Last year, I attended a talk about Taiwanese teas and learned about how Ruby 18 was developed. Therefore, when I saw Mountain Stream Teas offering a tasting set with the cultivars used to breed Ruby 18, I had to taste them all!
Ruby 18 is a tea cultivar that was, as stated on the Mountain Stream Teas’ website, “[d]eveloped by the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station in the late 1990s [and is] a mix between a Burmese Assamica Cultivar and native Camellia Formosensis tea plant.”
During a sourcing trip in the Sun Moon Lake area (where Ruby 18 was first developed), Mountain Stream Teas found a farm that was growing all three plants (Burmese Assamica, Camellia Formosensis, and Ruby 18) side-by-side and was offered the opportunity to try them together. They then decided to offer the same tasting experience to others!
I’m glad the company put this tasting set together because these types of nuances between teas are difficult to assess without direct comparisons. Therefore, this will be a three-part series where I taste the two parent cultivars (Burmese Assamica and Camellia Formosensis) followed by Ruby 18. I thought it would be fun to explore these teas together! Let’s go!
Description: “Creamy, strong and rich classic black-tea taste.”
Instructions: Gong Fu Style: 5g per 100ml | 95°C (205°F) | 30, 45, 60 then add +15 seconds to taste (Note: these are the instructions from the label, as the website had slightly different recommendations)
Review: Most of the handpicked dry leaves were long twisted dark charcoal brown leaves along with some lighter tan golden leaves. The leaves smelled earthy, charcoal and sweet like dates and cherries. After being added to the pre-warmed gaiwan, the leaves smelled sweet like berries and stone fruits mixed with fresh baked bread, yeast, and roasted nuts.
Infusion 1 (30 seconds): After 30 seconds, the liquor was a clear copper reddish colour and smelled faintly roasted. It tasted lightly of earth and peat then melded into a sweet lingering malt that coated the tongue. It reminded me of an English Breakfast.
Infusion 2 (40 seconds): The liquor was a darker cooper brown colour and smelled roasted and of steamed vegetables. The sip started off with a strong roasted note followed by an earthy undergrowth, malt, dried fruit and ended with dryness in the cheek and throat. The aftertaste was rich spices that lingered and coated the mouth.
Infusion 3 (60 seconds): Similar in colour as Infusion 2, the liquor smelled earthy and spiced. It tasted roasted, musky, damp earth, bark, mushrooms, and spices and had a gentle sweetness of vanilla and strawberries. The sip ended with dryness that coated the back of the throat.
Infusion 4 (1 minute and 15 seconds): The brown liquor smelled smoked and tasted earthy, woody, and sweet. When cooled, it tasted sweeter but still ended in astringency.
Infusion 5 (1 minute and 30 seconds): The taste was delicate and had hints of damp earth, fruits, and bitterness.
The leaves quickly unfurled during the various infusions and were a range of khaki to dark brown in colour. The wet leaves smelled woodsy, earthy, damp earth, and stone fruits.
Overall, I enjoyed this tea! It had a nice earthy sweetness that I associate with Assam teas from India and has a “classic” black tea taste. I paired the tea with cherries which brought out the fruitiness in the liquor and the tartness from the cherries cut down the astringency of the tea. I am excited to see how this tea will compare to the Camellia Formosensis, and what traits of each will be in the Ruby 18. Next week I will be posting my review of the Camellia Formosensis (3.5/5 rating).
- Type: Black tea
- Origin: Taiwan, Yuchi, Nantou, Sun Moon Lake Area
- Caffeine: Unknown
- Ingredients: Black tea
- Company: Mountain Stream Teas
The question of the post: Have you had a Burmese Assamica black tea before?