Thank you for the replies so far! To address a few things, I realize that many places cater to North America, and I can get a lot of samples and try stuff out. That's great and all, but I can do that at any time. This China trip is kind of a once only limited time deal, so I don't really have time to feel out exactly what I'd like before committing to a cake/tuo.
I HAVE tried sheng before, in sample sizes from western dealers, and they've been hit and miss. I think I just haven't figured out my ideal brewing parameters for them, and they seem far less forgiving than some of my other teas and get bitter quickly. Once in a while though, I happen to make a perfect cup and it's amazing
I can skip taobao, but I'm not in China in person, and I can't ask my mom to run around to different tea shops all over the country for me, I'd still prefer to purchase online so they can ship to wherever she is and minimize the effort on her part.
I'm not entirely certain how much I want to spend, lets say that I'm willing to pay for quality but not rarity, and it doesn't have to be a good deal compared to a brick and mortar shop, just a good deal compared to buying the same thing from a western vendor.
Basically, the things I can get here in Canada, I can get anytime. What's something that I can only get (easily) in China?
shah82: That's quite the daunting price, even for a sample. Perhaps later, when I've developed a palate worthy of such teas
I doubt I could appreciate the difference between that and... I don't know, I don't even know enough to think of something to compare to.
Lordsbm: Thank you for all the suggestions! I will look into them, maybe try to read some customer reviews with my limited Chinese skills.