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Know Your Tea: Ruby Red 18
The Taiwanese lead the way with innovating and improving on thousands of years of tradition. Their skillset lies in understanding what can be elicited from each varietal and species to create an interesting new tea, not to keep making tea by machine and by rote.
The producer of Ruby Red 18 is one of the youngest, and a first generation, tea maker at Sun Moon Lake, the middle of Taiwan. At the young age of 26, Mr. Chuang has already won consecutive awards in competitions. His farm is comprised solely of new varietals grown at mountain peaks: Ruby 18, 19, 21, and other oolongs. The Rubies were cultivated successfully back around the late 1990s by a research institute, to be experimentally made into Hongcha, or what the West calls black teas. Most commercially made black teas wish to emulate Hongcha, the original fully oxidized teas that take great skill and handmaking to produce. Unfortunately, most black teas become bitter from being cut by machine, with a lot of harsh, acrid notes that folks pour milk and sugar into to mask.The ripe fruit aromas and sweet body of the original Hongcha are lost in many of its black tea counterparts. But here in Ruby 18, we have that and then some. Scents of eucalyptus, hinoki wood, and even a hint of natural bergamot, make this an intense, full bodied innovation to rival the strongest of black teas and richest of Hongcha. Although the spring batch of Ruby Red 18 had a more peculiar combination of tree oils and aromas, the winter batch is heartier and better suited to complimenting the holiday season’s pastries and sweets. How exactly the same Camellia Sinensis plant can transform into so many taste variations, is a feat and genius of the maker.
Sadly, we must caution you to enjoy this crop now, while you still can! Mr. Chuang’s farm is being reclaimed by eminent domain and all of the tea bushes will be razed and gone, as early as next year. This may be the last harvest we receive of this unique varietal. Life is short, drink only the best teas!