I recently purchased some Dong Ding Oolong from Tillerman Tea, who specialize in Taiwanese teas and are known to have high quality Taiwanese oolongs. I also have a tin of Dong Ding that I purchased from my local Asian grocery store (AGS). I am always cognizant of value, so I thought I would do a side by side comparison of the cheap and more expensive tea to see if it is worth the extra cost or not. Let’s dig in.
You can already see quite a difference in the dry leaves. the Tillerman leaves are larger and whole leaves and a darker color, while the AGS leaves are smaller and a lot of them are broken.
I used 6 grams of each leaf at 200F water and steeped for 15 seconds + 5.
The first infusion of Tillerman tasted roasted, smooth, with a very thick body, slight creaminess and a taste of fruit but with some spices on it and baked. Nutmeg maybe, kinda like apple pie. It was very warming and comforting and overall very good.
The first infusion of AGS tasted slightly bitter at first sip, thinner texture, but it also had some of the same fruity notes as the Tillerman. Not bad but not great either.
The second infusion for Tillerman had a sweet note that hit me right off the bad, more sweet than the first infusion, which was nice. It also had the similar spiced fruit taste as the first infusion.
The second infusion for AGS was the same as the first. Slight bitterness with some spiced fruit notes.
The third infusion for Tillerman had more of a creamy note return while still maintaining the spiced fruit taste.
The third infusion for AGS was the same as the first two.
I stopped it after three infusions. You can see a stark difference in the color of the liquor and in the size, shape, and color of the spent leaves.
The tea from Tillerman was the winner hands down in the taste and quality comparison. It was thicker, smoother, had more flavor and had a more warming and comforting sensation than the Asian grocery store tea. But is it worth the price difference?
So, what are the prices? Tillerman sells this tea for $33.00 for 4 oz. (113 grams), which is $.29 / gram. The Asian grocery store tea sells for $10.00 for 100 grams, which is $.10 / gram. So, the Tillerman tea is just under three times as expensive as the AGS tea. Is it worth it? Ultimately, that comes down to each individual, but to me, yes it is.
Tillerman gives detailed information on each tea that they sell including the name of the farmer who grew it. Honestly, $.29 / gram ($.22 per cup at 8 infusions) isn’t even that expensive for top quality tea. It’s not that the Tillerman is expensive so much as the grocery store tea is very cheap. We don’t know anything about the source of the grocery tea except that it is a Dong Ding from Taiwan. I have been drinking the grocery store tea at my office for a while now, and I never thought it was bad. But now I know what a good Dong Ding can be, I can appreciate it as a cheap daily drinker and drink it while I’m busy working.
If you really want to take it slow and appreciate tea, then the high quality and more expensive tea is a must. If you just want a daily drinker to have some tea to drink while you are working on other things, then a grocery store tea might be the right choice, it’s a big step up from tea bags! In the end, there is a time and a place for both.
You can find the Tillerman tea here.