Best Tea of the Year: Hype

by Tony Gebely 33 views5

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So many times i see awards being given out for “best ceylon tea of 2010” etc.  This practice is hard for me to swallow. The following thoughts instantly come to mind when I see an American company accept an award for a tea they “procured”:

1. Is it possible that more than one company imports the same tea? Must they have exclusivity to enter such contests?
2. Do they mention the farmer at all? After all, the farmer is the one responsible for the tea.

I ask myself, what is the point here? Isn’t the farmer the one responsible for the tea? Are we profiting from someone else’s hard work and labor? Or are we being awarded on our ability to source a tea only?

The answer I tell myself is that it is all marketing… to say you’ve one this award… to put it on your label, your website, this creates buzz, and news and is at the core of marketing. This still doesn’t help me digest the whole idea. It is not only awards that serve this same purpose: to say you are fair trade or organic even though most teas that are — are grown by farmers that cannot afford to become certified.

I have a really hard time subscribing to this. Call me old-fashioned, but I could never accept an award for a tea I did not grow and process with my own bare hands (none). What do you think?

Comments (5)

  1. I agree with what you said about blends and flavored teas as well. I think it’s particularly good when people blend imported teas with locally-grown herbs or other ingredients!

  2. I do think its okay for a blend or a flavored tea. Something where the seller actually used a real measurable skill to produce the end product.

  3. I’m in ageement with both of you, there is a place for competition in blends but I don’t see the point of doing so with straight teas. If there was a definite standardization (like some of the literary awards) then I think it could be a positive force in the tea industry. The likelihood of that happening probably isn’t that great though.

  4. I do however believe the competition should remain for Blends and Flavored Teas.. That is up to the individual company and requires skill and artistic vision. But for straight tea – Tony, you are correct. The farmers and families that work so hard to produce these beautiful leaves should be getting the recognition; not the company that packaged the leaves in a pretty tin.
    I would never enter our straight tea into a competition – only the blends I created myself. So you can call me old-fashioned too!

  5. I’m in complete agreement here. First of all, I think the concept of a “best tea” is problematic because our tastes are all different. But I think your points are deeper and really cut to the core of the issue. I especially like your point about how this process ignores the farmers and is giving all the credit in the privileged, wealthy countries and top layers of business. It is, in a sense, a bit consumerist, and it avoids the most important issues and disconnects tea drinkers from the people who actually produced the tea. Thanks for sharing this.

    This probably seems ironic coming from me…after all I went to great lengths to create a tea rating site. But the whole idea behind my site is to harness the energy that people are directing into the idea of what is “best” and show them that the true answer is to abandon that way of thinking…and instead to embrace the diversity of tastes and styles and regions that produce tea…and start learning about them. It’s not whether each tea is better, it’s learning how to appreciate each tea for what it is. That’s why the ratings on the site are downplayed. Their purpose is mainly to get people to think about things like aroma and flavor and value, qualities which many people take for granted or even ignore.

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