The World's Largest Oolong Tea Competition Spring 2016
Now over 40 years running, this spring's Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong Tea Competition consisted of 6,441 entries. This pioneering tea competition was designed to maintain and promote a standard of high quality in the production of this traditional type of Oolong Tea.
Nearly half of the overall entries are disqualified from the competition in the long arduous task of judging the quality of each tea. The judging is done in a highly systematized process that has been developed over decades by leading professionals.
primary tea judging
Below is a snapshot of the initial grading process. Stage one of the tea judging involves six teams of six individuals who have undergone rigorous training and testing to become licensed tea judges.
These preliminary judges are all local residents of Lugu Township, and virtually all of these judges are tea farmers. The Lugu Farmers' Association designed the judging process this way to integrate the production standards of locally produced tea with the commercial promotion of this traditional tea that has become world renowned. The producers of this local specialty have been trained to be professional tea judges, which has improved their tea making knowledge and skills.
secondary tea judging
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.
extended tea tasting method
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 comprehensive overview.
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.
Our purpose is to let tea lovers around the world know how much time, energy, and resources go into producing this level of quality tea. Only then will they understand the value that this competition has created for it.
Below is a shot our friends who we procure tea from regularly. 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.
We were offered a share in this 5th Place Award winning tea that was sold out within a week. A few of our fans took advantage of this exclusive offer to purchase this prize winning tea in its certified packaging, which 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 to take home, and distribute it to their loyal customers who reserved their shares in the prize.
The Lugu Farmers' Association Dong Ding Oolong Tea competition has unquestionably set a precedent for all other tea competitions in Taiwan, and now in mainland China. We feel honored to have observed this evolution of the specialty tea industry in recent decades.
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The medium oxidized leaves have undergone extensive, repeated roastings that have resulted in a very balanced, integrated character. The initial steepings offer a freshly cut wood aroma with a toasted nutty flavor. This proceeds to open up into a sweeter, more complex profile that is strikingly reminiscent of roasted winter vegetables, including parsnip, caramelized onion and butternut squash.
Mr. Zhang's father cultivated tea on their homesteaded land in Xiaobantian, on the southside of Lugu Township, where he grew up in the midst of traditional tea making. At 20 something, he decided to embody his local tradition by clearing land to cultivate his own plot of tea. For the last 20 years, he has managed his own humble, privately owned plot of tea. Throughout this period, he also acquired seasonal work in tea factories in Lugu, Shanlinxi, Alishan, Fanzaitian, and Lishan. In a word, he learned the ropes of tea making in a comprehensive way, like most tea farmers of his generation. Lugu hosts the highest concentration of tea makers in Taiwan, and is a hub of specialty tea making culture.