The Global Tea Championship is right around the corner. Tea purveyors will put their work in front of a panel of judges meeting in Colorado to see which will become the Fall Hot (Loose Leaf) Tea and Packaged Single Service tea champions.
The four February competition judges, Scott Svihula, Suzette Hammond, Richard Enticott and Kelly Amoroso, all have extensive industry experience.
Hot tea evaluations occur twice per year—once in February for teas harvested in autumn, and once in September for spring-harvested teas. Single-serve teas are also evaluated in February. Judges evaluate iced tea once a year in May. Any tea purveyor that is globally commercially accessible is eligible to enter. So far, about 245 teas have entered the Fall Hot and Single Service rounds, both of which take place Feb. 25-26th.
During the competition, judges will look for a well cultivated, produced and balance tea. They will also evaluate the tea for its cleanliness; that being a minimal amount of stalks, dust or impurities. Tea ingredients should also be uniform in size, with the exception of Japanese tea, which can vary. All tea materials are expected to surpass the quality of mainstream tea.
Some things that can count against a tea’s score are case hardening, which happens when the outside casing has been fully fired and whitening occurs at the center of the leaves. Obvious discoloration of the leaves also counts against the tea. Discoloration can be the result of poor processing of the leaves in any of its stages from harvesting to oxidation. Judges will look for coloring that is consistent with each kind of tea. Mustiness or moldiness because of excessive moisture content in the tea also results in a lower score.
With regard to the color of the tea, judges will examine the brightness and clarity of the tea liquor. They will look for whether light reflects off of the surface of the tea.
The aroma of the tea should not have a burnt nature or smell artificially perfumey because of flavoring agents. Flavor and mouthfeel are the key components that will be evaluated, which accounts for 45% of the overall score. Judges will be looking for good bodied teas that have depth and character and meet or exceed the category descriptions. Ideally, all the components produce an overall harmony and a distinctive personality.
Some of the hot tea categories up for judging are: Assam, Machine Processed Black Tea, Orthodox Processed Black Tea, Breakfast Tea, Masala Chai, Keemun and Lapsang Souchong. Herbal /tisane categories are included this year. Each tea has certain guidelines for steeping time and water temperature. Cupping of the teas will go on all day until winners are chosen for each category.
The competition is mainly a vehicle for making the teas more widely-known. Entrant will also receive valuable professional feedback along with their scores. All of the winners will be featured in the October 2017 Buyers Guide and have the option to showcase their teas at the World Tea Expo’s Winner’s Tasting Circle where a People’s Tea Choice award will be conferred.
Entry forms for the Iced Tea round are due April 27; and tea samples are due May 2. Entry forms for the Spring Hot Tea round are due Sept. 1, with samples due Sept. 6. For more information, go to the Global Tea Championship’s website.