The World's Largest Oolong Tea Competition

December 13, 2017 0 Comments

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!






Also in News

Eco-Farmed High Mountain Oolong | Summer 2021 Harvest
Eco-Farmed High Mountain Oolong | Summer 2021 Harvest

August 03, 2021 0 Comments

We have become close friends, and this is a unique connection in our 25 years of involvement with tea producers in the local Taiwan tea industry. This farm is a rare resource, given its environment and micro-climate. The owners have faced many challenges and only in the last few years have developed their organic farming to a stable situation. Now, with some support and guidance, we believe they will soon be producing some of the best organic tea in Taiwan!

View full article →

Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Summer Harvest
Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Summer Harvest

July 20, 2021 0 Comments

We brewed our spring batch of Shan Lin Xi High Mountain Oolong Tea alongside the freshly picked summer batch to observe the differences between these two consecutive harvests from the same source. These two batches exhibited the classic seasonal traits of spring and summer high mountain tea.

View full article →

Icy cold glass of iced tea made from Taiwan loose leaf tea
Flavor Your Iced Tea

July 15, 2021 0 Comments

While pure iced teas made from quality Taiwan loose leaf tea are amazingly satisfying and refreshing on their own, sometimes it's also nice to mix it up with some natural flavorings. Here are some suggestions on how to flavor iced teas for an added kick.

View full article →