wyardley wrote:A few of the things that I think a lot of tea drinkers look for, at least with Chinese oolongs and puers:
* aftertaste (strong, lingering)
* texture (mouthfeel, "thickness")
* complexity (the taste isn't too one-note, and changes over multiple infusions)
* clarity (in the brewed tea broth)
* quality of the leaves themselves, and presence of a good "tea base" (goes kind of with texture above)
* durability (how many times the tea can be brewed)
Very good points! I'd like to comment on the "complexity" issue. I've noticed that many medium quality teas have quite a strong taste typical to that tea type but maybe not so much other notes. Like the discussion about "loud" and "soft" chawans in Teaware section: medium quality teas are often loud one-note teas. The top quality teas are often more subtle with lots of discrete nyances, and some are so exceptionally good that even people without very much tea drinking background can appreciate the difference. I had this top quality Oriental Beauty oolong (Bai Hao oolong) that I served to a friend of mine who is more used to wine tasting than tea tasting, and he said that the OB had all the qualities of top class wine. He could recognize the quality right away without knowing the price of the tea. It was the first time I was brewing that OB and it tasted so good that I got an euphoric feeling from drinking it. It doesn't happen every time one drinks high-class tea but I've noticed I never get the euphoric sensation from drinking mediocre tea.
Not all expensive teas are easily approachable. Some are "acquired taste" - like pu erhs - and are usually appreciated only after drinking certain amounts of that type of tea.