I agree with most of things that bearsbearsbears wrote. I visited Yiwu for a few days and drunk tea with a few producers. Blending of gushu and taidi is pretty normal even with the small producers. They never admit it. There are leaves that are brought from different location out of Yiwu, even farther location that Mansa mountains too, they blend it with an small amount of Yiwu leaves to get the a bit of feeling of it at least. During my trip to Xishuangbanna in 2009 i met many tea farmers and traders too.
After a few years of tasting the samples I gathered and got sent afterwards I ended up with a man I spent on my trip just an half an hour as no more time was left that day and no more time was needed. My new buddhist friend's teas were clear and really different from others. It costed although a lot more that the others, later Ive found out that his tea is sold in a few weeks after the spring and autumn pressing. Mainly to Taiwan and Hong Kong. There was no need to any persuasive words. I so far buy tea from him and from one other local tea fan.
I personally by now I have to admit that it would take a few more years to acquire myself skills to distinguish a real GOOD gushu tea from blended or in better case just spoiled during the frying or other steps of processing. I am getting the feeeling at least and trust my body what is says. The 'clean' gushu tea should make you feel good beside the good taste. The later, the bad proccesing judging, does not take that many years of skills to distinguish.
The other thing is to sell such good tea here in Europe. I am not a type of person that write long and complex description of teas, I just say what I know and if the person like the tea, ok, let him buy it. It would take a long time to our gourment group of western customers to appreaciate the real gushu tea. Its like saying in terms of religion, if you would meet the God or the Buddha in your work or elsewhere, would you recognize him? or you just will call him another new age lunatic? Its the same with gushu tea. So that I buy each season some tea, one third of it is bought by my long term tea friends and rest I store.
here are a few lines with a guy from Yunnan I trust and I have to say its difficult to trust any of the tea traders in China : ;-)
me: When you buy maocha you never know what the farmers and what quality they would have, right?
Jimmy: The tea leaves are a kind of a farmer product, so you never know what quality they would have before the tea leaves are made.
me: The good maocha is not burned, its not too smoky?
Jimmy: The quality of tea leaves usually depend on the weather.
me: sure... I believe the skills are very important, or taught by masters, weather too
Jimmy: This is a very reason why I have to stay on the mountain to chose tea every tea season
me: sure,very good way, so that you may guarantee the quality…
Jimmy: I trusted a factory in the past, but I was cheated. Each factory mix taidi into gushu so this is the reason I just do this work by myself. The factory put 40% gushu and 60% taidi to make cakes and they would call it Gushu Pu-erh tea.
me: do you have ‘your’ farmers? can you trust them?
Jimmy: I pay the price of gushu so I do not want to get any taidi. I know some farmers that can be trusted. I used to know many before but these days trustworthy men are rare. If you really want to get real good tea leaves, you have to stay in the village.
me: you stay in a village and wait for the tea leaves?
Jimmy: I will stay in the village about 3 or 4 days a time and I choose and collect maocha. In some villages I have a trusted and experienced village farmer to collect maocha for me. I buy the maocha with him , I check it and if the maocha is good I will pay him.
me: My question is whether you buy maocha that leaves are sorted like one bud and two leaves?
Jimmy: The maocha I use for my cakes is made in a traditional way. The leaves would be one bud with two or three leaves
me: yes,could be, ive checked some of your cakes wet leaves after drinking the tea... The good tea is not burnt during frying like many other teas, the tea liquid is then very clear which says it is good, I believe.
Jimmy: The clear liquid is the basic condition of an eligible tea cake. If the liquid is not clear then such tea will be killed in my mind. The opacity of tea is caused by drying process. In Yun-Nan tea mountains during summers rains a lot. The drying of tea leaves is harder than in other seasons of the year. If the leaves are not dried in a short time, they would start rotting on the surface. The tea liquid may be opacity also in the spring. If the peasants do not put the fried tea leaves out to the sun for drying instead they heap it and leave it humid. Then different bacteria would appear on the leaves which will will make the leaves to ferment soon. So the leave will rott in a short time.
You can try to rub or roll the wet the leaves between two fingers to feel the texture of them. If the wet leaves are rotten it would indicate that the maocha was not dried enough.
me: How do recognize gushu tea?
Jimmy: The straight and simple way to recognize if the leaves are gushu tea is to feel the lasting throat feeling remain down the throat. Usually the taidi (young age tea tree, or terasse tea)could not give you a obvious throat-feeling.
The harsh taste is the feature of taidi tea. The harsh taste will stay in your mouth for a long time otherwise the harsh taste of gushu will disappear very soon. Once the harsh-taste disappeared, the mellow and sweet taste will come out.
The taste of bad tea will stay in the mouth. The taste of good and pure gushu tea is feelling like going down into your stomach. The lasting throat feeling of good tea usually begins on the tip of your tongue following down the throat without disruption. The taste of taidi or bad tea usually only stays in the mouth. It has no richness, fullness and profoundness.
We say in China that it’s like a young man that is clever but not wise.