Fourteen high-quality teas took first-place awards in key categories during the North American Tea Championship evaluation of spring-harvest 2014 hot teas.
The competition was held July 24-25 in Las Vegas at the headquarters of The Beverage Group, a division of F+W, organizer of NATC. Some of the winning companies will be featured at World Tea Expo, May 6-8, 2015, at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California.
The North American Championship is the only independent competition, evaluated by professional cuppers, to distinguish the highest quality and best tasting teas that are commercially available in the North American marketplace.
"If we can all agree that elevating the quality of teas we, as retailers, packers, [and] importers, present to consumers is a shared goal, then an event like the North American Tea Championship does an excellent job of turning the spotlight squarely on quality, on features that constitute high quality in many tea and botanical categories, rather than on just what may be trendy and marketable at the moment," says Lydia Kung, an NATC evaluator, tea buyer, and expert with Eastrise Trading Corp./VeriLeaf LLC in Monrovia, California.
"Although we are months away from and excited about the 2015 World Tea Expo, it is good to remember that these award-winning teas are available now in the North American marketplace for viewing/tasting," Kung adds. "However, they also provide tea companies an opportunity to evaluate their own teas against comparable ones that have earned high marks. We may not all use the same terms to describe teas, but nothing beats actually sipping a good tasting, high-quality tea and storing that in our palate memory."
During the competition, NATC evaluators reviewed every submission via blind and organoleptic analysis, including dry leaf, brewed flavor, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed mouth feel, and brewed harmony. An overall numerical value on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic, and winning teas were determined by rank.
NATC's Spring Hot Tea Class evaluation first-place winners include the following (Company, Winning Tea Name, and Category):
- Aiya America, Torrance, California, Matcha Infused Genmaicha – Blended Green Tea
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, California, Ceylon Sapphire – Ceylon
- Florapharm Tea USA LP, Hinesville, Georgia, Organic Darjeeling Jungpana Wonder Muscatel, 2nd flush – Darjeeling
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, California, Dragonwell's Gold – Dragonwell
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, California, Garcina Corvina – Flavored Fruit Blend
- Dethlefsen & Balk Inc., Aurora, Illinois, Mango/Mirabelle – Flavored Green Tea
- QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, California, O.M.G (Orange Mango Ginger) – Flavored Herbal Blends
- Waterfall Tea Company, Pico Rivera, California, Organic Orange Ginger White Tea – Flavored White Tea
- Aiya America, Torrance, California, Premium Matcha – Matcha
- AMOREPACIFIC OSULLOC, New York City, Illohyang – Pan-Fired Green Tea
- International Tea Importers, Pico Rivera, California, Sencha Supreme (Arihara) – Sencha
- Aiya America, Torrance, California, Premium Gyokuro – Steamed Green Tea
- Florapharm Tea USA LP, Hinesville, Georgia, Refreshment – Unflavored Herbal Blends
- Dewdrop Tea, Naperville, Illinois, White Peony by Fang Shoulong – White Tea
According to Kung, one important discussion amongst judges over the two days of NATC evaluations was how to provide more feedback to entrants about their teas, regardless of whether the teas scored high or low.
"As each round was cupped, we continually returned to category definitions, refining our understanding of features that define excellent tasting teas and how to characterize them," Kung says. "If scores were low, or in instances where a tea was disqualified, we again considered the criteria for that group and considered factors such as improper storage that diminished the teas. Also, greater transparency about how scores should help NATC entrants, along with those who read the results, is being considered to either reinforce what entrants have been doing right or revise practices to improve standards, all steps that will eventually benefit the consumer."