Heh, talking smack, like a little friendly taunting on the basketball court!
I always take strong opinions and voice them. If you ever thought I was smart, it's because I'm brave or stupid enough to be publicly wrong. And then I learn from the discussion. I reread what I write on public boards from years ago just to see how my thinking has changed.
Of course I recommend the Tai Lian. I always do. Why? It's a 2002 tea that costs $76 at Yunnan Sourcing. It's a *good* 2002 tea that cost $76. It's a genuinely cheap tea per age and quality. People may not want lincang, and people may not want Kunming cryostorage. I certainly do not think it samples well, because it really needs some time in humidity and awakening time fro separated leaf to be at its best. I would not have thought it worth buying the cake had I only bought the sample back then. However, if I think of myself as a consumer advocate, I wouldn't think I was doing a good job if I wasn't pushing this tea. If you haven't noticed already, nobody in the bigger tea circles really pushes the best tea. Just tea that's acceptable and have plenty of stock in merchant warehouses.
Nobody is an expert. Not really, because this hobby is far too young as a broad phenomenon. Virtually everyone's experience in the West consists of furtive samplings of tiny quantities of the well stored aged tea, usually of well known tea like 7542 or 8582. So everyone is making best guesses, especially given how processing methods and blends have changed since the 80s and 90s. So you have to come up with a system that estimates how you should think of a tea.
So for me, I go with:
1) Does the aroma endure? You can't fake or process a quality aroma with depth/complexity/fullness, rise off the cup, and lasting more than a minute or so.
2) How comfortable is it to drink? Is there astringency or bitterness? Is that astringency/bitterness productive in generating lingering aftertaste and huigans? Silky, gloopy, whatever texture?
3) Is it like drinking water or some kind of soup? Body is a bit different than texture--you can have a thinner body, with a silk texture and that'd be pretty cool. Or a thick one that isn't right in some way.
4) How much power, activity, and presence does the soup have on top of, and inside the throat? Too many people think mere cooling is a sign of quality. It is, sorta, but what sets off the really good from the mundane is the nature of the cool. Good tea has a different kind of cooling that's more ben-gay than mint. The effect tends to go down the throat and up the nose. It can also travel around the mouth, as in "wind rain effect" as the Chinese call it.
5) How much qi does it have? Does said qi move along the meridians, so to speak, or does it just sit there? Is it comfortable or harsh?
6) Does the tea have several stages in flavor as you go through a pot of water? Are the finishing brews pleasantly sweet and comfy?
People have different standards. For instance, Nada focuses alot more on certain aspects than I do. As a result, I think his Mannuo '11 is better than his Nannuo '11. He thinks the other way around. This will happen a ton of times, and there's no need to be upset about it. You have to make choices about what you want. You'd read me or any of the bloggers strictly in the context of where your preferences and priorities tend to overlap with mine or anyone else. Some use of your empathy muscles are required here.
I will say that taste itself is highly deceptive. It depends on your water, whether you let the dry leave sit in the bowl a week or two, or any number of things. It can change with the years. The classic way people buy bad tea is by preferentially buying "approachable" flavor or aroma puerh. Which is why you see so much problematically tinkered puerh that gives a oolongly fruity or floral taste (or more red and mellow malt). For me, the easy way to tell, again, is to see whether that aroma *endures*. Many of these teas also will betray badness by becoming hard to drink or pointless to drink by about brew 6-8. *Few* puerh, however, are done straight processing green. A little butteriness is sought after. Or a little hongcha, or some nice smokiness. That's alright, so long as most of the underlying qualities are still there to age.