This tea was first presented to me a year ago as "Kings Jewel," back when I knew a lot less about tea. Curtis, our rep from TROT, came in with an offer of specialty teas that would be exclusive to our stores, and he did a tasting on some of them. One of which was his "Kings Jewel," to be sold at an exorbitant $192/lb.
Time goes by, and I learn a lot more about tea. Then I had an issue with the puerh they were selling us. I had questions about its origins, how long had it been aged, and they didn't want to disclose any information about it. Some of you may remember me popping around different forums asking questions about this, because I was trying to keep an open mind. At the same time I find out that Kings Jewel is really Lan Gui Ren, and it sells between $30-40/lb. That was enough for me, and I kindly tell our rep that we will no longer carry this line. End of story.
It turns out it wasn't. Long story not-so-long, Roy Fong sourced the teas for TROT in the first place, and he will be coming out in October to our stores. In light of this, I chose to do some more homework to be sure that I had made the right decision, so when I placed an order with Tea Spring, I asked for a sample, so I could compare the quality.
Tea: Lan Gui Ren (Lady Orchid)
Origin: Yunnan, China
Vendor: Tea Spring
Vendor: Tea Spring
Price: $6/50 g.
Lan Gui Ren is an oolong that is tightly compressed with licorice grass and American ginseng, forming little pellets. The first two infusions are the best. The most remarkable thing about this tea is how it lingers on the tongue. Unfortunately once the licorice and ginseng is gone, and you get to the leaves, there isn't much flavor left. Whatever oolong they use is not very good. I don't see myself drinking this tea again, but I can see where others might enjoy it. I do think it is at least worth a try.
The Lan Gui Ren from Tea Spring performed just as well as what we carry in our store at five times the price. It doesn't look like I'll be changing my mind. Of course I'm just the little guy; my boss can still change it for me.
For more on this tea, Mary wrote a great post some time ago.