This past August I was honored to be invited to participate in the annual Hong Kong International Tea Fair as both a presenter and a judge in the International Tea Competition. Organized by the Hong Kong Trade Development Corporation, the event was a three-day bonanza of tea, teaware, and tea information from all over the world. Well-known figures from the areas of production, research, marketing, and promotion presented lectures and informative briefings for the attendees. Secretary General Mr. Cai Jun from the China Chamber of Commerce (Tea Section) spoke on production data and the rapidly developing domestic Chinese tea market. Dr. Lu Cheng Yin from the Tea Research Institute in Hangzhou, China presented information on the technical aspects of tea and research that is being done. Mr. Rahul Kale from Typhoo Tea Ltd. UK addressed the conference on the many facets of developing a successful brand, and I was pleased to offer perspectives on the American tea market.

Vendors from across the various Pacific-Asian countries, including India and Sri Lanka, were on hand to spread their messages to all interested visitors to their booths. There were quite a number of exhibitors touting the benefits and varieties of Pu Er as well as other famous teas.

The day before the Fair itself, a panel of distinguished tea figures was called to duty to taste, evaluate, and score nearly 90 teas that were entered in the International Tea Competition. Delegates included Mrs. Rupali Datta from the Tea Board of India, Ms. Priyanka Liyange from the Sri Lankan Tea Board, Dr. Lu Cheng Yin from the Tea Research Intstitute, Mr. Wing Chi Ip from Lok Cha in Hong Kong, Mr. Wang Ya Lei from the China Tea Association in Japan, Ms. Charlene Tse, a renowned Hong Kong food critic, Mr. Ng Tin Sang from the Chinese Tea Culture Exchange Association, and me. It was an entire day of tea tasting and we had the opportunity to evaluate an extensive array of amazing teas.

The procedures we followed were the typical ones used in Chinese competitions. Using a mark of around 84 as the starting point, an initial score was given by the lead judge for each category. The other judges followed and either added or subtracted from the initial score. After all teas had been judged, the pluses and minuses were calculated and the final score was established. Typical tea-preparation methods were used, although there were modifications for green teas and Pu Er teas. In general, the procedure called for 3 grams of tea, steeped in 110 ml of 210 degree water for 5 minutes.  Teas were judged on leaf appearance, aroma, and taste. High scores reached into the mid-90s, while lower scores bottomed out in the high-60s. At the end, an overall “best-tasting tea” winner was selected – an excellent oolong tea called Mi Lan Xiang Dan Cong (Honey Orchid Fragrance Dan Cong) made by Mr. Huang Shuwei.

I was honored to be asked to serve as lead judge for both the oolong and black tea categories. While tea tasting is a regular part of my duties with both The Tea House and the International Tea Cuppers Club, it was indeed a pleasure to experience so many exceptional teas at one time. I do hope they invite me to participate again next year.