And it's that time of year again, when local tea farmers and merchants have put in long hours for days and weeks, repeatedly roasting batches of tea to be entered into the world's largest Oolong Tea competition.
Over 6000 entries of premium Dong Ding Oolong tea were submitted last weekend. All registered, coded, packaged and stored for the judging to begin. Which it did a couple days ago, and where several of our friends and tea sources return to their professional tea judging posts for this biannual event.
Lugu Farmers' Association 林獻堂 (Tony Lin) explained to the press how the growing season was impaired by the island-wide drought, and the yield was diminished. But on the positive side, there was fine weather during harvest and curing time that has produced exemplary tea for this year's competition.
We've watched this competition continue to develop over the last 20 years with gradually growing interest. Yet only in recent years has it become clear how significant it has been in preserving a traditional product of regional origin. And in addition to sustaining the value and demand for quality Dong Ding Oolong tea, this competition has become a model for virtually all other Oolong Tea competitions in Taiwan, and more recently in China. It has become a hub of the Oolong industry. And now we are seeing a whole new generation of interest in the production and preservation of this specialty product. After more than 30 years of progress, the Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong competition has surpassed its initial aspirations.
The next round of entries is weighed into 3 gram samples to be brewed for 6 minutes in 150 ml of boiling temperature water. Teams rotate in a systematic analysis of all the entries by more than thirty judges who categorize them for further inspection. Then there is a second round of assessment by a single team of senior judges. The results are set to be released on May 25, and the Spring Tea Competition public event will be on June 6. We look forward to mingling with local farmers and tasting their spring tea.
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The appearance of the brewed tea has gained substance, and become a deeper yellowish gold in comparison to the thinner, lighter unroasted brew. This coincides with the flavor profile in that the roasted version is heartier, with a more balanced character. The aroma coming off the leaves from the initial rinse is reminiscent of buttered carrots or yams. After the first brew, the aroma is more like grilled corn, cooling off into freshly baked scones. The second pour brought on stronger roasted vegetable notes, but again cooling off into a pastry aroma.
Red Oolong offers a smooth, balanced, mildly sweet, rich but not quite bold flavor profile, with elements of fruit compote, pumpkin pie, and a hint of dried flowers. This ultra-friendly character, combined with the fact that almost all Red Oolong is cultivated naturally on the southeast coast of Taiwan, facing the wide open Pacific, where the sky reminds a North American of the northern west coast, is no wonder why it is rapidly gaining popularity on the international market. Once again, Taiwan leads the way in Oolong Tea innovation!