The World's Largest Oolong Tea Competition

December 13, 2017

Andy recently visited a good friend and long-time Oolong tea supplier in Lugu. It so happened, the Lugu Farmers' Association's Dong Ding Oolong Competition was kicking off at the same time. This competition is the largest Oolong tea competition in the world and tea farmers far and wide bring their best teas for judging. Andy used this opportunity to bring you a behind-the-scenes peek into how a good loose leaf oolong tea is crowned a winner.

Bamboo oolong tea basket roasters along wall

Traditional Tea Making

Shown above are bamboo basket roasters in full effect, emitting exquisite aromas of tea leaves in their last hours of roasting in preparation for the Lugu Farmers' Association's Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition — winter 2017. These traditional style roasters are often used for the final roasting, following repeated roastings in larger convection ovens. The temperature for roasting ranges from about 80°C to 120°C from beginning to end for a total of 25 to 40 hours, typically involving 6-8 hour sessions with days of "rest" between roastings.

Mr. Su in his workshop tasting the batches of tea that would be delivered to the Farmers' Association the next day for the winter tea competition.

Master Oolong Tea Maker

And this is Mr. Su, who I visited in his workshop while he was tasting the batches of tea that would be delivered to the Farmers' Association the next day for the winter tea competition. Personally, this is my favorite and most meaningful setting of the world's largest Oolong Tea competition. A spontaneous visit with an elder traditional tea maker who pioneered Taiwan's modern tea industry, with some 60 years of professional tea production behind him, and still winning the highest awards. Earlier, we reported on how Mr. Su and other elder tea artisans were helping to keep the traditional Dong Ding Oolong tea making tradition alive. Being there, tasting his tea along with him at the culmination of his weeks of work, chatting freely about everything from this season's harvest to the history of the competition from its beginning — this is the heart of it.

Lining up to enter batches of tea into the winter tea competition.

Line-up to Submit Tea

The next day, I stopped by the Lugu Farmers' Association to see who I might meet as they entered their batches of tea into the winter tea competition. I happened to arrive around lunch time, at a lull in the two-day hustle and bustle of over 6700 entries to be submitted. I saw a couple local friends waiting in line to enter their family's batches of tea, after months of tea growing, harvesting, processing, and post production roasting. There is a subtle intensity to the friendly, easy-going — yet extensive process of registering, repackaging and coding each batch of tea. 

More folks lining up to enter the tea competition.

Traditional Handling

I happily took note of the fact that the people I knew who were waiting in line had prepared their batches of tea in a way that represented a more traditional approach, simply by the fact that their tea was in hand-tied, unsealed bags. This is done with a purpose — to allow the leaves to continue to "breathe and settle" into their final composition. Each batch of tea that is submitted must be removed from its original packaging, weighed, and and repackaged using coded registration numbers. So the people waiting in line with dozens of entries have been preparing for months, sometimes using batches of tea from other seasonal harvests and regions. This is why I especially like seeing local residents lined up with their hand-tied batches.

Locals lining up with their hand-tied bags to enter the winter tea competition.

Cupping and Judging

And for the following week, the preliminary cupping and judging takes place. This extensive process involving six teams of six judges each taste all of the competition entries. In the process, all of the entries are given given a preliminary rating. The preliminary judges are all residents of Lugu Township, and almost of them are tea farmers and tea artisans. After this, another week of tasting and judging is done by nationally certified professional judges to designate the higher ranking awards.

Tea judges taste testing tea.

Even this simplified overview of the Lugu Farmers' Association's Dong Ding Oolong Competition allows us to acknowledge the expanse of resources that are involved in its production. This competition is a leading model, both domestically and internationally, for maximizing the quality and value of a traditional product of regional origin — in this case, Dong Ding Oolong Tea

Andy from Eco-Cha Teas poses with Mr. Su in his tea workshop.

Sign Up for our Newsletter!

If you like this story, sign up for our newsletter! We regularly share information, discounts, promotions, and stories like this through our newsletter. Sign up now and get $5 off your first order! And be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram!





Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in News

Early Spring Bi Luo Chun Green Tea Tasting Notes | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Early Spring Bi Luo Chun Green Tea Tasting Notes | Eco-Cha Tea Club

April 06, 2020

We can see in the photo of the dried leaves above that they were hand-plucked while still very young and tender. This is evident not only by the size of the leaves, but also in the protective fur that is still on the whitish colored leaf buds. It is this stage of leaf growth, along with the heirloom cultivar of tea tree that give Bi Luo Chun its distinctive character among Green Teas — especially when it is from the first flush of spring tea buds!

View full article →

Early Spring Bi Luo Chun Green Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club
Early Spring Bi Luo Chun Green Tea | Eco-Cha Tea Club

April 03, 2020

The earliest days of spring harvest are known to produce the most complex and delicately flavored Bi Luo Chun Green Tea. The leaves have more substance as a result of growing more slowly, combined with a fresh spring floral quality that comes from the plants entering their heightened phase of spring vegetation.

View full article →

Bi Luo Chun Tea early spring harvest
Bi Luo Chun Tea Early Spring Harvest | Eco-Cha Teas

March 14, 2020

Freshly picked early spring Bi Luo Chun Tea is here! We added Bi Luo Chun Green Tea to our menu just last September and it has gotten a great response. So we planned ahead this year, and took a trip up northern Taiwan to visit the farms and factory as soon as the spring harvest season began to get more.

View full article →