Tead Off wrote:The term 'Wang' used to signify the top grade, meaning King, is not always the best these days. Trial and error, like many posters suggest, seems to be the way.
That's very true. In fact, many generic TGY packs are labeled "TGY King", because nothing stops people from labeling whatever they want. Even the "King" from real tea contests may not be always valid. A manufacturer told me the only real valid TGY contest (which means you don't need to pay big money to buy your entrance) is the one organized by local Agricultural Bureau (and oddly there isn't a channel to buy or sell the awarded tea from this event). But there are so many other contests that the manufacturer gets invitations almost every few weeks.
Tead Off wrote:What has become a rarity is hand picked, hand processed TGY in any form. If you add organic into the equation, it will become even harder to find.
In Fujian, hand-picked is still common (with razors attached to hands, mimicking scissors). Hand processed TGY is very rare, and many people believe machine works better than hands in most steps of tea processing. Organic is extremely hard to find. Some people told me it's harder to grow organic oolong than organic green (which I don't know why but will be interesting to find out
). Besides, most farmers I know are not interested in growing organic tea, because they believe they already use the most environmental cautious cultivation they can, and it costs too much money to grow organic - some say, unbelievable amount of money if one uses enough organic fertilizer to make the tea as tasteful as normal. This situation may change if some day in the future, organic tea can be rewarded by the market. Also it will helps if there is more research on how to carry out effective and economic organic fertilizing.
Back to the op's original discussion on grades - I think, only when we have enough information about a grading system (whether it's from a vendor or agent) and trust the system, we can trust the grades under this system. For example, the Wu Yu Tai tea house in Beijing, their grading system is stricter than national standards for various teas. Even when people don't like their price, they tend to trust their grades. And about another big vendor (whose name I won't specify), many people say their grades are more correlated to price levels than to quality levels.