LAS VEGAS, Nev.
Premium teas continue to stand out in the marketplace as the North American Tea Championship, the only independent and professionally-judged tea competition in North America, announced 15 first-place winners in its annual Hot Tea Class / Spring Teas evaluation. The Championship, which took place July 26 – 27 in Las Vegas, Nev., identified the highest quality and best tasting teas from the spring harvest of 2011, which are commercially available.
QTrade Teas & Herbs, one big winner in the competition, took home a total of seven awards (three of which were first place honors) — more than any contender in the Championship. Other tea companies that took a prestigious first-place title include: Dethlefsen & Balk, Inc.; DoMatcha; Florapharm Tea-USA LP; ITO EN, LTD.; Kitchen TLC LLC; Mellow Monk Green Teas; O'Sulloc; Tao Tea Leaf Ltd.; Tea Forte; Teas Etc.; and Walters Bay Bogawantalawa Estates.
In addition, there were several companies that entered the competition for the first time and received honors — either a first, second or third place award — including: Florapharm Tea-USA LP; Kitchen TLC LLC; Sipping Streams Tea Company; Tea Forte; Teatulia 100% Single Garden Teas; and Tumblewood Tea.
Kim Jage, executive vice president of World Tea Media, organizer of the Championship, said, "The North American Tea Championship has evolved into a serious competition for tea. The submissions are of higher quality each year. The entrants are making sure they taste and evaluate their teas before choosing to submit them, and we're tightening processes as well as tea type definitions. Collectively, participants in the Championship are providing consumers and trade members alike the definition of premium tea."
First Place Winners (Company, Tea, and Category) include:
- Dethlefsen & Balk, Inc., Weather Proof, Unflavored Herbal Blends
- DoMatcha, Genmaicha with Matcha Blend, Blended Green Tea
- Florapharm Tea-USA LP, Green Tea "Walnut", Flavored Green Tea
- Florapharm Tea-USA LP, White Tea "White Cherry", Flavored White Tea
- ITO EN, LTD., TEAS' TEA Matcha, Matcha
- Kitchen TLC LLC, Cherry Almond Delight, Flavored Fruit Blends
- Mellow Monk Green Teas, Top Leaf Green Tea, Steamed Green Tea
- O'Sulloc, O'Sulloc Llohyang, Pan-Fired Green Tea
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Earthy Treasure, Puer Tea
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Sencha Extra Special, Sencha
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Silver Beauty, White Tea
- Tao Tea Leaf Ltd., Dragonwell, Dragonwell
- Tea Forte, Herbal Retreat – Blueberry Merlot, Flavored Herbal Blends
- Teas Etc., Sultry Summer Jasmine, Blended White Tea
- Walters Bay Bogawantalawa Estates, Walters Bay Tea Estates FF1, Ceylon
A complete list of first, second and third place winners of the North American Tea Championship is available at www.teachampionship.com.
Judges Speak Out on the Championship
Suzette Hammond, education director at Adagio Teas and one of the judges for the recent Championship, said, "As someone who's been involved with the competition since its inception, one of the most exciting things for me has been seeing the bar for quality go higher and higher, especially during tough years for tea. We're seeing fewer submissions of teas that are completely out of spec, don't fit the category at all, or are simply very low quality. Interestingly, we're seeing some entrants take our feedback to heart, and we've seen good teas being entered that just needed a little more work to reach their true potential."
According to Hammond, the Championship judges give as much commentary as possible on the teas, and if the entrants want to know, they may ask for that feedback. "It's really encouraging to see the industry work toward a higher standard," said Hammond. "I'm really inspired and honored by the progress."
David Walker, president, Walker Tea LLC, another judge in the competition, said, "The number of entries for the North American Tea Championship's Hot Tea Class/ Spring Teas evaluation were fewer than in the past. The Black Tea categories were, on the whole, plain and disappointing, but this was to be expected given overly dry weather conditions in many areas. All the other categories were sound and generally up to standard. Of special note were the Flavor and Herbal Blend categories; these I found were very much improved with the 'gap' between the best and the least preferred closed substantially."
|Judges Aaron Vick and Suzette Hammond|
Walker added, "I would definitely say that as a whole, entries were well selected as reflected in a more uniform range of qualities, which shows that the North American Tea Championship has helped in achieving a truly evenly-selected range of teas from the specialty tea market. I can't wait for the next Championship and, in the meantime, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for good producing conditions in the future."
Aaron Vick, a tea buyer at G.S Haly Co. and also a judge, said, "I am encouraged to see the diversity of competition entrants increasing over time. It is exciting to see the interest in the North American Tea Championship broaden and begin to pull in entrants from all different levels of our industry. This seems to show a spreading enthusiasm for the Championship's mission, to not only reward high quality but to also establish standards for cup character, thereby educating and elevating our entire industry. I hope to see the competition embraced as an institution, through which our industry can discuss, test, taste and come to agreement about what quality means, and finally have those ideas be embodied in the teas that are singled out for recognition in the competition."