|Dong Ding tea plantation|
1. The first tasting is made by judges from the farmer's association. They are mostly farmers and/or tea sellers. This year, they rejected 42% of the lots. The remaining lots were graded as 2 plum flowers (23% of the lots) or 3 plum flowers (19%) or were sent for further tasting to Taiwan's public Tea Reasearch Station (16%).
2. The second stage of the tasting is done by tea researchers who are public servants and not tea farmers. Anyway, the lots have a code so that nobody knows whose tea he/she is tasting. These judges decide who the top teas are (among the 16%) and they are ranked in this fashion:
- 1 winner,
- 10 runner ups,
- a winner ('gold medal') categoy with 125 lots this year (2%)
- a second ('silver medal') category with 387 lots (6%),
- a third ('bronze medal') category with 524 lots (8%).
The farmers receive these boxes and 1 bag of the tea sample that remains after the various tastings. (That's why the farmers have to submit approximately 21 jins, but only get 20 jins back for sale. This extra tea that is returned to the farmer is what makes it possible to taste the tea before purchasing the sealed package. Many farmers provide this kind of tasting during this event. It's one of the big attraction: you get to taste so many different teas from so many different farmers in just one place.
|Beautiful brewing demonstration|
|The winner in my hand!|
You'd expect the teas from the same category to taste similarly, but you find out that there are differences in oxidation and roasting level within the same category. Also, the origin of leaves impacts the taste. If they come from Alishan, Shanlinxi or TsuiFeng, this will impact the aromas.
To get a clear picture of what is quality, you need to learn from standards. So, the main reason for my trip to this event is that every buyer of 2 jins or more of competition Oolong has the opportunity to taste the winner and the 10 runner ups. But I was so lucky that day, that one of the very first table where I stopped by had 1 jin of the winning tea! The rest (38 boxes) had already sold out for 5000 USD per box of 2 x 150 gr! I didn't purchase it, but was very happy to hold this box!
|The winner in my cup!|
It was a blessing to get such a clarifying statement about qualtiy and what to look for in a prized Dong Ding Oolong. But this also made my search harder, because now all the teas I tasted felt (and were) inferior to this winner! Nevertheless, I eventually found one that comes from Tsui Feng, located at a higher altitude and that has a very clean and pure taste, I felt. I purchased enough to be able to taste the 11 top teas brewed in competition style, 3 gram for 6 minutes, in this room:
I was the last in my group to taste these teas and I was talking with the judge when I noticed that an assistant was starting to throw away the leaves to make space for a new brewing for the next group of tasters. I said: 'STOP, don't throw away these leaves. They have only been brewed once and they still have potential. Please give the the best 4 to me.' (I said in Chinese). They agreed and put them in the plastic foils they had used for the dry leaves!
|View on the left|
|View on the right|