A friend just got back from Anxi where he was purchased TGY for his shop. In tea shops around the country you will see simiilar scenes; not so much the disorder as the stripping the TGY off the twigs and sorting out the huangpian. This process is not very difficult as far as I can tell, but there are a couple of things which must be kept in mind. Discard the leaves with heavy insect damage (sometimes you can find leaves that look like they are only veins) so the leaf will look better in the gaiwan. Some of the huangpian should be discarded. Huangpian are leaves which have not oxidized properly, usually the older leaves. Some huangpian in a TGY will make it more fragrant, but too many will make the tea astringent. Special care should be taken to make sure the white buds sometimes visible at the top of twigs are discarded. These young buds will make TGY very astrigent.
Although this process is not extremely specialized and can be learned quite quickly, it is quite time consuming. The largest advantage experience gives is speed, and the beginner should take care not to break up the leaves. When seperating the maocha, a lot of weight is lost. About four tenths of each kilo are discarded. When labour is figured in a retailer must sell a tea for more than twice the wholesale price in order to break even.
I have also decided I don't like TGY very much. My favorite type of tea right now if I had to chose one would certainly be oolong. Almost every oolong tea is pleasing, and the variety makes for new suprises all the time. As many tea blog readers know, many drinkers in Guangdong/Hongkong and Taiwan as well as older people in Anxi may like a more traditional TGY which may be heavily roasted, more fully oxidized or both. Outside of these areas, it is not usually possible to find a more traditional TGY. Living in Zhejiang, Wenzhou all tea is as green as possible, and therefore TGY is very popular. This is more evident now than ever: Autumn TGY is said to be more fragrant than Spring tea, and is therefore preferred by some. Spring tea is more full bodied and has a better mouthfeel.
Forunately my friend made some friends from Taiwan while he was in Anxi, and therefore was able to bring back some decent tea. This past weekend I got to try an Oriental Beauty sample and an Imperial Consort Oolong. When I infused the Imperial Consort I was quite pleased. It had a nice light roast and was oxydized about halfway. It had many Oolong characteristics which I love. The mouthfeel was full and oily, and the fragrance was sometimes reminicent of Yancha. It also had the 'milk' aftertaste which can be often found in Spring TGY. When brewed strong it had a pleasent and light astringency which I don't mind. The responses to this tea was quite varied. My friend Xiaoguang loved this tea as well, but he said I made it too strong. His wife said not only was it too strong, but that there was nothing special about this tea. She had never heard the name and said it was low quality oolong made of leaves which were too old. She said someone just made up a fancy name so they could sell their tea for a higher price. Teamasters blog posted about this tea (贵妃茶 - guifeicha) a couple of days ago. It is probably not the same batch... just the same varietal or comes from the same area. Stephane called it Concubine tea.