Review: Norbu Tea Ruby Black Winter 2009

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Lynn’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!". . . the cinnamon and mint hints were solidly present, becoming more pronounced as the tea cooled, with added notes of unsweetened dark chocolate and honey. "
Lynn’s Teaview: 9.5/10
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norburubyblack2009I recently had my first Ruby Black, an exiting new tea developed in Taiwan. This tea comes from a new species of tea tree. TTES No.18, or Ruby, was developed by the Council of Agriculture's Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) and grown by Seshui farmers in the Sun Moon Lake region of Nantou County, which is at a much lower elevation than the traditional oolong producing estates Taiwan is best known for. The Ruby tea tree was derived from the hybridization of a Burmese tea tree and Taiwan's wild tea and is remarkable for a cinnamon fragrance with a slight hint of mint. I really liked that tea and was very pleased when Norbu owner, Gregory Glancy kindly sent me a sample of this new offering.

As always, Norbu Tea provides a great deal of information on the provenance of their teas. This one was grown in Yuchhi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan, which is located in the hills overlooking Sun Moon Lake, with an elevation of 1,970-2,300 feet. It was hand picked in the winter of 2009. The oxidation level is 70%.

With that information in hand, I set out to see what it all added up to. Norbu brewing guide suggests using measurements of 1 teaspoon to 2 tablespoons, depending on the strength you want, 195-212F, and five minutes. I took the middle road and steeped two generous teaspoons of the very large, chocolate brown leaves in 208F water for five minutes. This yielded a dark copper colored cup with a fragrance that was quite bold and sweet, though not quite floral, and with the distinctive hint of mint. The flavor was brisk and rather astringent, but not bitter. And the cinnamon and mint hints were solidly present, becoming more pronounced as the tea cooled, with added notes of unsweetened dark chocolate and honey. The finish was drying, astringent, honey sweet, and distinctively minty. It’s worth letting this tea cool down a bit before drinking to let the flavors develop.

The unfurled leaves were up to two or three inches long and rather slender. I tried a second steep of five minutes and produced another dark copper cup with a more distinctly minty aroma, but less initial sweetness. More like wood and mind. The mint and cinnamon flavors were still prominent, but the sweetness had receded, only to reappear in the finish. It was much stronger when the tea had cooled. It wasn’t quite as complex as the first cup, not surprising with a black, although I have gotten better second brews out of another Ruby, but still quite drinkable.

Ruby black is really an exciting and unusual new black tea, and it’s still not that easy to find the genuine article. I highly recommend you give this one a try.

— To purchase Norbu Tea Ruby Black Winter 2009, 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.

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