The photo above shows local residents receiving their top prize awards in the recent winter 2016 Yonglong Fenghuang Community Traditional Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition in Nantou County, Taiwan. These neighboring villages are perched on a ridge just above Dong Ding Mountain, and are the historical home of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. This local competition is relatively small, yet in recent years has gained popularity as the professionally authorized source of traditionally made Dong Ding Oolong.
Our friend who is a top player in virtually all of central Taiwan's tea competitions received 5 awards placing within the top 8% of an overall 900 plus entries, one of which was 4th place! We have the privileged access to the minimal remainders of these batches that are entered for competition. It just so happens that this amounted to just enough tea to share with our Eco-Cha Tea Club members.
This batch of tea leaves was sourced from a farm in the northern Alishan region at about 1300m, harvested on November 5, 2016. This was divided up into several entry-sized batches and roasted separately. One of these entries achieved 4th place, another in the top 2%, and 3 others ranked within the top 8%. The remainders of these 5 entries comprises this month's Tea Club batch. So while we are calling it "Second Category Prize" tea (within the top 8%), it also includes some of first two higher ranking entries.
Beyond the fact that the standard of quality in this competition represents our personal favorite — Traditional Dong Ding Oolong, we determined this batch especially worthy of sharing based on its source. The same batch of freshly made tea was divided into several smaller batches and roasted separately. The subtle differences in the outcome of each separately roasted entry batch were tasted by leading professionals and ranked at 4th place, top 2%, and top 8%. We see this as testimony to the decisive finesse involved in the roasting process. On a given day, each roasted batch from the same harvest will have a different outcome. And it is the skill of the master roaster to determine how to navigate each individual roasting process.
The 4th Place Prize award is shown above. We must say that we are unabashedly proud to have the opportunity to share top award winning tea from the competition that represents the roots of central Taiwan's tea culture — in our personal experience.
We always appreciate hearing comments, questions and related stories about any of our Tea Club selections. We hope our members will be inspired to share their discoveries in the endless exploration of the world of tea!
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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.