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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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.