Last Saturday was the spring competition tea fair, when prizes are publicly awarded and competition teas can be sampled and purchased.
Here is a bird's eye view of the event at the Lugu Farmers' Association with a glimpse of the historical Dong Ding Mountain in the background.
In addition to the awards ceremony and tea fair, there was the cultural element of tea and music offered to the public free of charge.
To finalize the event, on the following Wednesday there was an unpublicized occasion provided by the Farmers' Association for local participants in the competition and a few select guests to sample the spectrum of this spring's competition teas. I attended it with my friend Patricia Zhu - principal of Lugu Junior High School.
The teas were displayed to provide an educational experience of the judging process. First in the line were samples of rejected entries based on various characteristics such as green, bitter, astringent, aged, muddled, overly-roasted, etc. These were followed by entries that received awards in the competition - starting with the lowest and progressing to the champion prize winning tea.
These categories include two plum blossoms (about 34% of all entries); three plum blossoms (about 20%); Third Class (about 9%); Second Class (about 5%); First Class (about 2%); Top Ten Winners; and Champion Prize. There were a total of 5,882 entries in this spring's competition. Within the categories below the top ten and champion prize, three samples of each category were offered to represent the accepted roasting spectrum of the teas. This allows competitors to get a direct experience of the teas judged on a very pivotal factor in their production - roasting. This opportunity to taste the judging standards is essential information for artisans to experience in their preparation for the world's largest oolong tea competition.
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This month's batch of tea being shared with the Eco-Cha Tea Club was made by Mr. Su — an 80 year-old artisan of traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea. He planted a plot of the Tie Guan Yin strain in his backyard several years ago, and this is the second time we've sourced this tea type from him. Mr. Su is our favorite representative of traditionally made tea in Taiwan, and it brings us a special kind of joy to be able to share his tea with our tea club members.
This batch has a particularly sweet character, with slightly tangy, fruity notes and a pleasantly clean lingering aftertaste. It has just enough of that cured, almost fermented character that makes it reminiscent of a traditionally made Tie Guan Yin Oolong. But given that it was only roasted once, it maintains a mild flavor profile similar to a Hong Shui Oolong.