May 5, 2010

Chinese Teas that have won international awards

Most of them are already well-known teas. My purpose of summarizing a list is not just showing what they are. After all, there are so many teas, and non-award-winning teas can be as great as award-winning teas. What makes me want to list them is, I think there are some interesting patterns.

Here is the list. (Lighter-colored texts are my comments.)

(Listed information is from China Cuisine Association.)

1915 San Francisco Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Gold medals: 
1. Keemun (Qi Men) Red (black) Tea; 
2. Tai Ping Hou Kui; 
3. Hui Ming Tea; 
4. Xin Yang Mao Jian; 
5. Jiang Xi Zhu Lan (Pearl Orchid) Green Tea; 
6. Northern Fujian Shui Xian.

Silver medals: 
1. Guang Xi Sounth Mountain Bai Mao (Silver Tip) Tea
2. Jiang Xi Gou Ku Nao Tea
3. Northern Fujian Shui Xian (from another manufacturer)

(These are all good stuff!)

1956 Leipzig Trade Fair
Gold medal: Jun Shan Yin Zhen (Jun Shan Silver Needle)
(Good stuff too!)

1983 Twenty-second Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections in the Canned Food and Other Food Products Selection, Rome, Italy
Gold medal: Chong Qing Tuo (unlike Xia Guan Tuo, Chong Qing Tuo is a pressed product of green tea)
(Hmmm... It's a good tea, but, among all the teas, how did this one make its way to the conference?)

1984 Twenty-third Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections in the Canned Food and Other Food Products Selection, Madrid, Spain
Gold medal: Gunpowder Green Tea (Ok, it's a good tea. But still, I can't believe this won "gold medal" in an international conference. This is a good, cheap tea, and I like it. But this tea is not by any means representative of elegant green tea.) 

1985 Twenty-forth Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections in the Canned Food and Other Food Products Selection, Lisbon, Portugal
Gold medal: 
1. Zhu Ye Qing (Bamboo Leaf Green);
2. Si Chuan Zao Bai Jian Gongfu Red (black) Tea; 
3. Si Chuan E Mei Mao Feng
(It looks like Chinese provinces take turns to attend these conferences. Sichuan does produce very nice teas.)

1985 International Culinary Tourism Association, Paris, France
Gold award: Fuzhou Jasmine Green Tea

1986 Twenty-fifth Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections in the Canned Food and Other Food Products Selection, Geneva, Switzerland
Gold medal:
1. Zhe Jiang Zhen Mei (Precious Brow) Green Tea;
2. Sichuan CTC Red (black) Tea; (Now CTC black tea stepped on stage! Not that there is anything bad about it. But I have difficulty relate Chinese tea to CTC black tea.)
3. Si Chuan Zao Bai Jian Gongfu Red (black) Tea

1986, International Culinary Tourism Association, Paris, France
Gold award:
1. Fuzhou Jasmine Green Tea Teabag
2. Red (black) Teabag; (This was made in Shanghai. Shanghai is not a tea producing region. So it was unknown where the raw materials of these teabags were from. Possibly Zhejiang province.)
3. Zhejiang Zhen Mei (Precious Brow) Green Tea ("manufactured in Shanghai);
4. Gong Xi Green Tea ("manufactured in Shanghai);
5. Phoenix Brow Green Tea ("manufactured in Shanghai);
6. Fujian Tie Guan Yin (packed in tea tin, which sounds to me like the most generic Chinatown type of Tie Guan Yin - I may be wrong though); 
7. Fujian Healthy Slimming Tea; (what??)
8. Zhejiang Gunpowder Green Tea; (now this tea does look prestigious among its peer gold award winners...)
9. Ying De Red (black) Tea Teabag;
10. Some Teabag called some "Youth Beauty Tea" of some brand (what??)

(I am really curious how they gave gold award to a "slimming tea" or "youth tea", based on flavor or based on "outcome"?)

1986, the 9th International Food Awards, Barcelona, Spain
Xia Guan Tuo

1987, Twenty-sixth Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections in the Canned Food and Other Food Products Selection, Brussels, Belgium
Gold award:
1. Keemun Gongfu Red (black) Tea
2. Zhen Mei (Precious Brow) Green Tea
3. Gift-packaged Chinese Famous Tea, made in Guangdong (the product name doesn't specify what tea it is)

1988,  Twenty-seventh Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections in the Canned Food and Other Food Products Selection, Athena, Greece
Gold award: Shi Feng Long Jing
Silver award:
1. An Hui Zhen Mei superior grade
2. An Hui Zhen Mei first grade

Here are some patterns that I've seen from above lists:

1. The best award list was in 1915

2. There is almost no international awards specifically for tea. In most events for culinary or beverage awards, tea is put in the "others" category. It almost looks like most of these events don't deal with tea seriously, and some of the awards are like jokes. In Judging of the International Institute for Quality Selections, Tea was put in "Canned Food and Other Food Products" category. Now this category doesn't exist anymore, and tea is in "Diet and health Products" category. Sounds better, at least. Their most recent brochure of this category is even featured with a cover image of a teapot and some herbal blend. Progress, indeed. 

3. When there was no "food industry" in 1915, tea (and probably other food) awards were for the purpose of evaluation, and represent professional honor. Then later on, food became an "industry". Therefore many of the above mentioned awards are run by "the industry" and the incentives for companies to participate is commercial promotion.

4. In the past century, the global "industry" system became more and more complete, while Chinese tea "industry" largely fell behind, which, may not be entirely a bad thing. When Chinese tea industry met the international food industry system, what we saw, along with some good products, were teabags and slimming tea (!) that won "gold awards". Meantime, teas that won domestic awards within China were more likely the "real stuff". And many domestic awards are given to tea varieties (submitted by their home provinces) instead of to companies or brands. But in recent years, there start to be brand-name tea products that win awards. I haven't figured out yet how you can compare a tea variety with a tea brand. 

5. It puzzled me for a while how a country decides what to send to an international award committees. Then I realized that most food samples to the award committees are sent by companies, not governments or non-profit organizations. Very likely only when the companies think an award leads to market influence and better profits, they would participate in such events. And obviously not all companies can afford attending these events. For example, currently, International Institute for Quality Selections charges 1100 euro for each submitted food sample (which is quite reasonable and standard for food industry, I guess). Many tea manufacturers wouldn't be able to afford it, and on the other hand, for many precious, small tea varieties, winning such an award doesn't bring much market benefit. In this sense, I think the World Tea Expo. (an annual event held in Las Vegas) is a very positive and promising event in "tea industry". Its charges on registration, exhibition and tea championship sample submission are significantly lower than those in other food industry events. More importantly, it's completely about tea. Currently it doesn't seem to have very large international influence. But I think, very likely, American tea market will grow very fast, and this event will have increasing influences on American as well as international tea market.

6. In China, before 1990s, tea industry was state-owned. Hence there was the rather odd phenomenon that some teas were submitted to the award committee as tea varieties while some were submitted as products of state-owned tea companies. Now with the economic reform in China, tea production is no longer controlled by state-owned companies. And I have no idea if they are still attending these events. The record I got ends at the year of 1988.


Ruqyo Highsong said...

Wow, it's like the tea awards started as the Oscars and then slowly turned into the Razzies.

Personally, I think we should stop giving shiny metal trophies or medals to the teas, and just sit back and enjoy them.


Gingko said...

I don't know what we should do with tea awards. On the one hand, people sometimes needs to be boosted by awards, but on the other hand, it's hard to compare different tea varieties.

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