Above is a snapshot of Meishan Farmers' Association's Alishan High Mountain Tea Competition packaging with the seal of Gold Medal Award. The Gold Medal Award is given to the top 15% of all entries in the competition. This month's batch tea was entered into this spring's "New Strain Tea Competition", which represents Jin Xuan (Tai Cha #12), and has over 1000 entries. This complements the Alishan High Mountain Qing Xin Oolong Tea Competition, which boasts over 2000 entries — the second largest tea competition held by a Farmers' Association in Taiwan.
The batch of Jin Xuan Tea leaves shown above were carefully selected, roasted and de-stemmed to attain their optimal quality and value. Due to a shortage of manual labor in recent years, the majority of competition tea batches are de-stemmed using a computerized machine specially designed for this purpose. However, whenever we visit the source of this batch of tea during competition season, 2-4 family members are sitting around a card table draped in black cloth, painstakingly inspecting and selecting only the best quality of the leaves and discarding the rest.
The leaves were delicately roasted to meet the competition quality standard, offering a mild, smooth, well-balanced, buttery-sweet brew. The light roasting can be observed in the color of the brewed tea above, which is more golden than an unroasted High Mountain Tea. We have very much appreciated this standard set by the Meishan Farmers' Association Competitions, as it offers a flavor profile that is between a fresh, green, floral unroasted High Mountain Tea and a rich, bold, complex traditionally made tea, such as Dong Ding Oolong.
It can be seen in the appearance of the brewed leaves above that the leaves have not been substantially altered by the level of roasting they have undergone. Still maintaining most of their green hue, with signs of oxidation evident, but not "shriveled" or "browned" by extensive roasting.
We are excited to share a batch of Jin Xuan Tea leaves that attained Gold Medal Award in the "New Strain" competition, after sharing a Gold Medal Award winning batch of Qing Xing Oolong Tea leaves earlier this year from the complementing competition produced by this Farmers' Association, which is the most renowned and respected competition in the Alishan tea growing region.
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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.