Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Moychay compressed Da Hong Pao brick (Zhong Huo)

I want to try something different for this review, no round by round detailed description.  I'll mostly just clearly describe one main, complex flavor aspect.  In a sense that should be easy, but to some extent only people already familiar with something very similar might completely get it.  I'll also cover a bit about how I think this tea being compressed changed things, about the infusion cycle, and differences in comparison with aspects present in loose Wuyi Yancha Da Hong Pao oolongs.  I didn't know this actually was DHP initially (the brick itself isn't labeled, and I didn't look it up), but I expected that's what it was (it would be that), and tasting seemed to confirm it, then reviewing the actual product description during editing did.

The main flavor first:  it came across as similar to a sweet version of leather, like a bomber jacket might smell, just a bit towards molasses from that.  Of course different people would express that in different ways.  It could seem like aromatic woods instead, or it's a bit of a stretch but maybe like sweet dried fruit and spice.  It was complex, so a touch of the rich and savory but still sweet sun dried tomato range might work for description.

To me that's not atypical, but the way it was presented was. Some good DHP is like that (with "good" all relative; really high quality versions tend to be more subtle and aromatic versus flavor intensive), with versions not quite as good more towards a plainer version of wood or even cardboard, or heavier on char.  The way that sweetness and complexity was expressed it seemed slightly more oxidized than is typical, towards a sweet, rich black tea, with some limited degree of toast input but not enough that you could really place it.  The character was typical of DHP in one sense but parts weren't typical, which I interpreted as being related to being compressed.  It's funny how the sweetness, earthiness, and mineral stood out, parts that can relate to a tea being roasted more, but this didn't have much of the explicit "char" effect.  Maybe a year + of aging dropped out some that had been present?

it takes some doing to get it started

an early round, a little light

Some of the same themes played out in evaluating a compressed Yunnan black a year and a half back (Shai Hong, a reference to being sun dried).  I loved that tea, and I really liked this version too.  They're quite different, so I don't mean that they're close in character or flavor profile, but some of the sweet, rich range overlaps.  It's a step towards being jammy, like a cooked and reduced fruit, but it stops in an earthier place in this oolong version.  That would be cool to comparison taste them together, not for the 2000 word round by round write-up, but just to experience that.

To be clear there is a different lighter, more subtle, more structured aspect range Wuyishan area oolongs can express, even if they are earthy and a bit sweet, in the leather leaning towards dried fruit range.  This tea version (the aspect range) seems a little unrefined, a bit basic, but in a way that really appeals to me.  Yunnan black tea drinkers would totally get it.  There is mineral range as a base context, and thickness of feel and after taste I've not described to also appreciate; it's good tea.  But one related general Wuyi Yancha oolong range of character types is fruity, and another earthy or even towards spice, and another liquor-like, all potentially quite straightforward and flavor-forward (like this one is), or more aromatic and subtle instead. 

The last post about a really nice version of Rou Gui works well as a contrast in styles; that was completely different in character, much more refined and distinctive.  I appreciate teas for what they are, with some styles clicking better, matching preference.  Green teas tend to fall outside the main part of that range, with good Longjing an exception, and umami-intensive Japanese greens interesting in their own way.  This tea clicks, in a basic, flavor-forward style that I like.  It seemed blended more than that one (with that one a better than average example of a smaller batch tea), giving up refinement and pronounced subtle aspects in exchange for picking up flavor-range depth.

a little further along

It is odd how it brews, kind of like getting a more compressed shou to get going, but even shou tend to be pressed looser than this.  It would be possible to use a long soak as a prep step and first infusion then pry it apart, but I was fine with it brewing a bit unevenly, with the process taking time.  That pronounced flavor isn't going to transition so much anyway, and it works really well a bit light or strong.

I brewed a chunk gongfu style in a 100 ml tasting gaiwan, or it would be fine in a clay pot seasoned for Wuyi Yancha oolong (cue some people rejecting that it would match other typical style closely enough, and throw off the residual effect).

That sweetness and the way that the earthiness played out reminded me a little of a Fu brick hei cha awhile back, for being sweet, straightforward, and novel, with that a little more towards prune from sweet leather.

There's always more to say, a different take on flavor, more about a secondary aspect, some consideration of how this would age (I don't know, but I'd expect it wouldn't be fading much over a few years, if anything probably developing instead), but that's already a basic take.  I'd expect this isn't costly tea but if it was above average for pricing for type and style (as good tea but not a great tea) to me it would be worth it, on character and novelty both (I was actually shocked about that part; see the next section reference).

Vendor description

I really didn't even know for sure this was Da Hong Pao, but it's good that it was, since that saved me some explaining for getting it wrong.  It might still be Shui Xian; that's how that can go, with DHP used as branding for a style of tea (a character type) that's often a blend or else all that other tea type.  It was and is a plant type too, related to those six plants that are still standing, covered in more detail in this post.  This is dead on a typical good version of normal Da Hong Pao style so I don't mean that as an accusation, just background context.

Moychay's description is cited here:

“Big Red Robe” is squeezed from fragments of leaf (middle and small fraction), sorted during production of high-grade Dahongpao harvest 2017 (various batches). It was the heat of the fires.

100 grams of tile, compressed sufficiently tightly, but easily brokens into segments (12 pieces). The aroma is deep, with smoked pastry notes. The infusion is transparent, with dark amber hue.  Baked tea; the aroma is deep and viscose, complex. It is a bit tart.

Brew tea with hot water (95-100 ° C) in a porcelain gaiwan or a teapot of porous clay. The proportion is 1 cube for 200-250 ml. The time of the first steeping is about 10 seconds. After that for short seconds (for 2-3 seconds), increasing steeping time for each subsequent step, if necessary. You can steep the tea up to 6-8 times. Also it is well revealed in cooking on fire.

The price stood out to me more than anything in that description; they're selling it for $7.50 for 100 grams.  How to put this?  If you like standard range DHP at all you should buy it; if you already love the novelty of varied compressed teas picking up two bricks might make more sense.  I don't remember ever suggesting that someone should buy a tea that directly, since it's bad form for a blogger to do so, but this tea would be a really good value at double that price.  That's just related to aspect range; I love novelty in teas and this is a little different in character too.

To critique their description a bit I wasn't really picking up tartness.  It is possible that a year of aging rounded off the flavors to subdue that, or it could just be that I'm interpreting it differently.  That "smoked pastry" does make perfect sense.  It's odd saying a tea tastes like leather, which I had it pegged as closer to, or like any non-food item, but regular drinkers of DHP variations should be able to make sense of the intended description range, even if it's not easy to place in ordinary concepts.

The last part, about "cooking on fire" brewing may relate to using a samovar (this is a Russian vendor).  Unless I'm way off that relates to using a long brewing process not all that far off simmering a tea for a long time, or at least an extended brewing time where the water doesn't go cool after a half dozen minutes.  This probably would be good made that way.

samovar in use at a dogsled camp we visited in Murmansk

It would work well grandpa-style too; brewed in a tumbler or tea bottle, filled and refilled with hot water, drinking the brewed tea with the leaves still in it.  A broad range of different infusion strengths would still be pleasant, which is a main criteria for that.

Oddly Chinese people tend to use that style for green teas, which are the opposite, getting quite astringent without balancing the time and infusion level, but then aspect preferences do vary.  Vietnamese people love astringent hot-brewed green teas too.  They also use that brewing approach for rolled lighter oolongs, per my understanding, the other main "common-man's" tea in China, which makes a lot more sense to me.  I like shou mei (compressed white teas) and mild black teas prepared that way and this falls into that general range, even though the flavor profiles for all three are different.

in that camp break-room, with more on travel in Russia here

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fruitier style Rou Gui from Wuyi Origin (from Cindy)

I've not been buying as much tea as I'd like this year (ever, really), ordering some online but sticking to picking up a little here and there to supplement trying more tea than ever sent as samples.  All that is a long story that I'll skip telling, but it ties in here.

Cindy Chen of Wuyi Origin sent some of my favorite tea to drink, more to share it than for review coverage, really.  How do I know that?  It would've been easy to send a small amount of a half dozen versions instead, and of course I'd have written about most of them or all of them, since their teas are among the most interesting I get around to trying.  She didn't do that; she just sent a good bit more than just a sample size of my favorite, this fruity style of Rou Gui.

I'll be clear about personal bias related to this tea source; beyond her sending teas to try I consider her a friend, even though we've never met.  I'm not impartial.  I'd like to think that doesn't change the tea aspects I experience and write tasting notes about but who knows, really.  We kind of experience what we expect to and want to experience, to some degree, don't we?  There was a test awhile back related to people trying white wine colored to match red wine appearance with subjects evaluating the flavor as if it were red wine, reporting that separate aspect description range:

The research, later published in the journal Brain and Language, is now widely used to show why wine tasting is total BS. But more than that, the study says something fascinating about how we perceive the world around us: that visual cues can effectively override our senses of taste and smell (which are, of course, pretty much the same thing.)

I'm saying it might work to extend that, that maybe we don't just experience taste affected by visual cues but that maybe different levels of expectations could factor in.  That "wine tasting is BS" part is surely an oversimplification; I'm guessing that trained professional tasters would be able to tell you that the wine tasted like white wine, that something seemed wrong with the test.

Tasting sensation isn't so simple that a machine could do exactly the same thing we do (although I did just write about to what extent machines can taste and describe teas now).  Related to the part about my impression being positively biased, and adjusting for that, it can help to read multiple reviews of the same tea (this Rou Gui) to read across different impressions, which is easiest to do using Steepster, the main tea review site.  One of the reviews (of last year's version) captures how flavor aspect descriptions really don't do the tea justice:

I think this is an art piece from a Rou Gui that combines an excellent ground, beautiful leaves and a careful baking process. The perfect combination between nature and human creativity.

Another review captures the same idea and places the tea related to others:

Multiple roastings combined with well-sourced leaves make for a complex and well structured tea...  I’ve had only a few teas like this, but for a much higher price, so I definitely intend on grabbing another bag of this one.

There are other great versions of Wuyi Yancha produced and sold, with tea quality coming in levels.  A version related to this tea did win a Wuyishan competition a couple years ago, so I guess that relates to another form of moving towards objectivity.

About that value issue mentioned, this lists for $58 for 75 grams ($38 for 50, divided out, since that quantity rate is more familiar).  There are plenty of versions out there selling for half that, but this is probably still be a very good value for what it is, only potentially available since it's sold directly by the producer.  I'll also mention their website description here before the review:

Location: Ma tou yan (马头岩)


Roasting level : Medium Roasting (4 times charcoal fire roasting ) complete tea leaves, uniform looking, a superb workmanship, a unique mountain field, careful -Charcoal baking techniques . The cinnamon of this garden has been a favorite of my family tea guests year after year. The taste of tea is quite rich. In addition to the cinnamon taste of cinnamon itself, you can feel the very obvious taste of fruit. It is sweet and delicate. The taste of tea soup is mellow and smooth, the endurance is lasting, the lips and teeth are fragrant, and the Yanyun (岩韵) is very obvious.

That location sounds familiar, translating to "horse head rock," a famous area inside the park there.  It was funny that if you put that in the Google online translator to check it they transliterate it to ma tou yan, not so helpful, but the Yandex version confirmed the meaning.


Per typical process I went light on the first infusion, as kind of an introduction to the tea, to let it get started.  Some people would rinse most teas but I don't, only fermented versions, sheng, shou, Liu Bao, and other hei cha.

The dry tea scent was interesting, complex, with a bit of roast coming across, but after brewing really complex aromas emerged, even before tasting.  This will have some fruit to it.

It's brewed fast, so light, but it's really intense as it is.  The balance is perfect; plenty of fruit, peach along with citrus, but with enough warm, sweet aspects that lightly carmelized toffee and toasted almonds stand out.  This is fantastic tea.  I suppose if someone didn't like fruit aspects in Wuyi Yancha it might not even seem good, and I have heard someone mention that fruity oolongs seem too much like hot fruit punch to them.  Our preferences definitely vary on that point; fruit aspects in roasted oolongs are my favorite across the range of all teas.  I guess they couldn't appreciate lot of Dan Cong either; kind of strange to even consider that.

Having opened up the tea is even more intense on the next round.  Again I used a very moderate infusion time, around 10 seconds, with tons of flavor emerging in that infusion time.  The fruit is in the same range, ripe peach with citrus, maybe in between tangerine and tangerine peel.  It's the balance of flavors and overall complexity that makes it special though, not any one or two components.  Roast level is moderate but enough to draw out warm aspects to support the brighter, sweeter fruit.  There's nothing to it I would label as ''char."  Warmth might have picked up a little, with roasted almond flavor edging into a more roasted range, not quite getting to that more char-like character that's a part of roasted chestnuts.

A lot of mineral serves as a base, hard to isolate as tasting like any one thing, but complex and intense, providing a foundation for the rest of the experience.  For feel the tea isn't really thick or thin, in the middle, with aftertaste standing out more.  The fruit and mineral range trails off after you drink it, very pronounced as oolongs go (not so much for Taiwanese high mountain oolongs, but that mineral aspect type is completely different).

People sometimes ask what my favorite tea type is and I can honestly say I appreciate lots of different teas for lots of different reasons.  I once considered Wuyi Yancha as a favorite overall type but others have drawn even.  If I had to pick just one tea that's a favorite out of everything I ever tried it would be this one.  It's much better than almost any other Wuyi Yancha versions that I've tried, which is part of it, but really it's probably more about that style clicking with me.

I can see why people might be more accustomed to earthy, mineral intensive, and subtle aromatic variations of Wuyi Yancha instead of this fruity range, maybe associating fruit more with Dan Cong (or other floral range; those cover both), but I expect not having a related preference could tie to just never trying a version on this level.  I'd put different range of Wuyi Yancha as a close second, more subtle and aromatic Qi Dan, probably with that tied with good versions of Ya Shi / duck shit Dan Cong.  For any of those if you try a version that's as good or better than any other you've had during and just after that tasting experience each might naturally seem a favorite overall type.

I went a little longer on this next round, a bit over 10 seconds, more to see how that changes it than to optimize it.  Fast infusions would probably be best, between 5 and 10 seconds, not to limit astringency or any negative factor, but just related to tastes coming out better in teas brewed lighter once you adjust to that.  The mineral picks up; the fruit is still pronounced but the warmer, earthier tones seem more pronounced brewed stronger (still light, as some people would tend to brew most teas Western style; it's all relative).  The bright tangerine range citrus edges more into dried peel range, versus fresh fruit and zest, and the ripe peach expresses a little more edge related to peach skin.  Of course it's still quite sweet.  This is far from astringent, or challenging in any way, but complex in a different sense.  I think most of that minor character change relates to being perpared slightly stronger this round but the tea would naturally transition over infusions.  I'll go back to really light next round to sort out which input was which.

Even brewed lightly the warmth had been picking up.  If someone hasn't experienced this sort of combination of peach, citrus, warm toffee, and underlying mineral it's hard to describe how it balances, why it all works so well together.  It occurs to me I was missing the most obvious warm spice-related aspect present, which serves as a base for the brighter, more forward flavors:  cinnamon.  That's what "Rou Gui" translates as, the literal meaning, and that's typically the most dominant flavor in this oolong type.  I tend to think of cinnamon as the warm, sweet, mild spice we use in apple pie in the US, which is lighter, not so far from cocoa in character (it just tastes different), but this is much different.  My favorite local shop owner says this cinnamon, which is more intense, mineral related, and slightly "darker," is similar to a version of cinnamon from Vietnam.  I've went through that tangent plenty of times though; cinnamon is really one thing, the "true" version, and then related cassia plant types barks it's something else, but those are also sold as cinnamon.  To be honest I'm not sure which version this aspect is closest to across all those potential plant types.

Enough messing around; I'll give this around 15 seconds infusion time to try to optimize it, and probably after another infusion at around that length of time it'll be time to extend those times a little.  Some of the brightest fruit has faded some and the cinnamon spice and mineral has picked up; it's still great, just different.  The feel is still just medium, not thin and not overly thick, with a nice extended aftertaste, just dropping a little in intensity and duration.  Citrus still stands out as the main fruit range at this point, mostly a sweet version of dried tangerine peel, which balances with the warm tones really well.

I have no further conclusion to add; the tea is amazing, with that description definitely not doing it justice.  It prompted me to try another version of Wuyi Yancha I'd been meaning to get to, and maybe a comparative description of the range of styles within that type in that review can help place it.

Cindy shared this picture; she's like a little angel

her older sister is really growing up

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

2006 and 2012 Thai shou from Tea Side

I'm reviewing the last two samples of a set of Tea Side teas sent along with a black tea purchase, two Thai shou versions (listed here).

I've reviewed plenty of other tea versions from them, mostly black teas and Thai "pu'er-like" teas, but others too (Thailand is better known for rolled-style oolongs).  I won't go into all that here but if Thai versions of such teas are of interest they're the most accessible vendor selling such things, or maybe the only one selling aged versions like these.

2006 left; direct comparison shows color change from aging, or maybe initial fermentation level difference too


2006 left, 2012 right; the older tea is a bit darker

2006:  Even in the first somewhat light infusion the 2006 version is smooth, complex, full, and creamy.  There's nothing challenging about the tea; it has had plenty of time for any rough edges to age into depth and complexity instead.  Parts of the flavor relate to typical earthy range, warmer mineral tones, maybe roasted chestnut, but some of the flavor is still lighter, towards a mild form of black licorice.  I'll add more related to a full list and feel as infusions go on but it's complex in an unusual way, really integrated, and smooth, almost simple in effect at the same time lots is going on.

2012:  This version is getting a slower start; it will be easier to fill in detail on a next round.  Both of these aren't brewed using a typical packed-gaiwan amount, so I'm sorting out adjusting infusion time to compensate.  The rounds count will drop as a result.  It's also very smooth, showing similar creaminess but with less complexity at this lighter strength, but it hasn't gotten started to the same degree yet.  It might be slightly sweeter, still in an earthy roasted chestnut range, but it seems like some spice might develop, towards root-beer root spice, or a related lighter range, possibly dried fruit.

Second infusion

definitely brewed stronger (2006 left)

2006:  not changed much; it's still complex but within an integrated range, earthy but not in any challenging ways, nothing like petroleum, tar, or peat.  Part of that rich flavor in Guiness Stout comes across, towards coffee, but not quite coffee, which stands out more as that for the sweetness being pronounced for shou and the creamy effect.  Or black licorice works as an alternative interpretation.  Again it's funny how it's complex but comes across as simple; there's a lot in that range but it's all in a narrow, integrated set.  I'm wondering if I didn't try this tea version before, although I doubt looking up old reviews would lead to matching it up.

2012:  the flavor and general effect overlaps but it's quite different.  This is a bit towards a woody character, but not woody in any sense I usually describe as such, more like a sweet, aromatic aged tropical dark hardwood.  I guess I'm saying it's like my wardrobe smells (a furniture version of a closet).  It's also very pleasant and not challenging in any way, and sweet and creamy, with a nice rich feel and nice aftertaste.  Some of the character overlaps; both of these seem to have a nice roasted chestnut effect.  It's a little towards a sweet mild spice but hard to pin down as a specific version, maybe like a root version of some sort.

In reviewing these teas something stands out I might not have made clear:  I tend to like shou brewed a little stronger than some other tea types.  It would work to drink them much lighter, and I do tend to prefer most sheng and oolongs made that way, but thick feel effect and strong mineral and other flavor aspects works well brewed stronger, to me.  It only works when there aren't flaws to brew around, or moderating infusion strength to adjust flavor balance works better, but these two versions someone could drink at whatever brewed strength they want.

Third infusion

looks like I tried that round slightly stronger yet

2006:  the character is transitioning some but it's mostly a matter of balance of aspects shifting.  It's interesting how drinkable this tea is, how smooth and pleasant.  I'm not brewing it lightly (maybe more the opposite, on the strong side) but no trace of negative earthy aspects comes out.  I kind of like that bit of tar that can easily ruin a shou but that works well in the right balance, paired with sweetness and creaminess, but there's nothing in this version that walks that line.  I suppose the base of rich earthy mineral compounds might remind some of tar, or the related aftertaste that trails on after you drink it.  It tastes a little more like ink smells in this round compared to the earlier set I described, like a mineral range that would be hard to put a name to, in part probably related to infusion strength difference versus natural transition.  Like slate, the rock type, works about as well as any other.  Without the right other context and balancing aspects that could be unpleasant but it works well in this tea version.

2012:  this changed a good bit over this third infusion; that's surprising.  The warm hardwood and subdued spice shifted onto an aged book or furniture effect, and the licorice is more like the jujube candies.  Usually when I'm referencing old furniture the rest of the tea context doesn't work as well in making that a positive effect.  It comes up with rolled oolongs that can gain an aged flavor relatively quickly, over a few years, which isn't necessarily positive (or necessarily negative, I guess; that part would depend on preference).  This is tied to that tropical hardwood aspect range I mentioned, maybe still with more of that effect shifting into an aged range, so it balances well.  "Old books," as I would use the description, could be a musty, slightly off smell related to how the stacks back in a University of Hawaii library smelled, or to a rich, complex, clean range like aged leather-bound books (or at least in a dry library), and this is more the latter.

Sinclair (UH Manoa) stacks, a favorite place to study (credit)

outdoor tables at Sinclair, a great study-area view of Honolulu (credit)

Fourth infusion

As can happen this runs long, so even though the transitions probably still aren't finished I'll leave off after this round.  It's probably been covered enough already but the nice thing about teas of this character is that they work well at different infusion strengths; you can't really get brewing wrong.  There's no significant astringency to brew around and the aspects work well lighter or even brewed very strong.  There doesn't even necessarily seem to be just one optimum to shoot for, although preference would determine that differently for different people.

2006:  not really different; still very nice.  It would keep transitioning some since it's not even half brewed out yet (or maybe that, since I used a more standard proportion and longer infusion times, on the order of 30 seconds), it just didn't change over this last round.

2012:  the contrast between the two versions stands out more than a transition of either between rounds.  These seem to be just leveling off a bit for character. 

Conclusions, about variations in shou quality levels and pricing

The teas were great; complex, pleasant, novel, and interesting.  The main conclusion is just that.

I only have one concern about them, which applies more to the general tea type than just to these two versions.  As with any tea type versions vary a lot across a range by quality level or by individual aspects.  But to me shou could reasonably be regarded as varying less than many other types.  I'm not saying that good shou is nearly the same as great shou or medium quality versions, but I am claiming that--to me--that seems to be more the case for shou than for sheng, or for better oolongs or other types (maybe just not so much for black teas).  They vary less.

That's a personal judgment, not an objective truth.  To clarify what I mean there is surely a subset of shou that isn't very good, lower quality versions, that don't just exhibit some degree of fermentation related unusual flavors in the year or few years after being produced but continue to be a bit off later too.  I've heard more about that than I've experienced; I've tried "bad shou" but not much compared to medium quality or better versions.  I'm not even talking about that subject or character range here.

It comes down to a matter of preference, of course, as everything related to tea does, and plenty of people would disagree with what I just said.  I didn't mean it as a critique or judgement against shou to the extent it may have come across; I like the tea type, and better versions clearly seem better.  To place that, I see most types of Chinese black tea as a bit simpler and less varied than many oolong or sheng types too (or essentially all of them), in terms of range covered per a type or how any given version comes across, but I love black teas as much as any other category.  I see them as more approachable and straightforward in character, not as inferior, but paired with that also varying less.

There's really no point in a tea type being complex, broad or layered in terms of flavor range, expressing transitions across infusions, with lots going on for mouthfeel and aftertaste experience, if part of it doesn't match your preference, or if you don't care for the way it all works together.

I'm not sure who I'm supposed to be saying all this to since people who are into shou probably already get all that, and for people who aren't it probably wouldn't make much sense (and few people with limited prior exposure to the type are probably reading this anyway).

It comes to mind because I criticized a shou for being relatively expensive awhile back, without really qualifying that.  To be blunt using this review as an example:  are these Tea Side versions worth what they're being sold for, in my opinion?  They sell for $80 and $120 per 357 g cake per the 2012 and 2006 versions, respectively.  That's a bit, for shou.  Per my guess that's roughly the range of market price for teas on this quality level, for comparable Yunnan origin versions, with the odd twist that you can't buy these particular Thai origin versions anywhere else that I've seen.  The critique of that other shou was about it not seeming quite as good as should be typical for the pricing level, to me.

Those two sets of ideas don't necessarily conflict, that there is a real range of difference that somehow varies less, although it might seem they do.  Let's go further, with an example; 4 1/2 years ago, early in the process of exploring and writing about teas, I bought a set of three years worth of a classic version of shou, Menghai Dayi 7572:

It's not possible to compare the review impressions from back then with these two teas, in part because I wasn't writing detailed reviews then, but also because my baseline for expectations and past experience back then would make that worthless if I had been.  What would those be worth today, one might wonder?  Yunnan Sourcing lists teas that aren't so different, even if batches vary:

So maybe around $50.  This isn't heading towards any sort of "this is about as good as that" type of conclusion, just laying out a general factory tea range.  To me that general range of tea isn't as good as these Tea Side teas, but it's hard to place if it would make sense in value to spend twice as much on a tea based on the difference in character.  It would depend on value per preference, tied to tea budget and specific expectations.  Per my prior experience (I drank those teas) those factory versions are pretty decent; the difference between typical factory sheng and better, costlier versions stands out a lot more.  But then so does pricing difference; around $100 doesn't go as far for aged sheng, or even for better new boutique / commissioned versions.

Citing a Moychay vendor multiple-type shou cake review, talking about value there, can help place this:

I liked that one label

Looking them up on the site now the "Soviet guy" 2017 version lists for $21.17 for a 357 gram cake (quite inexpensive), the 2008 version for $16.33 for a 100 gram cake (or around $58 for the equivalent larger cake version), and the 1999 version 100 gram cake for $35 (or a bit over $110 for full size cake, multiplied out).  

That's quite a lot of cost spread, but that seems fair to me, how that age and quality range should work out.  The lowest cost tea works well for an example of one that might be great in another 5 years, or even a good bit better in 2 or 3, if kept under the right conditions, and the other two were on the next corresponding levels, one a pretty good shou that's ready to drink now, and then an older version that has those extra levels of positive aspects.

So again the price range follows suit, with buying well-stored older teas naturally costing more (that is a real added value, related to both an extra input incurring extra cost, and to product rarity), and best-value relating to preference and budget inclination.  Completely off that main point:  I've tried that least expensive 2017 Moychay shou again in the last two weeks, with it positively transitioning quite a bit in the last three months, so I now think it won't take two more years for the initial fermentation effect to clean up, another year should improve it a lot.

It keeps coming back to "it all just depends."  It's helpful to try a lot of different teas to place if any version is where it should be related to the quality level represented, a good version of the type and age, and these Thai versions seem that to me.  I can see why some aged sheng drinkers tend to "look down" on shou as inferior for varying less, or just being less interesting in character, and I can't completely agree with that since I also like shou, but I can make some sense of it.  There's just no accounting for taste, for subjective preference differences, and no way to make simple objective claims about that subject.