Taipei, July 16 (CNA) A group of Taiwanese agricultural experts and tea professionals are ready to put the reputation of the country's oolong teas on the line by organizing a "World Oolong Tea Contest."
The competition, slated for Dec. 25 to 28, will be open to anyone with a product made from Chin-Shin oolong tea leaves, said Lin Chih-huang, the chief executive of the Taichung-based Taiwan Outstanding Agriculturists Association, on Monday.
There are few restrictions on entry, Lin said, noting that applicants are only required to send 1 kilogram of tea produced in this year to the organizer.
"We welcome people from countries where Chin-Shin oolong (a tea plant variety) is grown to join the contest. We also hope there are many Taiwanese people who sign up for the competition, which is aimed at singling out the world's best of the best oolong tea," said Huang Ta-tsung, the association's secretary-general.
Huang said the group hopes publicity from the competition will help expand the market for oolong tea and promote Taiwan's high-quality oolong tea in international markets.
According to Liao Lung-sheng, chairman of the agriculturists association, Taiwan has produced around 20,000 metric tons of tea in the past few years, including about 16,000 tons of the oolong variety.
But Taiwanese tea farmers are coming under growing pressure from competitors in neighboring countries, such as China and Vietnam, Liao said.
In 2010, Taiwan imported more than 30,000 tons of tea, over 80 percent of which came from China and Vietnam.
"Taiwan needs to make more of an effort to promote its world-renowned oolong tea," he said.
"The enthusiasm of Taiwan's tea farmers for developing planting and tea-making techniques is the key that makes Taiwanese tea one of the world's best."
Liao described Chin-Shin oolong, the variety used to produce most of the world's premium oolong tea, as a delicate tea plant species that grows best in high-altitude mountainous areas covered by moist fog -- conditions that are found in Taiwan.
Registration for the world oolong tea contest will last until Nov. 30.
(By Sophia Chen and Elizabeth Hsu)