LAS VEGAS, Nev.
Twenty best-tasting tea champions enter the limelight today as winners of the North American Tea Championship which drew a record 230 entries for the fall judging.
Since 2008 the NATC, the only independent and professionally-judged tea competition in North America, has identified notable, high-quality teas widely available in the marketplace. The judging, held Feb. 28 – 29 in Las Vegas, evaluated premium hot teas from the fall 2011 harvest.
Rishi Tea won 14 awards including six first-place wins, two second-place wins and six third-place wins. QTrade Teas & Herbs followed with four first-place wins, one second place win and five third-place wins.
Other tea companies that took a prestigious first-place title include: Alvin's of San Francisco; Florapharm Tea-USA LP; KIMICHA TEA; Naivetea; Newby Teas of London; Rare Tea Cellar Inc.; Silk Road Teas; Sipping Streams Tea Company; and Yogic Chai.
Companies that entered the competition for the first time and received honors – either a first, second or third place award – include: Alvin’s; KIMICHA Tea; Newby Teas of London; Silk Road Teas; Black Tusk Trading; Tazo Teas; Hankook Tea; and Zuri Tea.
Fifty companies submitted a record 230 tea entries (the previous record for an evaluation was 217 different teas in 2010). The Flavored Rooibos Category had 35 entries – the largest number of entries in any one category, indicating the popularity of that tea in the marketplace.
“This year’s winners are outstanding,” said North American Tea Championship Judge Lydia Kung, a tea buyer and expert with Eastrise Trading Corp. “Congratulations to all of the award recipients."
Kung said that competitors offer an excellent range of teas to judge, "especially in the classifications of Oolong, Rooibos, Breakfast Blends, Jasmine and Assams. After the competition was completed, the judges compared notes, and we found that all of our scores were extremely close, which confirms the judging process works."
"It’s a testament to the carefulness and deliberateness of the NATC scoring procedure, and all of the winners can take pride in knowing that they’re of the highest quality. Indeed, the Championship and the champions set an excellent benchmark, and it encourages other teas in the North American marketplace to rise up to these high standards,” said Kung.
Winners Talk About the NATC
Bethan Thomas, marketing manager at Newby Teas, which won first-place in the Assam and Flavored Rooibos Blends categories, said, “The North American Tea Championship is very well known in the tea industry, and we were keen to participate this year for the first time, especially as we further expand our business from Europe, Asia and the Middle East into the North American Market. In fact, there’s no other comparable tea competition in any other region, so NATC is extremely valuable to the industry in terms of its high standards, engaging proper professionals to taste the teas and recognizing the very best teas.”
Thomas, whose company launched seven years ago, added, “Our teas have won in various food competitions, but the North American Tea Championship is the real deal in terms of evaluating quality tea. The NATC takes the right approach, and the judges have the correct skill-set and attitude. It sounds funny to say, but with other events, we’ve actually won too many awards, which lead us to believe that the judging in those challenges was not up to par. That’s not the case here. The judges are seasoned cuppers, and they represent the peak of the industry. On the whole, this win will help us in North America. We’re a family-owned business, so it’s not easy to break into a big market like this. We’ll use this win to open doors, build a presence and gain new business. We put a lot of effort into our products, using the right materials as well as packaging for freshness, so it’s nice to have all that hard work recognized.”
“For a small company like ours it’s very exciting to be able to participate and win at the NATC,” said Yogic Chai Co-founder Ricardo Dacosta, who started his business in 2008 and won first-place in the NATC Chai Category last year and at the recent 2012 competition. “We undoubtedly created a masterpiece chai blend, but we don’t have the necessary capital to generate a lot of exposure for the tea. Participating in a legit, high-profile industry event like this helps us tremendously. It gives us credibility, and it’s proof that all of our efforts – bringing the authentic flavors of Indian masala chai to the United States – have paid off. There is no other way to get this kind of professional recognition for quality tea – the North American Tea Championship is it. Certainly, any company can say they’re the best, but the only way to prove it is through the NATC. And now, we have validation that we’re the best when it comes to chai teas.”
Yogic Chai’s 2011 win generated numerous new business orders, including a deal with Foodzie.com, which delivers monthly tasting-boxes and exclusive small-batch products. “This year, we’re excited about the possibility of more new business because of our 2012 NATC award,” said Dacosta.
KIMICHA TEA’s owner Kimiko Uriu, who started her business in 2011, said, “It’s great to get a lot of positive feedback from customers about your tea, but being honored by industry experts brings it to a whole new level. A competition like the North American Tea Championship not only gives us recognition for winning first-place in the Black Tea Category for our Jin Jun Mei, but also acknowledges our ability to source the finest teas. We have invested a lot of time and resources into building close relationships with tea producers and selecting a range of teas that is rare, exciting and, at the same time, a great value for our customers. As a result, we have grown rapidly since our launch and have a strong customer base in Canada. We hope that this NATC win opens new doors. This was the only tea we entered into the competition and, given the results, we are excited to enter more of our teas next year.”
QTrade Marketing Coordinator Joshua Rigsby, whose company won in the categories of Aged/Baked Oolong Tea, Breakfast Blend, Blended Oolong Tea and Darjeeling, said, “We appreciate how the Championship recognizes and elevates quality teas in the marketplace, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to showcase our offerings in the competition. NATC raises the bar and creates heightened expectations for excellent teas in North America. The event features some of the finest leaves in the world, and the judging is spectacular. NATC judges categorically know how to recognize the best qualities in supreme teas.”
Rigsby, whose business has participated in the North American Tea Championship since its inception in 2008, continued, “Overall, the NATC and the awards help our business in terms of exposure. We don’t have a brand in the market because we’re an import company, so the Championship generates increased awareness of our experience and ability to source premium teas. We thank World Tea Media for organizing NATC, and we congratulate the other high-quality winners and companies that participated.”
About the North American Tea Championship
Tea submissions were evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis of the following characteristics: dry leaf, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed flavor, brewed mouth-feel, and brewed harmony. An overall numerical value on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic above. Winners were determined by rank. The next North American Tea Championship will be held in May 2012 in Montebello, Calif. at the Wilbur Curtis headquarters, for an evaluation of iced teas. Entries will be accepted in April. To inquire about entering the competition, e-mail [email protected].
North American Tea Championship is produced by World Tea Media, a division of F+W Media, which also produces World Tea Expo, World Tea East and World Tea News. Until 2010, the North American Tea Championship was called World Tea Championship, and it was held in-conjunction with World Tea Expo. Today, it is an independent event, judged by professional cuppers, that evaluates premium teas from around the world that are sold in North America. The annual Championship consists of two classes: Hot Tea and Iced Tea. Each class has its own categories and judging panel. The Hot Tea Class is evaluated twice a year: February for fall teas and July for spring teas. The Iced Tea Class is evaluated annually in May. Winners of the Tea Championship are announced after each respective evaluation. For more information, visit www.teachampionship.com.