Award-winning Green Teas
If you search for award-winning teas online in the US, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pure tea. Generally, the teas which lead with their award-winning status are often flavored and blended to such a degree as that they don’t even have true tea (Camellia sinensis) as a leading ingredient. Over the years, we had avoided tea competitions in the US, until I saw one of my suppliers from Asia at an expo proudly carrying his tea award with him wherever he went. I realized then that winning an award in the US was as significant to our partners at origin as winning an award abroad would be for us. So we’ve since entered teas from some of our closest collaborators and suppliers into the Global Tea Championships and proudly won medals which we’re happy to pass along to these tea masters.
The stories behind our green tea category winners are as diverse as their flavor profiles and terroirs. Each time I steep one of them, I think of the many people who contribute to their crafting and recall images of their regions, the climate, the smells, and the special tastings at origin we’ve enjoyed.
Silver Medal 2019, Category: Loose Pu’erh Tea
Origin: Yunnan Province, China
Yunnan Province is vast and largely wild and undeveloped. Ideal growing conditions for Yunnan tea cultivars are mountainous terrain, cool, shady, and humid air, and rich soil with strong plant diversity. These conditions allow wild tea trees to accumulate and preserve high amounts of amino acids and polyphenols, which make the naturally sweet and savory taste of a premium raw (sheng) pu’erh tea. This “aged” green tea is crafted so it can to continue aging and develop into a richer and more mellow tea, even after its processing is completed. Other green tea types are force dried, but green pu’erh is sun-dried, which allows its enzymes to remain more active and promote the aging process.
The tea and people who care and pluck the wild tea trees are sun-loving mountain people, of the Dai tribal minority. They love to wear bright colors, their food is flavorful and spicy, they are fit and navigate their mountain terrain with grace and ease. Their love for the wild tea trees is apparent with each tree they tend to. During the peak harvest season, plucking begins early in the morning, the leaves are delivered several times during the day, with the final delivery in time for the workers to have dinner at the tea processing facility. Tea leaves that were plucked in the morning are left out to wither and begin their intense aroma-building enzymatic process for a few hours, then crafted into tea and put out in the sun to dry either later that same day. In my experience, Wild Harvest Green Puerh is the closest thing to a fresh tea leaf. With each sip of this tea, you’ll taste the sunshine, clean mountain air, red earth, and the love and smiles of Yunnan.
Silver Medal 2019, Category: Green Steamed Bagged
Origin: Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan
In stark contrast to the natural raw Pu’erh process, Japanese tea crafting is entirely about technology, standards, and a complex process. Whereas a raw Pu’erh can be made without using any electricity whatsoever, it takes many steps and many machines to process Japanese tea. A major difference in processing is that Japanese tea leaves are steamed to stop the enzymatic process, whereas in China the tea leaves are fire-heated in a pan, roasted or baked. This has a big influence on the end flavor, with Japanese teas preserving a deeper green color and the characteristic umami – vegetal and astringent taste. Another major difference is that Japanese green tea undergoes a primary and secondary process. The raw material produced in the primary process is called “Aracha”. It is sold at auctions where massive cupping and bidding takes place in a short timespan, with tea masters choosing the proper base to be processed in the secondary process into various tea types.
Japanese Orchid Green (also known as Iccha Kariban) is made from a specific cultivar known for its fragrant floral character and grown on the Southernmost Island of Kagoshima, where the climate is very humid and temperate. Unlike many more traditional Japanese green sencha-style teas, Iccha Kariban is very low in astringency, delicate in flavor, with a sweet and soft umami taste. This makes it a very accessible tea for drinkers new to steamed Japanese green teas and more forgiving with steeping.
The company which makes this tea has been family owned and operated for 5 generations. Committed to making the highest quality teas that represent the distinctive quality of the southern Kagoshima region, they are a joy to work with. Every worker shows pride of ownership, and even the CEO can be seen arm-deep in tea leaves, assessing quality. They source the perfect spring harvest aracha in order to consistently maximize the orchid note in this exquisite tea. Its natural fragrance is pronounced, yet subtle and classy, just like the surrounding beauty of natural volcanoes, water, and manicured tea gardens.
Gold Medal 2017, Category: Hot Tea, Blended Green
Origin: Fujian Province, China
This is a downy, early spring green tea, naturally scented with beautiful white magnolia flowers. Sweet Magnolia Green is made from the Fuding Da Hao cultivar, which is the same cultivar grown for Silver Needles white tea. It is cultivated in the craggy, coastal Fujian Province region of Fuding, China, famous for its fine white teas. This terroir imparts a diverse array of flavors from seabreeze to floral. The process for crafting Fuding-style teas is an exercise in skilled speed and perfection. When we’re given the chance to jump in, as visitors, and try our turn at a particular processing step, the results are generally a fail! It takes many years of training and experience to turn out this finest quality green tea.
The base tea is then taken to Guangxi province where it is naturally scented with freshly-picked magnolia flowers. The process uses two layers of flowers between which a layer of tea is sandwiched. The delicate green tea thus absorbs the rich, sweet and powerful magnolia fragrance, and develops flavor dimensions ranging from deep plum fruit to light citrus.
Discover our full collection of Award-Winning Teas, from single-origin teas to signature house blends. Try each of them — we hope to delight you with each sip.