YQH Retrospective & The YQH Value Spot

In our small little westerm tea community, there was quite a stir over YQH in 2015 and 2016. I’ll personally admit to being caught up in both the dialog and purchasing of these teas. YQH remains available via Emmett, the most important figure in making these teas accessible). And while YQH as a conversation piece in the tea community has faded, I thought I’d share some thoughts on YQH, looking back with some perspective.

YQH Tong

YQH Tong,

YQH is NOT That Expensive (Compared to Many Other Teas)

Maybe this is controversial. I’m not sure.. I disagree with the notion that these teas are prohibitively expensive. They certainly aren’t relative to young pu’erh made available regularly from western vendors. Sure, these aren’t teas I’d recommend for someone operating under a strict budget but if we look at the most popular YQH teas the prices are far from outrageous.

Select Teas:

Again, these teas are not budget teas and their higher end teas are indeed expensive, but I don’t think anyone ever argued that YQH is a budget tea. The first step towards rationalizing a YQH tea purchase is looking at the $ per tea weight so you don’t get caught in the trap of absolute values. When I compiled data to look at tea being offered at conception (young tea), I found the median price of freshly pressed tea offered by western vendors in 2017 ranged from $0.30/g to $0.35/g (median production). 2018 looks to be even higher. A ton of these are pressed into 200 or 250 gram cakes. YQH cakes are frequently 400 or 500 grams, twice the size.

Pricewise, the 2007 YQH Jincha is cheaper than your average fresh tea and the Qizhong falls right in the middle! Lingya and Qixiang are a little more expensive but comparable and much cheaper than many western vendor’s 2017 productions. The most popular YQH teas fit right into the middle of an average young tea produced by a western vendor.

  • For those who are looking at Yangqing Hao’s English site and shaking your head in disagreement over the prices.. Yes. Yang did made a lot of more expensive, smaller-run teas that can induce sticker shock.. But you are under zero obligation to buy those. And from what I understand, these pricier, smaller-run teas were not widely purchased. Don’t let that shade your judgement on some of his other teas.
  • Mid-range YQH teas have been steady in price, while other puerh and maocha prices have risen substantially. The YQH productions that have risen the most are also their most premium productions. This is also no guarantee the prices will continue to hold steady in the future.
  • If you are a person into higher-end teas, there are a lot of options for you many of which compare fine with other higher-end teas. This post isn’t about those teas specifically.

Yang’s Storage

There was also much hubbub about the storage. When a lot of people were trying these teas it became pretty clear that Yang’s storage had a certain character. At the time, I said I liked the storage. There were a few other legitimate opinions. Some people preferred Houde’s drier storage or their own home storage. Others said that the tea was too humidly stored and that you couldn’t taste the base material. Some people insinuated that some teas appeared to be stored differently than other ones. Since the original post, I also had the opportunity to see how Yang is storing it (natural Tainan stored), which relative to 99% of western storage is indeed quite a bit more humid.

It’s a couple years later and I still like Yang’s storage. I disagree with the notion that you can’t even tell what tea it is due to how the tea was stored. The longer I’ve owned these teas, the more they’ve lost some of that original house taste.. Similarly, I also think that the difference in storage noted for samples were probably dependent on how long Yang’s cake (that he made samples out of) had been removed from his warehouse. That all being said, I do need to acknowledge that this storage probably shouldn’t be considered dry-storage under a strict sense and if you are someone that prefers teas that are strictly dry-stored, please do take note.

Yang’s Teas Are Not All The Same

I’ve seen the sentiment tossed around hat once you’ve tried one YQH you’ve tried them all. This is untrue.. There’s likely more variation across W2T’s selection than YQH, but that doesn’t make all the teas the same. There are certainly similarities across a few of his teas and they obviously share the same storage, but there are a good many Yang productions and a fair amount of variation. For instance, I think the 2006 Qixiang is extremely different from the 2007 Qizhong. Both are worth trying.. Do not make the lazy mistake of trying a lower end Yang tea and assuming these are all crap teas or not for you.

Recent Select Reviews

2007 Jincha

2007 Lingya

2006 Qixiang

Final Thoughts, My Own Habits & Recommendations

These teas have always hit my soft spot. Semi-aged Yiwu and 6FM tea are a regular part of my tea diet and I’ve bought enough that I’ll be drinking these teas for a while. These teas continue to compare well with other options in their $0.25-$0.35/g price range that are accessible in the west. They also haven’t risen much or at all in price and continue to be easily accessible. Will that always be the case? I don’t have a crystal ball, but I doubt it.

The tea that ends up in my pot the most often is the Lingya. It isn’t the best tea ever, but I enjoy the hell out of it and it isn’t expensive enough for me to exclude it from my regular rotation of teas. A tea I don’t drink as much as I probably could is the Qizhong. I really liked this tea when I first had it, but despite being a pretty good value in an absolute context the tea has some erratic sessions in it, which causes me to choose to drink the Lingya over it.  The 2005 Cangliu and 2006 Qixiang are also fine, but not necessarily my style. They’re both quite different from the 2007s, which makes them worth a try. Despite being an annoying shape, the tea I’ll recommend to anyone wanting to dip their toes in is the Jincha. It’s not as good as the Lingya, but for the price it’s probably the best value pick and a solid tea in its own right.

James’ keeping it simple picks:

  • 2007 Lingya
  • 2007 Jincha
This entry was posted in Article, Drinking Report, Raw Pu'erh and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to YQH Retrospective & The YQH Value Spot

  1. shah8 says:

    I really have to disagree on value, here…

    The core of what makes YQH valuable is high end mid-aughts Mansa teas at very reasonable prices.

    I mean, it doesn’t get better than : http://www.yangqinghao.com/teas/2005-yuanshi-senlin-huangshan-cha at 89 cents a gram.

    For me, the chief flaw of YQH is that the blending tends to create a somewhat clunky tea. Speaking of Qizhong, it really is interesting how erratic it is. There is obviously something really good in it–the best sessions are really good, but most sessions are much less so. Qixiang is also erratic, but the floor is much higher and more consistent.

    The chief advantage of YQH, aside from all of the non-overpicked Mansa, is the *bigness* of its nice qualities. They are generally much more meatily good than other premium brands.

    (btw, in general, we’re talking 2004-2010 YQH. Later teas are a bit different in emphasis)

    In general, I think that premium taiwanese brands are undervalued. Not quite so much that it’s going to rise or nothing (It would take an influx of richer Westerners interested specifically in those brands), but because the toxic Mainland puerh culture can only take so much, and the Chinese credit can only expand so much before a general deflation of tea happens. Good taiwanese brands probably would maintain value better when the crash happens.

    • James says:

      Hi shah,

      I agree that some TW brands are undervalued, especially those pressing early.. And this is arguably the most accessible brand (discounting TW auctions or w/e).

      I’m not sure that we really disagree.. Those more premium teas are outside of the scope of the article and aren’t really addressed here. There’s certainly an argument to be made for their higher-end teas do a lot of things that are unique but it’s just not what this is intended to address. It’s one but not all of the appeals of YQH.

      -James

      • shah8 says:

        Ah, I see that third point up there. I’d still disagree with it, in the sense that we should encourage those who can afford it, to get the best quality price ratios.

        • James says:

          I think you can make that case and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree (some of his high-end teas are very good). But I think there’s a somewhat limited amount of buyers that are willing to cross the barrier to $400-700+ cakes around a $/g compared with the teas mentioned here. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think they’re a tough sell in general. It’s also a tricky value comparison overall to make in my opinion.

          • shah8 says:

            However–

            Fundamentally, no matter how we hype it, things like ’03 Hong Kong Henry 7542 SP, or Chantai Old Chen’s Jinzhushan, and to a lesser extent, the Lingya, Qizhong, and Jincha are replaceable teas. There will always be *some* tea out there, just as good, in their own way, for the same money, no matter the era of tea buying you’re in.

            In contrast, the ’03 to roughly ’14 (for the exotic Bohetangy stuff) is pretty much it as far as consumer available elite stuff. Not only do people run the risk of these teas disappearing in some new mania; salable quantities of these teas are all mostly in the hands of just a few people, who could suffer misfortune or disinterest at any random time. Trying acquiring an ’06 YQH LBZ, for example…

            Now, for taiwan boutique, the previously implicitly mentioned lack of liquidity prevents price rises because marketers couldn’t hype tea for enough margin, when they only have a box or a few boxes, or god-forbid, a tong or two of that tea.

            These teas may have tricky value issues, but they have worse availability issues, long term. It’s like the whole thing with Dayi as opposed to Xiaguan, Haiwan, and 6FTM once upon a time. For example, at one point in 2010, the 2007 Xiaguan FT #4 recipe was roughly the same price as the 2007 Dayi An Xiang at Jas-eteas. Even then, there was an issue with Dayi being considered too expensive, and that particular Xiaguan is very respected factory tea, or was. Back then, you probably had to pick Dayi, if you liked both teas equally, because you knew that Dayi people will bid up that tea. More seriously, people routinely made the calculation that for every unreasonably expensive $70 Dayi cake, they could get a tong of Haiwan 7549, and some followed through on that–which was a biiig mistake. You can still buy a Xiaguan ’07 no.4 for like $30 or something. But you have much more trouble buying that nice Dayi, needing intermediaries and currency changing and all of that.

            Absolutely nothing against people buying Lingya, Qizhong et al (Qixiang is a little different, even if serving the same basic purpose), but we should be clear about pallette of value and risks about getting any of these. I do think that for the forseeable future, expensive boutiques will be available because there is just so much more tea produced than demand that smoke has to clear, first.

          • James says:

            I guess it depends how highly you think of these teas. I tend to think they’re a bit better than the other teas you mentioned. The SF and Jinzhushan you also have to know where to go to get them at an acceptable price. It’d be very difficult for me to come up with a replacement level tea that wasn’t significantly more expensive and available. Maybe I just value these teas higher than you do? I don’t know.

            I think the argument that these are merely acceptable value holds more sway to those that have more options where to acquire tea. I think we both fall into this camp (the one with more options). This is intended to be more limited in scope. Sure, you can goto Taiwanese auctions and get some Serious Formula for a pretty good price. But I’d argue most people will never take that leap or make that connection directly. You could say that it takes a leap to trust Emmett to source these. But I do think there is a significant difference between something like auctions and him..

            So the topic of high-end vs. medium-end YQH…

            I agree that the higher-end tea is more scarce and has suspect future availability, moreso than Lingya/Qizhong/Qixiang. You can just look at how some have already sold out. If someone is in the market for something in that range, they should by all means pursue it. I’m less certain of how to define value here.

            If I were judging the new against each other in my head, I’d be thinking.. Would you (a) rather spend $/g on something that is very unlikely to have a similar, replacement level tea or (b) spend half or a third of that on something that is likely to have a replacement level tea but at an enhanced price. In my opinion, both choices are defensible.

    • MattCha says:

      Shah8 and James,

      I think where I differ from James (and maybe Shah8) is that I would recommend the 2007 Qizhong and 2006 Qixiang over his two picks especially for those who are not new at this puerh thing.

      First, I like the dichotomy that both offer together. Qixiang is subtle, light, relaxing. Qizhong is edgy, dark, powerful.

      Secondly, I like the “box of chocolates” “never know what you are goin’ get” character that these both share. To me, that unpredictability is valued and is an opportunity for a skilled drinker to see what they are made of or to have the skill to pull out the flavours they are looking for on the given day. That, makes these two more interesting.

      Thirdly, dispite the unpredictability of taste, the qi is consistent. The QiZhong very powerful and the QiXiang very peaceful. I’m getting the feeling Yang Qing Hao is all about the Qi anyways.

      Today, I was alone with my two small very wild kids and I chose to drink QiXiang and you can imagine that it was pretty chill. A few days ago, had way way too much to do, went for the QiZhong and everything got done. You get it right?

      Peace

      • James says:

        Hi Matt,

        I can’t blame you for those picks. For me, the Lingya ends up satisfying the best of both worlds. It may actually be my most consumed tea.

        I like the Qixiang and all, but given the option I seem to reach for it. The thing with the Qixiang is that I feel like it is a pretty different tea from any of the 2007 YQH teas, something I’ve tried to emphasize. I think a fair amount of folks with different taste than me who find the 2007 teas to be too dark and/or intense, the Qixiang may be the right tea for them. I’ve actually had pretty good success serving this one to other people, depending on the drinkers taste.

        Lastly, I would push back just a smidgen on the valuation of qi. The good YQH do have some nice energy, but they’re also nice teas in more standard ways (taste, aftertaste, mouthfeel) as well!

        -James

        • MattCha says:

          James,

          I agree the Lingya seems to be nice middle ground. A nice tea for that.

          Of course these teas also have great taste,mouthfeel, aroma, aftertaste, throat feeling. Personally, I just feel that the way they make me feel is what brings them into that higher standard for me.

          Thanks again James on another great article and much needed re-visiting of Yang Qing Hao.

          I am going to be exploring some of the higher end stuff soon. Hope to see a retrospective or your view on some of this stuff if you have any new perspectives.

          Peace

          • James says:

            Thanks Matt. Look forward to posts on that. It seems as if we both had good (or bad?) timing as it sounds like the prices may be going up considerably.

  2. MattCha says:

    James,

    Hahahaha…. funny you mention that… seems my recent posts on these 2006s and 2007s are in agreement with a lot this.

    Peace

  3. TJM says:

    Well, I think the teas James references are fantastic teas. To get this excellent quality level at these prices is really amazing. Unless your preference is for dry stored teas, nothing really comes close for generally available teas in the western market. Which brings us to Emmett-a person of impeccable integrity who graciously and sometimes thankless makes these wonderful teas available to us through his group buys.

    We all have preferences and apparently there is some variation among the cakes or cake portions, particularly for the blended teas. Although I dislike high compression, I enjoy the Jincha a great deal, even more than the somewhat higher priced teas. In my experience at least, it is an amazing bargain. The Qizhong is great for those wanting a bit more aggression. The Lingya does seem to be a nice all-arounder.

    Of the somewhat higher-enders, I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the Chawangshu-either in body effect or taste. Maybe its the cake or me, who knows.On the other hand I very much like the Tejipin. The much touted and not cheap Dingji is distinctive and quite wonderfuly excellent. If you have the money, by all means explore these and other high end YQH. On the other hand, the teas James mentions in this article have much of what the high-enders offer at relatively dirt cheap prices for the exceptional quality.

    • James says:

      Thanks for chiming in and your thoughts on those teas! I’m personally a fan of CWS, Teji, and Dingji. Dingji is probably the most unique and interesting, but can be a pretty challenging brew. Teji and CWS find their way into my cup far more often.

  4. marco says:

    It might be good to include the Cangmi 1kg brick (Also a 2007 production but from 1999 material) in this list. I have been trying my sample of this recently, very impressive tea, unique among the YQH in that it has what seems to me to be a truly aged profile. I think one could argue it is the very best value available from YQH

    • James says:

      Hi Marco,

      That’s a good suggestion, I’d almost totally forgot about those older teas.

      I originally had a pretty hard time getting on board with the 1999 Cangmi/Micang and Jin Tuo. I found them easy to drink but a bit boring. That being said, I have not retried them and can’t think of any western equivalent… They’re probably pretty worthwhile for people to try if they’re after something with more age.

      -James

  5. Pierre says:

    Hi James! As always amazing post. Silent but passionate reader here. I was just wondering if you had any opinion on more recent yqh productions, like the 2016 Wujin Cang? Can’t find any tasting notes anywhere about this one, and dare not buy it blindly, although it seems promising, supposedly from state forest Yiwu… A penny for your thoughts!
    Best wishes

    • James says:

      Thanks Pierre. Appreciate you following!

      I have actually not tried that tea.. I have heard good things about the quality of Yang’s younger Yiwus. Given his track record, it doesn’t surprise me that he can put together a decent Yiwu tea. How it compares vs. his 10 year old tea, I’m not too sure.

      Cheers,
      -James

      • Pierre says:

        Thanks for your reply James. Good to know it got some positive feedback, i think i’ll take a chance at it 🙂
        Thanks again for all the helpful posts and videos! Best,
        Pierre

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *