1996 Winter Dong Ding Oolong Tea - Competition 2nd Place
Lugu Township Farmer’s Association, Nantou County, Taiwan – Winter Competition, 1996
This is a competition Second Place/Class winner from the Dong Ding Oolong tea competition held in Lugu Township in the Winter season of 1996-7. Each competition-sealed box holds a total of 600 grams of tea consisting of two sealed metal canisters holding 300 grams each. This tea has remained undisturbed in its original packaging since the Winter, 1996 competition was held on January 1, 1997.
Lugu Township Farmer’s Association’s Dong Ding Oolong tea competition was the first formalized tea competition in Taiwan; and, despite a few scandals over the years, it has remained one of the most respected competitions on the island since it was first held in 1976. The competitions are held in Lugu twice a year in Spring and Winter. There are usually between six and seven thousand entries of 13.2KG each in each competition held, of which 1.2 KG is used for evaluation, and the remaining 12 KG is reserved for sale after the competition at prices based on how each tea fares in the competition.
Each entry is judged by panels of judges, all of whom must be certified as official tea competition judges by Taiwan’s TRES (Tea Research Extension Station). The preliminary round of judging is carried out by a panel of judges from the local tea community which assigns a preliminary quality/letter grade (A-D) and eliminates the D graded teas (up to half of total entries). After the initial judging round is complete, the A graded teas (15-20% of total entries) are judged by a panel of professional judges who are employed directly by the farmer’s association or TRES (i.e. not active members of the local tea farming community) to keep things as impartial and fair as possible.
Judging criteria used in the 1996 competition (as shown on the seal/label on the bottom of the box in the picture above) are as follows (translation is very very rough, please excuse any errors):
Color of infusion: 10%
The senior judges rank the remaining teas according to the above criteria and place them into the following categories: Third class (±8% of total entries), Second Class (±5% of total entries), First Class (±2% of total entries), Top 10, and Grand Champion. All competition-ranked teas are sealed in tamper-resistant official packaging with the grade clearly marked by the Farmer’s Association.
Aging tea in a sealed canister for long periods of time tends to produce really interesting results when compared to the majority of aged Taiwan oolong teas, which are most often aged in non-sealed bulk containers and re-roasted every few years to prevent spoilage in Taiwan’s humid climate. In our experience tasting aged teas that have remained sealed for many years (they are extraordinarily hard to find and acquire in good condition), I have noticed that they tend to change pretty dramatically over time after opening the original seal. There is no guarantee that this particular aged Dong Ding tea will change dramatically or become better or different at all after it is opened, but the fun of finding and drinking an aged tea like this is that you never know what is going to happen with the flavors and aromas when you get to try it many times over a period of weeks or months.
Disclaimer: the below tasting notes are based on a recently opened can taken from an already open box of 1996 Spring Competition Second Class/Place tea. In general, Winter harvested tea tends to be more floral and less bitter/astringent than Spring harvest tea, but, other than that, there shouldn’t be huge differences between the Spring tea’s tasting notes below and the Winter tea being offered for sale.
Dry Leaf: uniform, no visible stems, lightly sweet aroma (reminds me a little bit of the smell of chalky candy like Necco wafers or Smarties for some reason) with very little roasted aroma apparent.
Wet Leaf: gorgeous uniform deep green, surprisingly small leaves, 2-3 leaf plucking standard (mainly) & only a few buds present.
Infusion Aroma: Medium roast apparent in the nose especially when hot, notes of dried peach or apricot and some kind of toasted nut (hazelnut or maybe chestnut) come out as it cools, some kind of sweet-scented dried flower (definitely not rose or jasmine) when fully cooled.
Infusion color: crystal clear & light orange with just a hint at green around the edge of the (bright white) bowl.
Infusion Flavor: this Spring tea has an assertive bittersweet backbone supporting the roasty toasty and subtly fruity comforting flavor. (Note: winter tea is usually less assertive/bold than spring tea, so the winter tea should be more mellow in the cup. This spring tea has balls.) Makes me salivate like crazy in the front and sides of my mouth but also has a really lovely astringency that is drying out the middle to back of my palate. Aftertaste is intensely bittersweet with dried stonefruit notes. I can still taste it vividly in my mouth and feel it in my throat 5+ minutes after the last sip. Definitely brew gong-fu style to unravel this tea. Too many intense flavors and aromas going on here to potentially overlook with a western style brewing approach...layers need to be peeled away over a series of infusions to best savor and appreciate this beast.
This item includes 600 g fragrant tea