Batch 57 of the Eco Cha Tea Club is a Top Award winning tea that was entered into the spring 2020 Nantou County Tea Trade Association's Dong Ding (Ton Tin) Cui Yu Oolong Tea competition. This association focuses on promoting tea production in lower elevation regions, namely Zhushan and Mingjian Townships in southern Nantou County. These towns are at the foot of the mountain below Lugu Township and the Shan Lin Xi high mountain tea growing region. Zhushan and Mingjian, along with Lugu are home to the densest population of tea makers in Taiwan. And these three low and mid-elevation areas are the predecessors to all of the High Mountain Tea growing regions in central Taiwan. All three place names have generations of tea history. It's a long and complex story, but — in short, these 3 neighboring towns share a common history of pre-modern tea production.
Dong Ding Oolong is the name that is given to the type of tea that is most prominently distinguished from the modern innovation of High Mountain Oolong in Nantou County. Although Dong Ding is the name of a mountain in Lugu with a deep history of tea production, this name now represents a processing method more than anything else. This pre-modern processing method was never exclusive to communities on and around Dong Ding Mountain in Lugu. They were simply pre-modern Oolong Tea processing methods. Songboling in Mingjian is also the home of traditional tea making. And in the end, it comes down to who is growing and processing the tea more than anything else, even though the micro-climate has unquestionable significance.
Our friends in the photo above have won First Place Award in this competition 3 times! And their tea consistently receives the Top Award (top 5%) Category. They only source tea for this competition from one farmer who specializes in producing higher quality tea leaves, made for this competition. The farmer invests more in farm management, and skillfully processes his leaves to a higher degree of oxidation — making them suitable for roasting. Several other First Place Award winners have also used leaves from the same source.
This spring, our friends procured three standard 18kg bulk bags of Tai Cha #13 a.k.a. 翠玉 or Cui Yu (Tsui Yu) a.k.a. Jade Oolong — to prepare for this competition. Tai Cha #13 is a hybrid strain that was bred by the Tea Research and Extension Station to have a distinctive flavor and aromatic profile. It was registered and promoted shortly after the more widely cultivated and well known Tai Cha #12 a.k.a. Jin Xuan a.k.a. Milky Oolong in the early 1980's. This preparation for competition involves destemming and sorting the leaves, and roasting them repeatedly to achieve the competition standard of flavor and aromatic profile as well as appearance.
After sorting and roasting, the quantity of fully prepared competition grade leaf was reduced to less than the amount needed for 3 entries, so there was about 10kg leftover after two entries went into competition. This is how we were offered this batch of tea that ended up receiving Top Award category in the spring 2020 competition.
Our Roasted Tsui Yu Oolong is from this same source, and the tea leaves that he prepares for this competition, but don't quite hit the mark for competition entry become part of their standard stock of this tea type. Basically, our in store Roasted Tsui Yu Oolong is the same type of tea that is entered in this competition.
The subject of tea competitions in Taiwan and their influence on local traditions, along with industry standards and quality control is a broad and complex — and even controversial topic. It's a discussion that doesn't properly fit into the space of this blog entry! What we can confidently say is that some of the best tea makers in Taiwan do their best in achieving these awards. It's the most expedient way to gain recognition, and the competition is serious. In this way, the competition industry has undeniably raised the bar in terms of overall quality standards in Taiwan's tea production.
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