Many terms have come to light surrounding high quality teak. Two of these are “old growth” teak and “plantation” teak. Teak is a high quality hardwood which is grown in several countries in Southeast Asia. Being that from the time of planting to the time of harvest is fairly long, the return on teak trees can be a long time coming. In fact, some families in Indonesia plant teak as a retirement investment for their young children. |
Sometimes, there are companies which exploit the demand and try to pass off a lesser-quality teak (or other wood labeled as teak) to buyers looking for a good price on high quality teak furniture. This is the case for some sellers selling “plantation teak.” This wood may or may not be grown in Southeast Asia and may actually come from South or Central America. Certified Southeast Asian teak is grown in sustainable farms or plantations and is heavily regulated by the government (especially in Thailand).
When purchasing teak from South or Central America, you are not getting the same quality nor the same sustainability of teak from Asia and these sellers should be treated with some level of caution. The wood from these “plantations” is usually very good, but doesn’t have the same level of quality as the true teak.
Genuine and high quality teak is very hard, with a straight grain (some variation happens when harvesting the sapwood and the grain may be more curved) and have a slight and pleasant aroma. The distinctive scent of teak wood is often described as the scent of vegetable oil or of leather. This scent comes from the teak oil in the wood, which has been described as “liquid gold” since this oil gives teak many of its qualities - bug and rot resistance among others – which make teak so desirable.
While the initial quality and appearance of teak chairs made from Asian and South American sources may appear the same – or in some cases the South American teak may actually look better, this is not always the case. There have been reports over the last several years of “dipped” teak coming from several sources, South America being one. This teak is dipped into a chemical which coats the teak, seals the oils in and gives lesser quality teak a more uniform color. This wood is truly inferior and is often marketed as “A grade” at a bargain price.
Whether you decide to buy South American or Asian teak, make sure that you are getting the best wood possible for your price and if it seems too good to be true – it usually is!
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