The 2006 World Tea Competition wrapped up on August 12 with an auction of the prize winning teas. More than 750 participants from 15 countries entered their tea which was judged by an international panel of tea experts from Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
The competition was divided into six categories of tea - green tea, white tea, yellow tea, wu-long tea, red tea, and black tea. This last category could include pressed tea such as Pu-Erh, but competition rules excluded tea produced before 2000, so long-aged teas were not accepted.
Tea was evaluated by five basic criteria:
- shape of the processed tea leaf
- color of the tea liquor
- fragrance of the brewed tea
- condition of the tea leaf after brewing
In addition, tea powder was evaluated for its dissolution properties in both cold and hot water.
The tea was judged in two stages. The first was a preliminary selection by Taiwanese tea experts and scholars who chose 293 teas to pass to the final stage. The finalists were judged by an international panel of tea experts. Teas passed through several heats during this last competition with judges tasting 30 teas in each sitting and selecting the best eight from each lot.
Teas were ranked by panel decision and gold, silver, and bronze prizes were awarded in each category. In addition, one tea was chosen as the "World's Best" tea - an honor that carried with it a NT$1 million (US$30,000) prize. The winner was Lin Zhao Bin, a 28 year-old tea farmer from Chusan, Nantou county, Taiwan. Judges said this wu-long tea was "exceptionally smooth with an abundance of flavor."
Mr. Lin uses organic farming methods, avoiding chemical pesticides and fertilizers which may reduce the quality of the tea. Indeed, one of the rules of the competition says that teas grown with chemical fertilizers will be disqualified.
Other winning teas from Taiwan included the silver medal to an Ali Shan wu-long tea from the Shi Zuo area. Winning tea master Jan Guang Zuo said that "winning a prize like this is an affirmation that we are working in the right direction, but we must continue to improve the quality so we can offer the best tea possible."
In the black tea category, the gold prize winner was from Hualien County in Eastern Taiwan. This tea was noted for its rich body and unique honey flavor - a quality caused by the presence of cicadas which leave a secretion on the tea leaves as they are feeding.