Participating in the Global Tea Championship, a competition that draws tea purveyors from around the world, benefits everyone. Judges Lydia Kung, owner of Verileaf Fine Teas and Eliot Jordan, vice president of Mighty Leaf, share their insights as to why tea companies should enter regardless of whether they win medals.
Jordan is one of three judges in the Iced Tea Competition in Montebello, California on August 16 and Kung is one of two judges in the Spring Hot Loose Leaf Competition, which will take place September 29-30 in Boulder, Colorado.
Kung pointed out, since the teas submitted are usually of high quality, the judges’ expertise and acumen allow for fine discernment in each category and analysis of each tea. This precise evaluation along with the judges’ comments is always educational for tea purveyors. For example, though people in the tea trade are aware of tea grades, not all first flush Darjeelings or first grade Keemuns or jasmine pearls are equal.
“This is a chance to benchmark your tea against others in the market,” said Eliot Jordan. “Also, it provides an unbiased, expert and third-party evaluation of the quality of the tea you sell.” Kung added that even if no award is bestowed the judges’ feedback helps companies to re-examine their teas to see at which stage in the processing the teas fell short, be it the grade, the plucking, the storage, etc. Jordan encourages these companies take a closer look into why certain teas prevailed, “Take the time to get samples of the teas that won and compare them with yours – it might be illuminating.”
Additionally, Judges’ feedback helps companies to submit a more competitive product in subsequent competitions. “Attention might also be directed to the quality of the raw material: for early spring teas, for instance, a few days’ difference in plucking time can result in noticeable variation in leaf appearance and flavor,” Kung said. “Delving more deeply into why a tea scores lower points can provide pointers for the entrant in the future.”
As for the winners, incorporating the Global Tea Championship awards into marketing adds to the tea’s credibility. Winning a gold, silver or bronze medal confirms to customers that the tea company’s product is of superior quality on a global industry-wide scale. “It’s one thing to claim that one’s own company’s teas are good. To have this affirmed in a blind tasting by a panel who have been doing this for years confers greater credibility to pronouncements about quality,” said Kung.
Furthermore, Kung emphasized the general lack of knowledge in consumers regarding the specific characteristics of various teas in terms of leaf style and what exactly makes a tea’s flavor prize worthy. “Consumers need help in building a framework about what they should be reaching toward,” said Kung. “Companies with awards can do more than announce their recognition by the industry; they can explain why their products were recognized.”
Jordan spoke of how this competition brings recognition to specialty teas. “I grew up drinking a standard, big-brand teabag that I thought was OK until I discovered specialty tea. I hope I’m doing my part to bring people along that same journey.”
Kung and Jordan feel the Global Tea Championship helps the tea industry as a whole. Both judges aim to help elevate the quality of tea in the marketplace through this competition.