NOESIS wrote:Personally, I find many of Tea Gallery's yanchas overroasted (esp. the 2 Stamp and 3 Stamp SX). But to each his/her own.
I like some of TTGs yancha more than others, but most of the ones on their site (I've tried probably half of them at one point or another; definitely tried the baijiguan, rougui, and a couple of others at least once) have been pretty balanced, with a low to medium roast, and medium oxidation. I think the 2 stamp / 3 stamp are from a different source, and definitely seem to be quite heavily roasted. I believe someone sent me a sample of one or both at some point, and to my taste, they were a little heavy on the fire; I've had cheaper "murder death roast" yancha that, to my limited palate, tastes essentially the same. If the leaves are completely stiff, and can't be opened, rather than just slightly chewy, even after repeated steeping, that is generally a bad sign to me.
I do find that TTGs standard yancha are a little finicky about how they like to be brewed -- they tend to perform better if you baby them a bit in terms of temperature, and use a careful pour. I have a hard time getting a "read" on most of them, but I did like the batch of "100 Year Tree" (which I think is bai sui xiang, lit "hundred Year Fragrance") I had, which I'm guessing is from 2009? In regards to whether they're going to resume online sales, I believe someone on the chat said that they probably won't resume online sales anytime soon.
The (older) batch I had of Best Tea House's top tier dahongpao
(so-called "1st generation") is not bad as far as things that are relatively easily available. It's fairly expensive, though. I think the HK shop has it for a bit less. Marshaln wrote about it here
. I have some of this, as well as two of their other premium yancha, on the way. They also have a qianlixiang, a bit lower priced, which I think is nice, but I don't know if they still carry it.
I don't rate most yancha I've had from either vendor at the very top of what I've ever had in terms of quality or value, but it's a lot better than some, and more consistent than many.
While I'm not a fan of their thing about only selling 20g per order, I really like this Cloudwalker rougui, which, though they're coy about the source, I believe is most likely from the same source as the EoT ones. The baijiguan and shuixian I don't like as much. All are low to medium roast and medium-high oxidation. I don't know an exact date, but I would guess the ones I have tried are from 2007-2009? Could be wrong, though. The tea is balanced, but it's not a good idea to totally overbrew it - it's fairly oxidized, so it can get a little astringent like Phoenix dancong.http://www.cloudwalkerteas.com/product/SPC-007
It is really hard to find good yancha, and I find that the longer I drink it, the pickier I am. I guess a lot of this question comes down to whether the OP just wants "pretty good" or wants the best stuff available. Finding the best yancha is difficult even if you're willing to spend a lot of money on it. Finding "pretty good" is more just a matter of finding a vendor / producer who produces tea in a style you like at a price you can afford. Sometimes it's worth paying a bit more for "pretty good" tea that's at least consistent and lacks major flaws.
It's also worth keeping the tea around and seeing how it changes. Some teas that I thought would be great after some time for the roast to settle ended up still tasting like crap 3-4 years later. Some teas that I thought were just Ok really grew on me. Tea will also sometimes go through an "awkward phase".