Premium teas are all very well and good for dedicated tea sessions, but such teas are too finicky or dear to be had on a daily basis. Every tea drinker needs a steady supply of work horse tea and for me this is a combination of various robust black teas that can stand up to a porky breakfast or a careless over-brewing. I've drunk all my delicious lapsang souchong from Chawangshop for which I'm waiting for a resupply. To fill the gap and for a little variety, I'm looking for a decent low end yancha that isn't Sea Dyke.
Out of sheer laziness and curiosity, I ordered a yancha sampler on ebay which had a titter-worthy title, "Superme AAAAA+ 7 Different tastes Wuyishan Rock Tea Oolong Tea". In comparison, I've ordered a rather restrained AA grade lapsang souchong, so let us see what the 3 extra A's and a plus count for.
These seven samples are all from Wuyi Star which appears to be a mass supplier distinguished with stellar government connections. They have the sole authorization from the Chinese government to manage the Da Hong Pao mother trees, and also the closest tea garden near said venerable trees. If you want certifications- they've got no shortage to international quality certifications for organic tea. Wuyi Star also employs serious marketing tactics complete with enticing tea brewing maidens in red chongsams tight enough to give your Sea Dyke quaffing grandpa heart palpitations. Wuyi Star teas comes in no shortage of fancy gift boxes and canisters suitable for mid range gifting. In comparing prices against a similar sampler on the company website, it appears I got a relatively good deal on my 7 variety pack of tea (49oz) for $8.50 which includes shipping. But in the end, is this gussied up over packaged tea any better than old faithful Sea Dyke? I can just see a Wuyi Star representative bristle at even such a question.
I generally held low expectations since the ebay sampler works out roughly to 40 cents a brew (~2g for my teensy teapots). Wuyi Star's flagship product is their da hong pao and their lowest grade offering was included in this sampler- probably the DHP comprises half the price of this kit. It's pleasantly peachy in the mouth with some refinement but immediately my pipes are a bit bothered. For such a pretty opening, I did not expect heart burn. Their Rougui is nice enough, but their Shui Xian smells and tastes strangely synthetic. My husband kept complaining of a latex smell. The Shui Xian feels wishy washy and under roasted somehow- definitely not as pleasant as a heavier roasted Sea Dyke. It's a mixed bag.
I won't stock up on more Wuyi Star but it's good to build out reference points for mid to low end yancha. The idea of even budget "da hong pao" as a casual drink sounds all wrong and I'm just looking for decent mid-roasted yancha that isn't exhalted with imperial connections.