|"There's a sturdy, somewhat green, somewhat oaky and even earthy quality coupled with a sophisticated dryness and wonderfully clean finish."|
"Ruby Black is produced from a hybrid of native Myanmar and imported Assam trees planted by Japanese growers in the 1920's. Black tea has rarely been cultivated in Taiwan an island famed for its Oolongs. Production of this tea ceased until the great 1999 Taiwan Earthquake, when the devastation of hillsides revealed these hardy cultivars."
If the interesting story behind the tea plant producing this offering interests you a little, you will find the appearance of the leaves themselves absolutely amazing! The leaves are jet black and a few fire colored leaves glow in the mix. Most amazing about these long and leggy, twisty leaves is that every one is at least an inch long, and not a few are close to an inch and 3/4 in length. The scent of the dry leaves is magnificent - a heady mix of scents will keep you guessing and are surprising regardless of your understanding of the leaf's heritage. I can pick up dark, slightly woody and roasted notes with a strongly perky almost raspberry-esque brightness coming through. Also, there is a vaguely tobacco-esque spiciness that is not altogether floral, but hints of a cologne, almost. Cinnamon and maltiness twitch the nostrils as well.
I prepared this tea in two ways, varying my preparation only in the amount of leaf I used. For my first preparation, I steeped a teaspoon of leaf in 8 ounces of roughly 195 degree water for two minutes. Immersed, the leaves swell to a dark cinnamon color and smell delicious! The taste has definite elements of darjeeling with aspects of oolong coming hand in hand. The tea has a pleasant, woody darkness to it coupled with a fresh, "greenish" darjeeling quality that brings a lovely, light and dry close to the sip and leaves a clean taste in the mouth. I didn't pick up anything in this preparation that shouted out "assam!!" to me and I felt the tea might benefit from another try at preparation. So, for my second tasting of this tea, I used a tablespoon of leaf to 8 ounces of 195 degree water and steeped again for two minutes on the first infusion. I preferred the stronger infusion immensely, but you can experiment to find your own perfect treatment in terms of leaf to water.
This cup brewed up to a more deeply copper red and came on immediately with a pretty remarkable taste. Things hinted at before became more apparent and I really preferred the taste of this much stronger infusion. The tastes, to start, were a little spicy and I found this an intriguing tea since it was hard for me to come up with identification for the flavors I was encountering. I'm reminded a bit of a second flush darjeeling, in that there are a few distinct and complex flavors all working harmoniously together so that they are paradoxically difficult to needle apart. There's a sturdy, somewhat green, somewhat oaky and even earthy quality coupled with a sophisticated dryness and wonderfully clean finish. I'm also reminded of a tea somewhat like an assam in terms of having a malty kick to it. And also there are notes of a heavily oxidized oolong in terms of woodiness and slight spiciness. The ATR website suggests that there is nary a bit of astringency to this cup, but there's a remarkable, clean dry quality that is worth reveling in and suggests great things in terms of its balance. The dryness is, dare I say it, perfect in this cup. Really lovely! As far as bitterness goes, there's not a hint or even a suggestion of bitterness. Even at a full tablespoon to 8 ounces, provided you mind your time and temperature, you won't be disappointed in the least.
What can I say? This is a great show off tea. It's excellent through and through. I rarely find black teas I care so well for waking up to as a sturdy cup of brisk and malty assam. But this one I could enjoy very easily for my first cup of the morning. However, there's so much of interest going on taste wise here that I don't think I'd ever drink it first thing. I'd save it for a cup later in the morning, or even in the afternoon. That way I could be sure that my mind was awake and prepared to really savor the interesting things going on here. This would be fine and lovely to enjoy on one's own in a thoughtful mood, to savor with a significant other or with friends who also enjoy tea and would have fun tasting something worth showing off.
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