Saturday, 3 September 2011

Whoops: Competition Muzha TGY

As it turns out, my assertion that the level of roast applied to the particular competition Muzha TGY mentioned in this post was unusually high was a bit misguided. In fact, the amount of roasting on this tea is more or less typical for an awarded example, it's just that roasted teas in general are not awarded quite so often. I've changed a couple of lines in the original article and added an addendum for the sake of accuracy.

If you're not too interested in the relative popularity of tea genres or associated bias in a competition environment, then I apologise for having wasted your time. Please accept this picture of a leaf in some water as compensation:


  1. Hey, no need to get too correcty about this, your original post was great--I think what's at issue isn't exactly that roasted teas don't get awarded, it's that teas that are entered into competition in the first place are often times processed differently to begin with. With an opening caveat, I don't have a huge amount (like, more than 10 different teas) of expert experience with competition teas, but of the ones I have seen and tried, there are often small processing differences, like gao shan oolong having the stems removed (when most non-competition Lishan or Alishan oolongs usually have stems) or that the oxidation levels will tend to be different (usually lower). Though greener, lighter-oxidized, and even unroasted Anxi-esque examples are starting to show up in Taiwan, Muzha TGY is usually synonymous with higher oxidization and roasting, so even the competition examples (for now, at least) are still usually pretty well-roasted. In comparison to the average traditionally-processed Muzha TGY, the roasting isn't as high and will most likely be machine-done, maybe to ensure purity and consistent quality for the judges (it's much easier with a machine roaster, part of the reason why costly and difficult charcoal roasting is falling out of favor).

    The other issue, at least according to my avowedly limited and second-hand understanding of tea competitions, is that competition judges are good, old-fashioned taste-makers, just like in the wine world. What they say is "the best tea" becomes just that to many people, and the competition winners (even just entrants, which is what this tea is closer to) becomes more expensive and more regarded as "the ideal," causing consumer demand for tea that's processed that way and interest on the part of the farmers in making tea that'll sell. Shiuwen at Floating Leaves, for example, often provides competition baozhong for her customers, but she also always carries a baozhong she calls "Farmer's Choice," which is processed more traditionally than the competition teas are (more oxidation, less green, more of an emphasis on body than floral aroma), and is actually what the farmers themselves prefer!

    I guess the point is that there seems to be a strong element of fashion in tea competitions, so they're only worth taking seriously if the way competition tea is processed is your ideal type of tea. That seems to come closest to the actual point, which is that every tea drinker should be their own judge of quality, and hopefully we can keep getting teas processed both ways instead of the more fashionable and easier methods squeezing out the more traditional methods. I'm trying to think of a good non-competition Muzha TGY; the best example I can think of right now is probably the un-aged one from Camellia Sinensis, which may or may not be charcoal roasted, but the last time I ordered it, it was more what I'd consider "classic" Muzha TGY than the competition one. Wow, sorry to write so much! Competitions are an interesting topic...

  2. Nice a new Blog

    I am happy to read you.

    I wish you a nice meeting with the tea.


  3. Elliot - Thanks for your detailed response on this! I try to keep things as accurate as I can, but of course this is a learning experience; if it weren't it wouldn't be any fun!

    It would seem the wine world of the west and the tea world of the east share a remarkable degree of similarity in many respects, so it wouldn't really surprise me to find that the tendency to delegitimise personal taste preferences in favour of "expert" opinions exists in the eastern tea world as well (by the way, I really enjoyed your discussion on this mentality in western tea circles, whose prescence, regrettably, seems to be fairly well-evidenced in the blogosphere). I recently watched a documentary called Blood Into Wine about an Arizona winery started by Maynard James Keenan of Tool which proved very interesting as it highlighted a lot of the spiritual and energetic considerations for which tea is better known. It also gives the taste-making of which you speak a thorough going over, so if these tea/wine parallels interest you I certainly recommend streaming it on Netflix.

    A friend of mine made a trip to Montreal recently and picked up some of Camellia Sinensis' Muzha TGY; I haven't had the chance to try any yet, but I may be able to scrounge off a session sometime in the near future.

    Nicolas - Je vous remercie pour vos commentaires, il me fait plaisir que vous aimez mon blog! J'aime toujours faire la rencontre des nouveaux amis de thé.