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How to Choose a TieGuanYin: Part 2

Part of a series on How To Choose a TieGuanYin. Read Part 1.

Home of TieGuanYin - XiPing NanYanIn the previous article on choosing a TieGuanYin, the topics of season, oxidation & roasting, ageing, and grades of TieGuanYin were covered. That article gave a brief explanation of the use of "competition grade," but it is worth going into more detail on how the term is employed.

To begin with, teas labelled "competition grade" have not necessarily been entered into an official competition. Many have not. Use of the "competition grade" term is used to indicate that a tea, especially a TieGuanYin, is considered high enough in quality to be entered into competition. The term is used to indicate the best that the tea farmer, tea master, or tea shop has to offer.

1. Levels of Competition

With teas that do enter into actual competition, they can compete at different levels. In China's Fujian Province, for example, there can be local, regional, and provincial-level contests. These competitions can be organized by government offices or other groups. In a sense, all teas that compete, regardless of level, and whether or not they win, could also be considered competition teas.

2. Awards and Recognition

James with TieGuanYin Bronze WinnersTea competitions are taken seriously. Judges, officials, or notaries are involved in monitoring the entry of teas to verify that teas are qualified to enter. The teas have to be grown, harvested, and produced according to competition rules. Gold, silver, and bronze rankings are awarded, and competitions may include other forms of special recognition. Teas are then judged against that years' competitors. Depending on the growing season and harvest conditions, that means that a winning tea may not have the exact characteristics of winning teas from previous years.

A winning tea often gets bought quickly at extremely high prices. The units of tea officially entered into the contest often total less than 10kg, so there is not a lot of tea to put into the tea market anyway. The reputation of a winning tea often extends to include the larger lot or harvest from which the winning tea was produced. Even if a portion received a finer touch during processing for the purpose of entering the tea into competition, the lot or harvest is still a tea that has the potential to be processed into a fine tea.

3. Wan Ling Tea House's Selection Process

Given the potential misuse of the term, Wan Ling Tea House is sparing in labelling a tea "competition grade". When selecting TieGuanYin, only the best are chosen. That is why our selection of Guan Yin Wang (or Guan Yin King) teas are superior grade teas. When these teas do excel, Wan Ling acquires the best balance of quality and price for HongXin TeChun GuanYin Wang, CanSai JiPin GuanYin Wang, and ZhengChao GuanYin Wang. Each of these has its own unique merits. Our ZhengChao GuanYin Wang for example, differs from the other QingXiangs in that it is oxidized slightly longer, creating a softer, longer finish. At the end of the day, there is only one competition grade tea and that is our CanSai JiPin. CanSai 参赛 literally means to compete or to enter a competition. 

Our selection process also means that our competition grade and Guan Yin Wang teas may not come around every season. Wan Ling meticulously searches for TieGuanYin worthy of Guan Yin Wang status, and if the teas of a season don't meet those standards, there is no CanSai JinPin Guan Yin Wang sourced for that season.

In the end, the ultimate competition is that of creating delighted tea drinkers.

Useful Resources:

1. Cha Wang Sai (Tea King Competition). Article in Chinese:

2. Tea Travels: A Trip to XiangHua Village, AnXi:

3. China Tea Facts - Fujian:

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