Who’s the best of the best in North American tea?

Oh my I haven’t posted here in a year – but I had a good excuse. I got pregnant and had a baby girl! And no we didn’t name her Tea, although it did cross my mind. But what better way to get back into blogging than talking about the best of the best teas in North America. The North American Tea Championship named 19 first-place winners in its annual Hot Tea Class / Fall Tea evaluation, which took place Feb. 22 – 23 in Las Vegas. Rishi Tea shone in the competition by winning a total of four 1st place spots.

It wasn’t just the well established brands that succeeded. Five newbies to the competition came out on top in each of their categories: Ajiri Tea Company, Globex America dba Cavallini Coffee & Tea, Rare Tea Cellar Inc., Tao Tea Leaf; and Yogic Chai.

Overall, competitors showcased an assortment of premium fall teas in 19 different categories – from Assam to Yunnan – and the renowned judges evaluated nearly 200 teas. (Imaging being lucky enough to drink all that tea!) The teas were evaluated blind and through organoleptic analysis of the following characteristics: dry leaf, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed flavor, brewed mouth-feel, and brewed harmony.  An overall rating on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic above. You can see the full list of winners, their ratings, prices (prepare for sticker shock for some) and links to the winners’ sites on the North American Tea Champion site.

First place “Signature Famous Teas” winners include:

  • Assam – TeaGschwendner, Assam SFTGFOP Marangi Second Flush
  • Bai Hao/Oriental Beauty – Barnes & Watson Fine Teas, Bai Hao – Exquisite
  • Breakfast Blend – The Republic of Tea, Lucky Irish Breakfast Full-Leaf Loose Tea
  • Chai – Yogic Chai, Original Masala Chai
  • Darjeeling – Rishi Tea, Organic Fair Trade Darjeeling Estate Select
  • Earl Grey – Rishi Tea, Organic Fair Trade Earl Grey
  • Jasmine – The Republic of Tea, Imperial Republic Jasmine Pearls
  • Keemun – Tao Tea Leaf Ltd., Keemun Kong Fu
  • Yunnan – Rishi Tea, Organic Fair Trade Golden Needle

First place “General Category Teas” winners include:

  • Aged/Baked Oolong Tea – Naivetea, Dong Ding Oolong
  • Black Tea – Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Winter Frost
  • Black Tea CTC (crush, tear, curl) – Ajiri Tea Company, Ajiri Tea
  • Blended Black Tea – China Mist Brands, Organic Berry Black
  • Blended Oolong Tea – Teas Etc., Ginseng Oolong
  • Dark Oolong Tea – Qtrade Teas & Herbs, Red Robe Oolong
  • Flavored Oolong Tea – Globex America dba Cavallini Coffee & Tea, Plum, Mango Sake
  • Flavored Rooibos Blends – Rare Tea Cellar Inc., Gingerbread Dream Rooibos
  • Green Oolong Tea – Rishi Tea, Bao Zhong
  • Flavored Black Tea – The Republic of Tea, Fair Trade Cranberry Blood Orange Full-Leaf Loose Tea

A Winners’ Tasting Circle will be held at 2011 World Tea Expo June 24 -26 for all attendees. Oh I wish I was going!

Next up for North American Tea Championships is an Iced Tea competition in May – just in time for summer! And then the Spring Hot Tea competition will be held in July in Las Vegas.

According to the organizers, the championship is the only independent and professionally-judged tea competition in North America. Each year, the competition identifies the highest quality and best tasting teas that are commercially available in the marketplace.