The Global Tea Championship took place Jan. 20 in Boulder, Colorado. Three judges, Scott Svihula, Gilbert Kendzior and Rob McCaleb, evaluated teas in the Single Serve Hot and Iced Small Batch categories. The competition drew 58 companies from 11 countries, including Sweden, Croatia and Trinidad. The 151 teas included about 100 single-serve teas and about 50 teas in the iced small batch category.
“It always amazes me—despite the thousands of years we’ve been drinking tea—you’d think there would be nothing new in the tea world, but there is always something new: new flavors, new combinations, new ingredients,” McCaleb said.
“The range of teas was very wide and full of exciting blends and originals, both herbals and teas,” said Kendzior.
The judges criteria included: evaluating teas against the category descriptions, the look of the tea leaves themselves, the depth of the intensity of the infusion and, most importantly, the taste of the tea. The judges assessed the taste of each tea against their bodies of knowledge of each infusion.
“There were very few gold place winners,” Svihula said. “A gold medal winning tea is reserved for the cream of the crop, the best of the best. Those that have received silver or bronze should consider their teas above average and noteworthy.”
Among the broad range of submissions a few stood out.
“Two that I can remember included a chocolate pu-erh and a straight oolong. The straight oolong we learned after the event comes from Indonesia,” Svihula said.
McCaleb also remarked on the quality of the flavored pu-erh teas.
“The taste of pu-erh tea tends to be so strong and distinctive that to find something that is harmonious with it, I think is a real challenge,” McCaleb said.
McCaleb said companies from nontraditional tea producing countries are formulating innovative combinations from traditional sources.
For Kendzior, standouts included the successful translation of hot teas into the iced tea category, as well as good herbal combinations that while simple were quite tasty. His favorites among the herbals incorporated chamomile.
For Svihula, “On the single serve, what stands out the most was the soluble category. The winners in this category produced some amazing teas, you would swear you were drinking freshly steeped tea. Soluble teas are getting significantly better in taste and quality.”
Pique Tea entered three teas in the Single Serve Hot Instant category and won gold in all three.
Svihula said two exceptionally good teas did not fit into a category or did not medal in a category, but were medal-worthy. These garnered Judges Choice awards: SerendipiTea with Jasmine Green (Bagged Green Blended) and Firsd Tea North America LLC with Toasted Pu-erfection (Small Batch Flavored Pu-erh).
As for some issues that arose, Svihula mentioned unintentional flavor contamination, which may have occurred during production or storage. Also, some blended teas looked wonderful but produced a “lifeless” cup of tea.
Kendzior added, “My advice to future entrants is to be very certain that teas you are presenting are fresh, clear of any taint(s) and entered into the correct category.”
Svihula recommends that entrants who did not get an award cup the teas they submitted while keeping the judges’ comments in mind to see if they can identify the same characteristics as the judges’ feedback is meant to be constructive.
“I would like to congratulate all the winners. You should be very proud of your teas,” Svihula said.
The next Global Tea Championship will be the Fall Hot Loose Leaf Tea Competition, which will take place March 24-25. This competition will include some new categories, such as a Unique Tea Open Class. For more information, visit the Global Tea Championship website.