The Price of Yancha

Good yancha is difficult to shop for. There are no distinctly yancha-specialized vendors and no obvious filters to quickly eliminate debris (eliminating non-specialized vendors works very well for Taiwanese oolongs + pu’erh). One other obstacle are forgeries designed to satiate the public’s demand for Da Hong Pao (usually Rou Gui + Shui Xian). This article will attempt to clarify and simplify the process of shopping for yancha by examining the prices of the four famous bushes (Si Da Ming Cong) and two of the most commonly sold Yancha (Rou Gui, Shui Xian). Please note that this article should not be taken as a statement of cheaper is better. Different buyers should shop for different types and grades of yancha. Depending on your individual purchasing goals it is often worth spending more for quality.

Si Da Ming Cong

An expensive lineup of teas. Da Hong Pao, Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui, Bai Ji Guan. Source: Dragon Tea House.

It is also important to note that the distinction between the taste and flavor of yancha is affected by the oxidation and firing levels more than the particular type of yancha. That being said, comparing $/oz and minimum sample size helps us to make intelligent purchase decisions and clear vendor classifications by standardizing vendor offerings.

The Cost of Tea

What should you be paying for yancha? Are you overpaying? The answer is largely subjective and depends primarily on what your purchasing goals are. Are you looking for a roasty oolong daily sipper or a top-tier Yancha to drink on a special occasion? In order to standardize and simplify vendor offerings we took the vendor’s lowest purchasing size (>=0.5 oz). For most vendors this was between 15g (.53 oz.) to 50g (1.76 oz.) with a few larger exceptions (Teaurchin, Best Tea House). Larger purchases implies lower $/oz making this format a bit unfair to vendors who offer smaller purchasing sizes (for instance, Essence of Tea sells by the gram). Alas, no comparison is 100% perfect. For the sake of simplicity shipping is not included in any calculations.

Note: Vendors were selected from the Vendor Cheat Sheet in the Wuyi Oolong Compendium.

Note #2: Because there are a few vendors with very premium yancha skewing the overall $/oz average, we’ve also included the average price filtering out the highest and lowest Yancha. The vendors have been marked as bold within the table that were filtered out for this average price.

Da Hong Pao

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $21.55 1.76 $12.24 8
Yunnan Sourcing $8.67 1.76 $4.93 3
Jing Tea Shop $7.03 0.88 $7.98 2
Tea Spring $11.23 0.88 $12.76 5
Teacuppa $6.00 0.53 $11.32 1
Seven Cups $17.50 0.88 $19.89 2
Tea Urchin $30.00 2.11 $14.22 2
Best Tea House $127.00 3.53 $35.98 2
  • Average Price: $14.91
  • # Vendors: 8 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $13.07
  • # Offerings: 25 offerings

The large amount of offerings for Da Hong Pao, especially by vendors with daily-drinkers (Dragon Tea House, Yunnan Sourcing, Tea Spring) shows the more casual tea-drinking public’s demand for the most famous of the four bushes. Dragon Tea House sells 8 different Da Hong Paos! Because of the high-variance and the large gap between budget and premium offerings the average price doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the price of the tea itself. Dragon Tea House and Teaspring typify this, with both inexpensive and higher-priced Da Hong Pao.

It is also interesting that many of the high-end vendors (The Mandarin’s Tea Room, Essence of Tea) choose not to sell Da Hong Pao. The best budget options come from Yunnan Sourcing and Dragon Tea House while the highest-priced is Hong Kong-based Best Tea House (premium DHP is $98/50 grams, ~$55/oz).

Tie Luo Han

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $10.99 1.76 $6.24 1
Yunnan Sourcing $15.00 1.76 $8.52 1
Jing Tea Shop $9.00 0.88 $10.23 1
Tea Spring $9.50 0.88 $10.80 1
Teacuppa $7.00 0.53 $13.21 1
Seven Cups $18.23 0.88 $20.72 3
Tea Urchin $55.00 2.11 $26.07 1
The Mandarin’s Tea Room $23.00 0.88 $26.14 1
Essence of Tea $24.93 0.5 $49.86 1
Best Tea House $63.00 3.53 $17.85 2
  • Average Price: $18.96
  • # Vendors: 10 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $16.69
  • # Offerings: 13 offerings
  • Note: Tea Urchin sells a much cheaper Tie Luo Han @ $29/100grams. The more expensive one was included above because it is a smaller quantity of tea.

While there are more vendors offering Tie Luo Han than Da Hong Pao there are far less individual offerings than Da Hong Pao. Tie Luo Han lacks the same name draw and there are far less daily sippers offered resulting in a significantly higher average price. Again, the best daily drinkers come from Yunnan Sourcing and Dragon Tea House, but even those are far more expensive than their Da Hong Pao counterparts. With several offerings around the $20/oz mark (Essence of Tea is at $49.86/oz!) there are a number of premium offerings of Tie Luo Han to choose from.

Shui Jin Gui

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $20.99 1.76 $11.93 2
Jing Tea Shop $12.00 0.88 $13.64 1
Teacuppa $7.00 0.53 $13.21 1
Seven Cups $24.30 1.76 $13.81 1
Tea Urchin $45.00 2.11 $21.33 1
Essence of Tea $84.00 1.76 $47.73 2
  • Average Price: $20.27
  • # Vendors: 6 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $15.49
  • # Offerings: 8 offerings

The selection for Shui Jin Gui is very similar to Tie Luo Han, scaling towards the high-end with the only daily sipper coming from Dragon Tea House. While it seems like most Shui Jin Gui hovers a notch lower than the prices of Tie Luo Han (with the exception of Jing Tea Shop), this can probably be attributed to a small sample size and natural variance.

Bai Ji Guan

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $26.99 1.76 $15.34 2
Tea Spring $15.60 0.88 $17.73 1
Teacuppa $7.00 0.53 $13.21 1
Seven Cups $19.42 0.88 $22.07 1
Essence of Tea $88.00 1.76 $50.00 2
Best Tea House $85.00 3.53 $24.08 1
  • Average Price: $23.74
  • # Vendors: 6 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $19.80
  • # Offerings: 8 offerings

Bai Ji Guan is a tea with a very low supply, far lower than the other Si Da Ming Cong. With such a low production it is unsurprising that the cost is very high across the board, peaking with Essence @ $50/oz. There is almost no point in buying this tea as a daily sipper (there are also no reasonable daily drinker options!).

Rou Gui

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $15.99 1.76 $9.09 4
Yunnan Sourcing $8.00 1.76 $4.55 1
Jing Tea Shop $5.75 0.88 $6.53 1
Tea Spring $8.00 0.88 $9.09 1
Teacuppa $14.80 1.76 $8.41 1
Seven Cups $23.81 1.76 $13.53 1
Essence of Tea $9.63 0.5 $19.26 2
  • Average Price: $10.06
  • # Vendors: 7 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $9.33
  • # Offerings: 11 offerings

With an average price of ~$10, Rou Gui is a far more affordable tea than any of the four famous bushes. Like Da Hong Pao, this is a tea where it’s not fair to compare the premium Zhengyan offerings (Essence/Seven Cups) with the more affordable offerings (pretty much everything else!). The dramatic price decrease makes Rou Gui a great tea to start with for those new to Yancha.

Shui Xian

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $9.99 1.76 $5.68 2
Yunnan Sourcing $8.83 1.76 $5.02 3
Jing Tea Shop $7.80 0.88 $8.86 1
Tea Spring $5.40 0.88 $6.14 1
Teacuppa $8.00 0.88 $9.09 1
Seven Cups $18.71 1.76 $10.63 2
Essence of Tea $4.95 0.5 $9.90 3
Best Tea House $15.00 3.53 $4.25 1
  • Average Price: $7.45
  • # Vendors: 8 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $7.45
  • # Offerings: 14 offerings

With an average price of $7 (~the same as Dong Ding) Shui Xian is the most inexpensive of the Yancha family. Vendors know this and prices are consistently lower across the board, even for premium vendors (Essence, Seven Cups). Ironically, Best Tea House offers the lowest $/oz.

Note: For the best prices on Shui Xian and daily sippers look at Asian markets where you can get absurdly inexpensive Shui Xian (prices can be as lower than $0.50/oz).

Lao Cong Shui Xian

Vendor $ Cost Quantity (oz) $/oz # Offerings
Dragon Tea House $21.75 1.76 $12.36 2
Jing Tea Shop $8.95 0.88 $10.17 1
Tea Spring $8.20 0.88 $9.32 1
Seven Cups $24.30 1.76 $13.81 1
The Mandarin’s Tea Room $22.00 0.88 $25.00 1
Tea Urchin $48.00 3.53 $13.60 1
Essence of Tea $20.83 0.5 $41.66 4
  • Average Price: $17.99
  • # Vendors: 7 vendors
  • Average Price (minus most/least expensive): $14.99
  • # Offerings: 11 offerings

With prices over twice of normal Shui Xian, it is clear that Lao Cong Shui Xian should be classified as a different, far more premium tea closer in price to Si Da Ming Cong. Prices are fairly consistent amongst vendors sitting in the $9-13/oz. range (the two exceptiosn being The Mandarin’s Tea Room and Essence of Tea).

Price of Yancha

Yancha (filtered result) + Taiwanese Teas

Tea Cost Region Elevation
Da Yu Ling $20.01 Taiwan 2,500
Bai Ji Guan $19.80 Wuyi 650
Tie Luo Han $16.69 Wuyi 650
Shui Jin Gui $15.49 Wuyi 650
Lishan $15.04 Taiwan 2,200
Lao Cong Shui Xian $14.99 Wuyi 650
Da Hong Pao $13.07 Wuyi 650
Oriental Beauty $12.21 Taiwan 800
Alishan $11.29 Taiwan 1,200
Rou Gui $9.33 Wuyi 650
Shui Xian $7.45 Wuyi 650
Dong Ding $7.00 Taiwan 850
Si ji $4.93 Taiwan 500
Jin Xuan $4.84 Taiwan 500

Observations

First Observation: There is a clear division between our teas. The four famous bushes and Lao Cong Shui Xian are the most expensive, followed by Rou Gui and Shui Xian.

Second Observation: With the exception of a few outliers, there are only three legitimate options for daily drinkers (~$7-9/oz): cheap Da Hong Pao, Rou Gui, and Shui Xian.

Third Observation: Daily drinkers from online vendors for Wuyi (Shui Xian, avg. price $7.45) are generally more expensive than their Taiwanese tea equivalents, Jin Xuan, Cui Yu, and Si-ji (avg. price ~$4-5). Yancha does become far cheaper if you can purchase tea from an Asian supermarket.

Fourth Observation: Da Hong Pao has the largest variation in price. This is due to the large market surrounding such a famous tea and two very different consumers.

Fifth Observation: Tie Luo Han, Shui Jin Gui, Bai Ji Guan are nearly always premium teas.

Sixth Observation: The famous bushes are very similar to high-mountain tea in price. $15-25/oz.

Seventh Observation: If you want to experience top-end yancha, expect to spend >$20/oz. Even though Wuyi Oolongs are grown at a relatively low elevation <700 meters, their unique terrain and old bushes make up for it in quality.

Vendor Observations

First Observation: There is a clear division between vendors, premium and otherwise.

Sippers: Yunnan Sourcing, Dragon Tea House.

Premium: Teaspring, Teacuppa, Jing Tea Shop.

Really Premium: Essence of Tea, The Mandarin’s Tea Room, Tea Urchin, Seven Cups, Best Tea House.

Second Observation: There are a few tweeners that have both inexpensive and premium offerings of the same tea (Dragon Tea House and sorta Teaspring).

Third Observation: Essence of Tea has really expensive tea! Putting them side by side with other premium vendors (Tea Urchin, The Mandarin’s Tea Room, Best Tea House) really highlights their prices. It should be noted that Essence offers tea by the gram, giving the consumer alot of choice and control over their purchase even though the price is high.

Fourth Observation: Many top-end vendors opt not to offer all four famous bushes. Presumably this is because it is too difficult to source quality tea for all of them. Seven Cups and Dragon Tea House are the exception to this.

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6 Responses to The Price of Yancha

  1. Peter says:

    Another great article, guys! Very informative & detailed. Now if you could do one on puers, I’d be even happier!

    Thanks.

    • James says:

      Thanks Peter! Pu’erhs will be coming at some point. At this point I honestly feel under qualified to tackle such a vast subject.

      Cheers,
      -James

  2. Connor says:

    Great article! Although I currently do not buy much Wuyi, I’ll be sure to reference this once I do.

    • James says:

      Thanks for the comment Connor. It’s a grand genre of tea with alot of history. A fun transition for those that are into Taiwanese oolongs!

      Cheers,
      -James

  3. Richard says:

    Hi,

    Like your site a lot.

    Just wanted to point out that Tea Urchin also has a less expensive Tie Luo Han, $29/100 g which I believe comes out to somewhere around $8.12/oz

    Will you be performing similar analysis for Phoenix Oolongs?

    Best

    • James says:

      Hi Richard, thanks for the comment and a very solid point. The more expensive Tie Luo Han was included because it had a smaller purchase size. I included a note beneath the table that will notify people of this option and clear up any confusion!

      We might perform this analysis for Phoenix Oolongs at some point but most likely it will be pu’erh next. Simply put, I don’t have the same experience with Phoenix Oolongs and the associated vendors as I do with other genres of tea.

      Cheers!
      -James

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