The most educational and privileged event at the Nantou County Global Tea Expo, in my experience - is the opportunity to taste award winning teas from all over Taiwan. For an entrance fee of US$3.30, you can participate in a cupping of 10 of this year’s Champion Spring Teas in Taiwan. Ten participants per cupping are invited to smell the brewed leaves and taste the brewed tea through two rounds of the table. The cuppings follow the standard tea judging methods of 3g of tea leaves in a 50 ml cup brewed for 6 minutes with near-boiling temperature water. The brewed leaves and tea are then allowed to cool for about 6 minutes before sampling.
The cupping is hosted by a certified tea judge who leads the group through the brewing, smelling of the brewed leaves, and tea tasting experience. The host introduces the tea types that span the spectrum of specialty teas produced in Taiwan from green to black, yet mostly comprised of variations of oolongs. Basic explanations of the tea types are given along with the judging process that is conducted in the competitions.
The first cupping we attended this year started with a green Bi Luo Qun from Ping Lin, Taipei followed by an unroasted, minimally oxidized High Mountain Oolong from Ren Ai Township in Nantou. Step by step we moved through the gradients of oolong teas, finishing with a heavily oxidized Oriental Beauty Oolong from Xin Zhu.
More types of Champion Spring Teas can be experienced by attending other cuppings. There are 18 types of tea, almost all champion, with a few 2nd place prize winners of local competitions from all over Taiwan, offered at this event. So in order to make the best of this unique opportunity, we will attend at least a few more cuppings of this year’s champion spring teas before the event closes on October 27.
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We recently visited Mr. Liu when we hosted a visitor from Italy who was keen on experiencing the local tea culture. Our guest was truly elated to be served tea by a true artisan of the trade. Mr. Liu served us three different teas that were all locally harvested this past spring. They varied only in their degree oxidation and roasting. And the one that was sufficiently oxidized, but only lightly roasted, immediately impressed us.