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Reflections on the 2016 BWT World Tea Brewing Championship

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Now coming into its third year, The WTBC is a truly international event, its reach extending beyond China to the USA, Hong Kong and for the first time it will be held in Australia at the Fine Food Trade fair in Melbourne. It has been encouraging to see the growing success of the competition, which has expanded beyond to brewing to now include tea tasting. Further competitions are now being developed which are likely to appeal to an even greater audience. The WTBC competition is committed to advancing with the industry, embracing developments in technology and skills of the competitors.

So why do competitions exist, and why do we see this trend of competitions in so many industries – wine and coffee perhaps the most notable. I think the basis is the “specialty” and “providence” movements. As people move from seeing products as being homogeneous commodities, to seeing products as a means of unique expression or a means of enjoyment, there is something inherent in people to seek to explore and identify how to create an even better experience. It is the diversity of perspectives that creates distinctions and a means for inspiration for new and improved methods.

This has certainly been true at least in my observation of the WTBC. It has been interesting to observe the journey of competitors involved in our competitions and see how their participation, through their sharing of personal experiences in social media platforms and the like, is shaping culture and industries. Change happens naturally when whenever people come together with different ideas and perspectives, as the sharing of those ideas creates an opportunity and probability of new concepts being formed. However I believe competitions accelerate that process, as it begins together people motivated toward identifying distinctions and improved methods as a means of competitive advantage.

This is especially important in a countries with a long established and traditional tea culture as is the case with China. The commercial environments are very different, the youth culture, having grown up in a fast paced world of innovation and change, matched with a means to stand out and be identified primarily by status or recognition, are conditioned to seek out experiences that offer this. Traditional tea culture provides little opportunity to stand out and be notices – change, a means for differentiation is needed, which involves creating new perspectives and new experiences.

What happens at the micro level eventually affects the macro. We are seeing growing interest of larger companies now wishing to support the establishment of our competition at tradefairs. SIAL, a leading tradeshow event organiser had the foresight to partner with us in the beginning, and three years on our 2017 event promises to be the best yet. We are now in the process of establishing preliminary events with regional partners throughout China, extending our reach to a wider audience of participants, tea suppliers and professionals. Competitions serve as a hub for bringing industry champions together where innovative ideas can circulate and profitable relationships can be formed.

When people come together with a common goal, the industry is shaped, as expectations are established and trends are follow on from these as producers strive to meet these expectations. Savvy business recognise the opportunity presented when a new want is identified but has not been commercialised, as happens whenever a winner of a competition creates a means of differentiation. This is perhaps best expressed in our partnership with BWT water filters in our Shanghai event. For the first time in a tea competition, to my knowledge at least, the pH level and TDS were set to a competition standard – the result was a noticeably superior quality of tea infusions presented to the judges. It is innovations like these that shape the tea industry.

Similarly, it is partnerships with future minded and innovative companies that allow the smooth expansion of our competition, and in turn, the benefits they bring to the industries participants involved. The world Tea championship is committed to the long term growth of the markets and partnerships that align with us, both inside and internationally. As a truly international competition, we exist as a platform for spreading the message of specialty tea and representing the interests of those committed to progress and innovation. With globalisation, international markets are becoming accessible and competitions afford an opportunity for common ground as a means of identifying and appreciating excellence.

It was interesting to see the growth of competitors in our events. For Wei from Meitan County, who won our most recent event, it was apparent that Wei was able to develop a stronger service presentation and standard of tea experience. Perhaps, with his natural drive, complimented with the information shared and his experience in being involved in the competition, Wei has used the WTBC as platform for the growth of his own tea business, which from my visits to Meitan has a fond appreciation by his peers for his efforts and contribution in advancing the local tea industry.

If you would like to participate in our competitions, or would like to partner with us in holding an event, please do reach out to us. It is with support of people like you that this competition is becoming the premier event internationally for identifying excellence in the preparation and service of specialty tea.

 

Sensory judge: Ms Fang Jian Ai

I would like to thank all the contestants that participated and put their hearts into this competition. It was an honor to act as a judge to this event. I believe such a competition is important because it can help introduce Chinese tea arts to people. It also moves the tea culture forward by helping to set a standard in terms of brewing techniques. In the future, I hope more people will participate! My advice to any future champions: Please pay attention to the rules! It was sad to see those get eliminated for simple oversights. Keep attention to the details and you will go far!

 

Sensory judge: Sarah de Witt

It takes confidence and passion for tea to get up in front of a crowd and perform a tea ceremony so well done to all contestants. I was impressed by the upheld tradition of Gong Fu ceremonies and tea brewing styles employed by many of the contestants. It was also encouraging to see a unique blend of scientific rigour applied to the tea brewing process whilst maintaining an artful exploration of serving tea. Many of the ceremonies brought out tea’s mindful and traditional history which complimented the use of timers, temperature controlled kettles, and scales. To achieve the best outcome, it was essential for contestants to have an engaging and courteous presentation, ensure their tea flavour was balanced, use innovation and creative flair in their signature brews, and be conscious of tea technicalities in order to ensure consistent brewing practices. Overall, the standard was high so well done to all those involved in the brewing contest.

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