Looking at this tea from a competition standard perspective, these are the basic guidelines. In judging the quality of competition tea, the first assessment is the appearance of the dried leaves. They are judged by their color, luster, size and uniformity. In Alishan competitions, the leaves are minimally roasted and maintain their lustrous marbled, deep green quality.
Then the appearance of the brewed tea is assessed. The color, vibrance, and transparency of the brewed tea indicate the level of proper processing. A light greenish golden color with a density that refracts light but is also transparent is the desired quality. After cooling down for several minutes, the aroma of the brewed leaves is noted before tasting the brewed tea. The appearance of the brewed leaves is noted simultaneously. But mostly it is the flavor composition that will confirm or deny the visual assessment. If the flavor is not noticeably lacking or deviant from the standard of a fresh, clean, balanced and smooth composition, the tea qualifies, and is further assessed in comparison to all other qualified entries.
This was 9 grams of tea leaves brewed in a 180ml gaiwan pot. The brewed leaves are supple yet substantial and coherent. All of the above represent a well cultivated tea that was processed with skill and care.
Assessing the appearance of the leaves after brewing also tells a lot about the nature and quality of the leaf. Are the leaves fairly uniform in their coloration and consistency? Is there a noticeable yet subtle coloration of stems and leaf edges to indicate the level and consistency of oxidation? And what is the quality of aroma that continues to exude from these leaves even after they've been brewed and begin to cool down? These are all things to be noticed in appreciating the quality of a particular batch of tea.
Having said all this, these are competition standards that are necessary for an unbiased assessmentt. There is also an infinite spectrum of subtle differences that result from overall growing, harvesting and processing conditions that can result in an extraordinary quality that may not be suitable by competition standards. This also depends on the region and type of competition. We encourage you to assess any given tea by your own subjective experience as much as by these professional guidelines. In the end, tea is meant to be enjoyed and to enhance our lives via its health benefits and cultural richness and infinite variety of character.
We look forward to hearing about your experience of this month's batch of award winning Alishan High Mountain Oolong. Post your comments, photos and videos here for all Eco-Cha Tea Club members to see!
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