CJ’s Teaview Snapshot
|"Versatile and evocative of root beer."|
A tea with “Red Jade” in the name caught me off guard. “Red”, in the tea world, is used for black teas. “Jade” usually describes green teas. Was this tea promising to deliver qualities of both?
The slender, twisted, heavily oxidized leaves were quite dark. So at first glance, it looked more like a black tea.
I prepared the tea as recommended: Two tablespoons in 10 ounces of not quite boiling water for 2 minutes. The liquid was dark amber, but not the deep ruddy color indicative of a robust tea.
The aroma, right off the bat, was that unmistakable, sour-sweet, and malty scent of leaves treated with leaf hoppers. Though not aged, leaf-hopper-treated Taiwanese teas have a fermented edge to them. Farmers of such teas purposefully invite tiny green insects to munch on the leaves because their saliva alters the taste. The unforgettable result makes these teas especially fun to serve to people who say they don’t really like tea.
“It’s so delicate.”
“It’s sort of like wine”
“It’s unlike anything I ever associated with tea,”
…are among the responses I get when I share leaf-hopper Oolong hospitality with uninitiated friends. (I confess,”weird” has also come up, but these people’s palates have been ruined by too much coffee.)
My first sip of this potion was rather root-beer like, with notes of wintergreen and anise. It possessed a slightly sour aftertaste, also typical of leaf-hopper teas.
As I drank some more, the minty, aniseed traits grew more apparent. This was definitely a rather medicinal tasting tea-almost herbal. Since I would never want to waste my daily caffeine ration on something that tasted herbal, I was inclined to say I just didn’t like this tea.
While perusing Dachi’s website, I was surprised to learn that this cultivar (also known as Sun Moon Lake because it was originally grown in that region) is part Assam. The other part is indigenous Taiwanese tea tree that was indeed “bug bitten.” The guys at Dachi praise Red Jade as lacking the astringency of an Assam, and evoking instead, “touches of honey.”
This is a fine and complex tea, and I suppose there were touches of honey in it. But I love astringency in tea and prefer a fuller taste.
Before I decided on a rating, I tried a trick: brewing the leaves MY way…full on boiling water for a full five minutes…like a black tea.
Sure enough, MY way produced a richer, “redder” tea. In other words, it looked like a black tea in the cup. The taste had more Assam characteristics: More heartiness; more pucker. I liked it much better.
A tea that can be custom-brewed to suit different palates is a winner in my book. I recommend it to anyone who loves root beer. It could be a tasty, sugar-free substitute.
I rate it an 8.
— To purchase Dachi Tea Co. No. 11 Red Jade #18, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.