Land, or a prison.

The front desk was manned by an unsmiling, unshaven Arab who told us our room was on the second floor.

The hostel had three floors, and all its walls were painted institutional green.

A long corridor ran down the center of each floor with four rooms on either side.

The rooms were large, square, with high ceilings. Each held six or seven steel frame beds.

One naked light bulb hung tenuously down from the middle of the ceiling.

The beds had no sheets, no pillows. Just a dirty cloth covered foam mattress. And no key to lock the room.

If you had luggage or a backpack you stored it under your bed, and hoped it would still be there when returning.

At the end of the corridor was the bathroom. One for the entire floor.

You had to supply your own toilet paper, which could be purchased at the small grocery store next to the hostel.

This place was as bare bones as could be. A place to sleep. That’s it.

But it was ridiculously cheap. Maybe one dollar a night, if memory serves me correctly.

We were told that the hostel’s massive iron front door is bolted shut at 8pm sharp.

So once you’re in, you stay in, and if you’re out, you stay out, until 6am.

We picked out our beds, threw our backpacks underneath them, and then…


Well, we were starving.

And when you’re hungry, and don’t have much money, there’s only one place to eat.

Just inside Herod’s Gate (down a little ways from the Damascus Gate) was a lively eatery famous among backpackers and kibbutz volunteers.

Rolf took us there.

Uncle Moustache

 uncle moustache

(According to my memory it was much bigger, at least twice the size. Maybe he relocated.)

Uncle Moustache, the owner, was a big fat amiable fellow with a huge moustache, hence the restaurant’s name.

And his restaurant was always and deservedly full.

You could order a plate of hummus with tahini (back then an exotic delicacy for Americans), pita, and chicken schnitzel, for about one dollar.

The price was obviously excellent and so was the food.

And Uncle Moustache knew how to protect his turf.

He’d brutally chase away the urchins if they dared cross his threshold to accost his customers.

But once outside his establishment, whatever happened wasn’t his business.

In short, the unsuspecting tourist was fair game.

Now these kids within The Old City weren’t trying to sell us Chicklets and used hair brushes.

They knew what we “long hairs” wanted and would pay for.

They’d come up to us, and tug on our shirts. “I get you hashish. You want? Good hashish.”

These kids, despite their dirty faces and raggedy clothing were hardcore conniving capitalists.

To illustrate, I’ll jump ahead in my story, just briefly.

A friend and I went into the old city to score some hashish.

Almost immediately a kid, maybe 10 or 12 years old, approached us with an offer.

“How much?” I asked.

“One finger, 25 lirot.”

Which was an out and out bargain for a finger-length chunk of hash.

“Okay,” I said.

“Give me money.”

“No, no. You bring us the hashish, and then we’ll give you the money.”

We weren’t going to let this kid pull a fast one on us. We were both New Yorkers after all.

But he persisted. “I need money to get you hashish.”

“Bring us the hashish, and we’ll give you the money.”

“Ok, you stay here. Don’t talk to anyone.” He was real nervous. Constantly looking around to see if anyone was watching.

A few minutes later he returns.

“Ok, give me money.”

“Show us the hashish.”

He pulls it out of his pocket, but just barely, a thick finger of hashish wrapped in tin foil.

“Give me money.” The kid was agitated, which was getting us nervous. This transaction was not legal, after all.

My friend pulls out the money from his pocket.

“Police!” the kid suddenly yells. “Here, take!” He shoves the finger of hash into my friend’s hand and snatches the money from him.

“Go! run!” he screams. He turns and runs deeper into The Old City.

We take off in the opposite direction, towards Herod's Gate.


In next month’s The Teakster: The Truth, part 8, I’ll tell you the rest of the story. 

In the meantime, please let me know in the comments section below if you enjoyed reading this month’s Part 7 of The Truth.

Until next month...

Stay teak strong!

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