I haven't tried it for a few months, but my take is that the Tea Gallery one needs to rest a little longer (though I am hoping to try the slightly less roasted one when I'm in NY if they're open). I'm keeping mine in a jar and seeing how it tastes in a year or two. It's the right degree of roasting but the dry leaves have that really sharp smell still, and you can kind of taste it too.
This is a very subjective topic, and for me, it's like a Goldilocks type thing - this one tastes too much like rubber bands, this one is too dark, this one is too light, this one isn't oxidized enough.... So far, I think the HK shops in Canada are the way to go - they're the main places that still carry this kind of tea, and they have enough history / inventory that they can let the tea rest for a while. I've been making the rounds recently, trying to find that one tea that's perfect for everyday type drinking for me. Something comfortable, relatively affordable, with relatively few negative traits.
One that I've been enjoying a lot so far is the Lam Kie Yuen / Aroma Teahouse "Monkey Picked". They also have a "Kung Fu King", which is slightly higher fire still, though not too much so. The prices are good - $24 CAD for the first one I mentioned, $18 CAD for the second. They have an order form on the site, or you can just call / email. One other thing that I like is that they're less tightly balled up, in the traditional style.
Two other Canadian shops have some good ones also: the Canadian branch of Best Tea House (this is the shop in HK that Michael and Winnie trained with), and China Flair Tea (who apparently is also a former student of Mr. Chan of BTH). These both have higher prices than Aroma and BTH, at least, offers a number of different grades. I have not tried China Flair, but Tim was saying on chat that he had tea with the guy recently and that it was good.
At BTH, I would suggest trying the Monkey Picked and / or the Elegant Queen... both are around $30-40 CAD list price. If you order from him, he'll also probably be happy to include some samples of their higher grade roasted TGY. The monkey picked is kind of brown-yellow on the outside with only a little green, but the wet leaves open up fairly greenish, and there is still a bit of a tangy green bitter-sweet freshness. Elegant Queen (醉貴妃 (zuì guì fēi in Hanyu pinyin), which more literally refers to a concubine). Phone number is listed in viewtopic.php?t=6254
. PM me if you want the owner's email, but I think you will get faster service by just phoning.
I tried the Red Circle teas, and despite their descriptions, they're not really very roasted at all. I felt all the ones I tried (Red Heart, Gold Heart, 2002 monkey picked) were less roasty and sweet than the descriptions led me to believe. Of course, everyone has their own idea of what is "roasted" or "dark and toasty", so I'm not trying to say they're engaging in false advertising. The teas were good, just not what I was looking for. The Golden Heart was slightly less vegetal, and had no unpleasant characteristics, but to me, was very much like the type of mainland TGY you commonly get these days.
The 2002 Monkey Picked is pretty smooth and fruity, though, and doesn't seem to be in that awkward stage that a lot of greenish oolongs are in around that age. I'm not sure if they mean it was grown near Fuzhou (i.e., not in Anxi), or just aged and / or sourced there.
J-tea in Oregon has some Taiwan grown Mu-Zha TGY. To me, it's a slightly different taste than the mainland ones, but I'm not quite sure exactly why. I have one of the (very) expensive competition winning ones. It was clearly better than the others of his we compared it against in competition style tasting, but to me, as well as to the other people who tried it, it's missing a little something when brewed "normally". He's got some other roasted teas as well. I think his current pricing is a little better than is reflected on his site, so give him a call / email if you're interested.
Speaking of Mu-Zha TGY, I really like the '94 Mu-Zha from Hou De. Deep, sweet and rich, maybe a tiny sour note, but not in an unpleasant way... not overly musty or wet stored tasting.
Having some tea friends over on Sunday, so hopefully we can do some comparisons if there's time.