lebowitz wrote:...I am afraid that if I buy a $20, $30 or more cake that it will be only marginally better than the lower priced ones (which so far i have liked). He has so many different teas for sale I don't know which to try!
For example Menghai factory there must be like 40 or more listed, which ones are the low end, medium and high, is it only by price?
Sometimes price is an indicator of quality, sometimes not. Menghai products, for example, tend to be overpriced for their quality because of their reputation. Not always do their teas live up to their reputation. Teas from Haiwan, for example, might be priced cheaper but be just as good or better than a higher priced or equivalently priced Menghai.
On the low/cheap end, I've had Xiaguan tuocha, Baoyan bricks/mini-beengs, Menghai Fangcha and tuocha, that are basically chopped leaf and dust that aged well. There is some concern about new processing methods that keep the tea too hot and jeapordize aging, though I'm not sure what these specifically are and which factories employ them.
I've had some cheap tea I think will age. I've had average priced tea that I think will age. I've had high priced tea I think will age. But I've also had stuff I don't feel will age so well. But all of it is guesswork, and you'll be hard pressed to find a source who has knowledge of a tea's ageability whose opinion isn't biased or doubtable for the fact that they sell tea. I repeat the ubiquitous US pu'er caveat: I don't know; I'm guessing, but I'm willing to be wrong and earn my tuition.
On the very very high end, there are very expensive teas: Xizhi Hao and Yanqing Hao from Hou De, Hai Lang Hao and Fo Cha Ji from Scott, the private issue cakes from Jing Tea Shop, that have the following in common:
maocha from ancient, wild
tea trees of a single tea mountain
, often from a single estate on that particular mountain
-Traditional hand processing
methods and often manual compression rather than factory compression
-The person making these teas is a passionate pu'er-obsessed individual who oversees the process, or a smaller producer who specializes in small batch high quality stuff.
lebowitz wrote:Is it worth paying much more, which ones have the most potential to age well?
The former is a question for yourself to answer even after you receive advice, opinions, and responses. The latter is a question of contention even amongst the Asian collectors. My opinion and method: sample from all price levels, compare, buy what you like, take a risk on a few expensive teas, and see how right and wrong you were in 7+ years. My answer to the latter: my opinions on teas are on the pu'er LJ.
lebowitz wrote:I would love experienced recommendations! Anyone rate a bunch?
Mike Petro has a list of reviews and recommendations on his site.
These are probably the closest you'll find to "experienced" recommendations. Cha Dao
blog also has some good reviews from some relatively experienced people.
The Pu'er LJ has a great resource for reviews and recommendations that's very visual: a list of reviews that usually assess rateability and if the tea is worth the price, sorted by year, factory, raw/cooked, and shape,
often with pictures. Search through it and see if that cake you're considering has already been reviewed. When you buy something and taste it, take the time to put your notes on the LJ or on Mike P's site so others can see what you think.