Competition teas are first judged by their visual attributes based on uniformity of shape, color, and luster of the rolled and dried leaves. Notice that the protruding stems have been removed as well, as they are considered to muddle or detract from the composition of the properly cured tea leaves.
With the first brew poured off, the leaves offer a distinctly roasted character with nutty, fruitwood fireside notes. After the second brew the aroma of the brewed leaves turns a bit fruity, with a warming spice sweetness reminiscent of pumpkin pie. The tea has a roasted flavor upfront, followed by a sweetness like grilled fresh corn. Then it moves into a more balanced, rich, complex character and smooth texture. The second visual assessment of competition teas is the purity of color and transparency of the brewed tea. It should be clear and luminescent.
These leaves have brewing endurance. They can be brewed 5 to 6 times and still produce a full flavored brew. From the third brew on, the flavor becomes a bit lighter but also more vibrant in character. Overall, it's a very well balanced brew, with a complexity that makes it difficult to pinpoint a particular flavor. This is the effect that a quality Dong Ding Oolong should achieve. And Dong Ding made with Jin Xuan tea leaves offers a smoother, milder character of this traditionally made 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.