TeaMeow wrote: Maybe my expectations are off. I am supposing that they would be more potent and flavorful and aromatic etc(as I experienced with the supposed Taiwanese varietal). Instead they are weaker all around. What am I doing wrong?
This may be the problematic assumption. In many (but certainly not all) teas, I find that higher grades of tea are often more delicate. This is very clear in some high mountain oolongs - cheaper ones are often one or two big flavors or aromas, more expensive ones are often more delicate, more quiet. Some might say "more refined", but that puts a value judgment on it that I'm sometimes a little uncomfortable making. A lot of times when you're paying a lot of money, what you're paying for is tea that meets a very particular, classical Chinese aesthetic, that may not be what you want out of tea at all.
Some may find this odd - that you're paying more money for less flavor. But it's no weirder than the fact that a perfect slice of halibut sashimi is far more expensive than a fried spider roll with teriyaki sauce.
Anyway: I haven't tasted the same dan congs you have, but I've definitely found Imen's high grade stuff to be slightly to distinctly more delicate than some of the commercial grade stuff. The aesthetic is more sort of... beautiful quiet flavor, in balance with aroma, in balance with texture...
Now, it sounds like you're doing all the technique properly. I kind of think you're too worried about brewing technique at this point... this tea isn't *that* hard. Here are the remaining possibilities.
1. This tea is quieter than your present sensitivities.
2. This tea is not to your taste.
3. You got a bad batch of tea.
The last is possible, but, given what I know and have gathered from the board, fairly low in probability.
Possibility 2: quite possible. Often, the fact that a tea is expensive and sought after by some won't mean it fits your aesthetic. For example: I, for instance, don't find most aged pu-erh worth paying for. Barring the occasional *extraordinary* tea, much of what you're paying for is a mellowing, smoothifying, silkifying, melding. Which I don't necessarily care about or require. I often prefer the vividness of the young stuff, which is, incidentally, much cheaper. This might just make me lucky. (Pu erh snobs would accuse me of being unrefined. Who cares? I drink my raw young rocket fuel and am happy.) (The same applies to some scotch markets, too.) On the other hand, I find that my tastes match precisely with the tastes of the market with high mountain oolong and dan cong, so I have to shell out to get what I want.
Possibility 1: quite possible. When I started drinking tea, long ago, I bought some mighty expensive white tea and it tasted like nothing to me - scented water. I blamed the vendor. I blamed my teaware. I spent a lot of time drinking white tea. When I returned to that same variety and vendor years later, I found it was a *wonder*. A deep, vibrant, luscious tea. And, when I gave it to other people, they complained: it tastes like nothing. I'm sure what happened is my sensitivities grew, I became more attuned to that variety of tea, etc. etc.
So: it might be the tea. It might be the brewing. Or it might be you. I've noticed you've spent a lot of time talking about your brewing techniques, but not much time talking about your *tasting* techniques. So, if you want to explore this direction, try the following. Wake up in the morning. Brush your teeth with something relatively clean (I like Tom's toothpaste, for low aftertaste.) Don't eat anything. Drink the tea and pay attention to it. And, drink with a friend. Ask each other what you taste. In my life, nothing has amped my sensitivities up more than tasting with a like-minded friend and talking it over. Look around for things. Take a long sip, roll it around in your mouth, close our eyes, swallow. Listen for a minute or two to how the flavors roll. Don't do anything else. No music, keep your eyes closed. I think there are many teas that I love that I grew into, by become better at focusing.
There are many times in my life when a tea has failed me. And there have been some times when I've failed the tea.
So it depends on your background. If you're a serious white tea drinker, or dig stuff like bilochun, this stuff is surely less delicate, and it's more likely that it's just not to your taste. If you're background is pu-erh and roasted teas - this stuff is more delicate, and may require a period of adjustment and attunement. Or not. (Although sometimes I need a period of attunement for a new *sort* of tea even if it's of similar delicacy to one I've liked before. Dan congs rattle around a very different part of the palate from long jians.) (I'd been drinking for 10 years and when I started drinking young sheng pu-erh, it took me *months* to open up my soul to the right part of my mouth. Same with wuyis, actually.)