Now over 40 years running, this spring's Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition consisted of 6,441 entries. The results were posted earlier this month, and the spring competition fair was held on Dragon Boat Festival holiday.
41% of the overall entries are disqualified from the competition in the long arduous task of judging the quality of each tea in a systematized process that has been developed over decades by the world's leading professional tea makers and researchers. Below is a snapshot of the initial grading process involving six teams of six individuals who have undergone rigorous training and testing to become qualified judges by the farmers' association.
These preliminary judges are all local residents of Lugu Township, and virtually all of these judges are tea farmers. This is one fundamental aspect of how the farmers' association has designed the competition to integrate the production standards of locally produced tea with the promotion of this traditional product of regional origin that has become world renowned. Below is a shot of the single finalist team of national tea judges employed by the government funded Tea Research and Extension Station. Without going into too much detail, the judging process takes weeks of continuous assessment to finalize decisions on the award winning teas. Notice that the there are two tea bowls per cup in the image below. This shows that the highest ranking teas are brewed twice for the most rigorous comparisons of the highest quality tea entries. Three grams of tea leaves brewed for six minutes undergo assessment by the most qualified professionals, and then are brewed for a second time to determine their full spectrum of consistency. In a word, this is serious business! More information on Taiwan's tea competitions can be found in our Knowledge Base.
Here is the tea being packaged and sealed with the farmers' association certification of authenticity. So much work and resources are involved in representing some of the world's highest quality tea, guaranteed by dozens of individuals with generations of experience behind them!
We've observed this competition for over 20 years now, providing English translation of its methodology and representation of this local treasure of Dong Ding Oolong Tea. And along the way, we get to participate in the celebration of our tea friends receiving awards for their exhausting efforts that we've witnessed year after year. If consumers only knew how much time, energy, and resources go into producing this level of quality tea, they would then understand the value that this competition has created for it. Below is a shot our friends and teachers whom we procure tea from on an ongoing basis. A husband and wife team with their son and daughter pose for a photo with the mayor of Nantou County and other local officials for their 5th place award winning prize they received.
We were offered a share in this 5th Place Award winning tea that was sold out within a week of the results being posted. A few of our subscribers took advantage of this exclusive offer to purchase this prize winning tea in its certified packaging that makes it some of the highest valued tea in the world. We were there on that rainy morning when the tea was distributed to its owners to pay personal tribute.
It was a hectic scene, but our friends remained calm as they retrieved their award winning tea in its competition packaging to take home, and then embark on the next step of distributing it to their customers who reserved their shares.
Just enough space for a few more boxes to be packed in the car on this rainy morning and transported back home — where these teas were cured and prepared for days and weeks on end. Such is the life of local artisans in Taiwan's Oolong Central!
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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.