As far as I can tell, a tea competition is an event designed to increase the amount of packaging and price of the teas involved. Joking apart, the actual role of tea competitions seems to be a little unclear. Though they do give public recognition and exposure to the tea farmers and make attempts to judge the best teas of a particular season, many believe that the tasting preferences of the judges can play too large a role in deciding the direction tea processing fashion is headed--as traditional processing methods fail to impress judges, they fall out of practice for their decrease in marketability. I've also heard from a number of Chinese and Taiwanese people that expensive competition-winning teas often end up purchased as gifts by and/or for people who don't actually like tea all that much and the tea ends up languishing on the shelf with no one to appreciate it. And yet, if it performed well in a competition, a tea's got to at least be good, right?
|Tennis balls? Nope, just tea.|
On to the tea. A few of the competition teas I've had were de-stemmed, supposedly in order to maintain consistency for the competition. Not the case for this tea, which appears pretty standard for Muzha Tieguanyin--dark, with a few deep green and red notes with stems that take on a somewhat golden hue. What I was most interested about with this tea is the roasting level--how it would compare to the other Muzha Tieguanyin I've had, which at best seem to balance a dryness with lasting high notes and a solid roasted bottom. Maybe it's not a surprise, but this competition tea, though well-roasted, doesn't have a strong roasting flavor--that would probably be deemed a flaw by most judges. Interestingly, the most noticeably excellent trait I notice is the mouthfeel, which is thick and mouth-coating, much heavier than the dryness I usually associate with this tea. The flavor, likewise, displays only hints of (what has been, to me) the region's particular high note, instead existing in more of a juicy realm of fruity/flowery with a bitter streak that can get out of control without timely brewing attention. While the tea's profile is striking in the early infusions, I'd say it doesn't last quite as long as some similar dong ding or gaoshan oolong I've had recently. The tea's creamy body, though unexpected, is really enjoyable and pairs best with one of my red clay pots--the porous ones mute the aroma and somehow promote the bitterness, plus the body's already smooth enough as it is! Interestingly, pretty much all the Muzha Tieguanyin I've purchased does better in zhuni or hongni.
This tea has disappeared and reappeared on Hou De a few times, and there are only a few ounces left at present. Since I've got quantity I'll be happy to share a sample with the first whoever leaves the first two comments--international people included! You'll have to email me your address once you see you've made it.