We have just received three luscious 2012 spring high mountain gao shans from Taiwan. For lovers of these very hard-to-find teas, we have distinguished selections from Alishan, and Shan Lin Xi tea districts. And, for the first time, we have a super-delicious, authentic, pure and natural Milk Oolong from the Jin Xuan cultivar. (Read more about milk oolong on our website www.teatrekker.com).
Our Alishan and the Jin Xuan are grown and processed on a tea farm owned by a third generation tea grower and a tea master. The farm was awarded very high honors at the Alishan Village Farmer’s Association tea championship in May. This is one of three prestigious competitions that are conducted by the National Agriculture Council and sponsored by the Taiwan government in various tea growing regions.
This is how their tea placed:
- 2nd Place for 2012 spring Alishan tea
- 1st Place for 2012 spring Jin Xuan tea
To be clear, our teas are not from the competition winning batches of tea, but are from competition-grade batches tea processed in the same manner by the same tea farm for the spring competition. (Competition-grade teas are made with the utmost care and with more attention to detail over the usual production methods because they will be entered into the competition). So these teas are in the top tier of deliciousness, so lucky us, lucky you!
Why not just sell the winning teas? Because the winners of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place awards sell the remainder of the batch of award winning tea to collectors and wealthy tea fanatics for very, very high prices. And those who understand the market in Taiwan for high quality gao shan know that this can mean many hundreds of dollars….spent in an instant by wealthy tea collectors, businessmen, and corporations.
However, all of the tea from the award winning tea farms is highly desirable in that year and in future years to come, so we are THRILLED to have these extraordinary teas from this farm for the pleasure of our gao shan customers.
How the competition works.
To enter the competition, tea is submitted in batches of 12 kilos per for judging. As many batches as desired may be entered.
Several thousand entries vie for placement in these competitions, which are conducted for the spring harvest and again for the winter harvest. This particular competition is for semiball-rolled teas produced exclusively in the Alishan tea district. The fresh leaf must be plucked from tea bushes that are grown on local tea farms, and the leaf must be processed by local tea makers.
Each competing tea farm and tea factory will make tea many batches of tea over the course of several days prior to the start of the competition. The methodology will be the same for each batch of tea they produce, but each batch will be slightly different one to another, as the tea made each day can never be exactly the same as the tea made the day before or after.
Businessmen and customers, as well as the tea makers themselves, can select their favorite batch of tea and enter it into the competition. Most tea farms will have several batches of tea entered on their behalf.
The Agriculture Council forms a panel of knowledgeable tea specialists to evaluate all of the tea that has been entered. Judges scrutinize the tea to see how it conforms to the norm for its regional type in both appearance and flavor. This means evaluating:
- the size of each ball of tea
- the shape and the tightness of the roll
- the color of dry leaf
- the aroma of the dry leaf
- the color and clarity of the tea liquor
- the aroma of the liquor
- the initial taste and returning flavor of the liquor
- the appearance of the tea leaves after steeping
For the teas that make it through the preliminary stages (more than 50% of the tea entered does not make it beyond this point) each tea is judged thusly:
- 20% is based on the appearance of the dry leaf
- 20% is based on the appearance of the tea liquor
- 20% is based on the aroma of the tea and the wet leaf
- 30% is based on taste
- 10% is based on the appearance of the wet leaf after steeping
( FYI…this criteria is the same that we here at Tea Trekker use to evaluate each and every tea we are considering purchasing. We learned to conduct comparative tasting from our colleagues in China years ago. We always learn so when we taste and compare a series of similar teas from the same region).
First, second and third places awards will have only one winner. Fourth place and up (upwards to seventh place ) will be awarded to multiple winners.
The top three teas will each be packed in special container and sealed with a stamp signifying the award and the win. The winning tea are sold at auction where there will be high and fast demand to purchase these teas as well as all of the remaining tea from that producer in that season.
For those who wish to have their own comparison gao shan tasting, we have some remaining stock of 2011 winter gao shans from Alishan and Shan Lin Xi. With only two plucks a year – winter and spring – each season brings its own qualities to the tea and there is much debate about which is more flavorful and more aromatic. All tea lovers look for and appreciate different characteristics in the cup, so compare and discover which you prefer!