Regions and Standardization


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Regions and Standardization

Postby umijoshi » Feb 8th, '14, 14:52

Tea's from certain areas have reputations to uphold, in the world of french wine they have a classification system basically prohibiting poor practices (and thus poor results) from spoiling the image of the region the wine is coming from.

There are some teas such as Oriental Beauty Oolong from Taiwan that bring up this post. In reference to texts I've read this tea should exhibit some specific characteristics, none of which are present at all to me or anyone who has tried it with me so far (this tea smells like bleach/swimming pool locker rooms.) Basing my first experience on the first time I try the tea seems ignorant, so I need to ask.

For someone to put Oriental Beauty on their product, what are the requirements? Some references are saying 60% oxidation, some 70%, some saying that the tea needs to have been affected by the insects which eat the leaves and thus changing the flavour; is any of this a law? Can I go over to Northern Taiwan and label my tea Oriental Beauty? Wikipedia says "primarily" comes from Hsinchu county, which to me means it can come from anywhere...

To jump over to India and Maragaret's Hope. I see a lot of Margaret's Hope around tea shops in my city. Margaret's Hope is the name of a tea garden, not a region (right?) and so every year the people who run this garden (a single estate?) are putting out their product with their style and specifications.

If I buy Margaret's Hope in Calgary, flew across the world to Tokyo and had Margaret's Hope there. These leaves will be the same? Does the estate limit their production based on quality and reputation?

I'll probably follow up with a bunch of questions but I think that's good enough to get started. Thanks in advance everyone!
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Re: Regions and Standardization

Postby wyardley » Feb 8th, '14, 21:30

umijoshi wrote:There are some teas such as Oriental Beauty Oolong from Taiwan that bring up this post. In reference to texts I've read this tea should exhibit some specific characteristics, none of which are present at all to me or anyone who has tried it with me so far (this tea smells like bleach/swimming pool locker rooms.) Basing my first experience on the first time I try the tea seems ignorant, so I need to ask.

For someone to put Oriental Beauty on their product, what are the requirements? Some references are saying 60% oxidation, some 70%, some saying that the tea needs to have been affected by the insects which eat the leaves and thus changing the flavour; is any of this a law? Can I go over to Northern Taiwan and label my tea Oriental Beauty? Wikipedia says "primarily" comes from Hsinchu county, which to me means it can come from anywhere...

I don't think there's any protected status, though buying tea that's been part of certain competitions might provide some degree of confidence that the tea at least meets certain criteria.

From your description, it sounds like the example you tried is a real stinker - generally, a good Oriental Beauty can be intensely perfumey, or have some malty / fruity notes (and ideally, a bit of sourness, which allegedly comes from the tea jassid you mentioned above). I think it should be easy to find one that's better than the example you tried, though finding a truly exceptional one can be difficult and / or expensive.
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Re: Regions and Standardization

Postby Evan Draper » Feb 9th, '14, 13:34

"Oriental Beauty" is what some people call a tea style, based on its process of manufacture. It is associated with a particular leaf variety and a growing region, but theoretically this style might be made elsewhere with a different variety. Some tea styles may be protected with appellation control like wines, or trademarked, and some may just have a "canonical area" and variety that people associate with better quality.

I assume you are asking because you are curious. If you are a tea manufacturer, and you are asking about the finer points of product labeling legislation in order to mislead your customers, may you suffer a violent death :wink:

On the topic of Darjeeling estates, I asked Kevin Gascoyne of Camellia Sinensis Tea House about this in some detail. Apparently, Darjeeling "estates" refer to appellation-controlled growing (micro)regions, and not commercial entities. This is to say there may be one tea growing-and-manufacturing company that owns several of these "estates" which are contiguous, and they have one unified operation. However, only tea grown in the "Margaret's Hope" estate may be labeled "Margaret's Hope". Obviously, the estates SOUND like distinct commercial entities, and probably they all were at some point, but the marketplace is constantly changing while these appellations stayed constant. I have a map of all these estates somewhere, which I already posted to the forum many years ago, I think.

This is not to say that "estate tea" means the same thing in all regions. Michael Coffey told me about a certain convention of naming African tea, but I can't remember which country or estate it is. Let's say for example that this is tea grown in Kenya, marketed as "Zulu estate tea." It turns out that there is no one "Zulu estate": there is simply a large growing region with many tea gardens, and any tea from there is "branded" "Zulu estate", as in "it comes from SOME estate, or is blended from MANY estates, and either the region or the tea style is known as Zulu."
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Re: Regions and Standardization

Postby umijoshi » Feb 9th, '14, 23:12

I'd be really interested in seeing this map of 'estates', if you still have it around. If there are multiple producers per estate and the producer information (such as who it is, which cultivars they are using), harvest year, and harvest season are not presented on the label, there seems to be a lot of potential to be mislead when buying these things.
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Re: Regions and Standardization

Postby Tead Off » Mar 13th, '14, 02:25

umijoshi wrote:I'd be really interested in seeing this map of 'estates', if you still have it around. If there are multiple producers per estate and the producer information (such as who it is, which cultivars they are using), harvest year, and harvest season are not presented on the label, there seems to be a lot of potential to be mislead when buying these things.

Look in the Darjeeling Garden Map thread. Excellent map there.

If you buy a Margaret's Hope tea from one vendor, it will not necessarily be the same tea from another vendor selling Margaret's Hope. There is a very important element in Darjeeling teas called 'invoice #'s", labeled as DJ1 or 2, etc. These refer to the pickings, I believe. I don't claim to understand all of this, but the difference between teas becomes obvious when you taste them, the different DJ's. Most good estates contract with large distributors and teahouses for their harvest, either all of it or some of it. Companies like Mariage Freres in Paris buy like this and usually have excellent teas. Their prices are also premium. It's a complex subject and a lot of funny business goes on. If I'm not mistaken, Makaibari owns Margaret's Hope among other gardens. They say there is only so much Darjeeling that is grown each harvest, but the worldwide sales of it far exceeds the official harvest records. :D
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Re: Regions and Standardization

Postby sherubtse » Mar 13th, '14, 09:32

Although there are numerous lists of Darjeeling estates, here is one of the better ones:

http://www.darjeeling-tourism.com/darj_0000bf.htm

Best wishes,
sherubtse
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