1. You taste good.
2. You are typically priced reasonably.
So, two ways. However, they are important ways, as I'm sure you'll agree.
In my continuing quest to taste every Yichanghao cake ever made (I jest), it is with a feeling of gratitude that I plump myself down at the tea-table to enjoy this latest provision from the seemingly endless shelves of Keng, our tea-chum from Singapore.
This is a "special production" Yichanghao, and some indication of this status may be gleaned from the fact that the characters for "Yichanghao" have been displaced into a small font, to make way for the rather poncy "Junlin Tianxia" [joon-lin tian-shee'a, the Emperor rules all under heaven]. The bing name, across the top of the wrapper, is "chazhong wangcha" [tea-centre king-tea]. These are not subtle, self-depreciatingly humble names. These are pompous, grandiloquent phrases designed to provide "face". It is not beyond the bounds of reasoning to assume that these have been produced for a tea merchant of the usual Chinese taste for ostentation.
Grand though the name may be, this cake does at least look the part. What say you? Those leaves are long and luxurious.
I use plenty of leaves and the result is a highly cooling, sweet, and woody brew. It has a wide range of characteristics, from candy sweetness to a drawn-out finish of tight, sweet woodiness. The body is smooth; the soup is orange, but clean.
Seemingly impossible to overbrew (and I tried), it requires longer and longer infusions in order to maintain the charm of earlier rounds of brewing. It is a lovely cake, but too reticent to give me much hope for the future. After five infusions, it is a conflict of man vs. bing to get a solid brew out of the pot.
The spent leaves, pictured above, are not excessively red, but what colour there is present in the blend is not uniformly distributed: some laeves are wholly tinged orange, while some are green. This clear blending corresponds with my prior expectation for "made-for-vendor" teas, which need to be grand and instantly appealing, and which therefore lack endurance and the ability to provide much hope for storage.
It is elegant and well-produced. At approximately 250 RMB (around $35) from various Taobao sellers, it is nicely priced. As it stands, this tea would make an excellent gift, but probably isn't something one would wish to buy in any quantity.