Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Totem Tea: Ruby 18 Taiwanese Black, A Tea Review

Ugh, I am not feeling too hot today, ok actually I am too hot (what with it being summer) but that is not my problem. Luckily I feel better than I did an hour or so ago where I did not think I would be up to writing tonight. But, here I am, and glad to be feeling a bit better at that! I tend to get immensely frustrated when my various health woes get in the way of my cognitive function (thanks Fibro-fog, or whatever you are) it is one thing to be in pain, it is quite another to be a walking pile of derp, because then I can't really do anything and I get very bored.

Today we are looking at a tea of a thousand names (ok really just like five) from a new to me company that has very quickly endeared itself to me by carrying some awesome teas! Ruby 18 (or Red Jade, Sun Moon Lake Tea, Hong Yu...) is a cross between native wild Qingxin and Assamica, and we have the the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station to thank for that! This tea is a thing of beauty and a serious favorite of mine, one of the few specific teas that gets its own teapot (Gui Fei and Tangerine Blossom Red being the others) the leaves alone are worthy of admiration, and that is before I get into the sniffing. The aroma of the leaves is pretty intense, strong notes of sassafras, yam, and red pepper combine with cocoa and cinnamon, classic Red Jade notes. What made this one different than the usual was the accompanying notes of okra, dried tomato, cherry, and very very light black licorice. I am in love! Going to spend a while sniffing the leaves, be back later.

After I finally pulled my nose out of the leaves and brewed them, the aroma of the soggy leaves is a classic explosion of sassafras, menthol (it is super weird, smells like menthol but not mint, it blows my mind) cinnamon, and a bit of red pepper, cocoa, yams, and cherries. Smells delicious! The first steep's aroma is very sweet, like honey drizzled sassafras, cocoa, cherries, and yams with a brisk malty finish.

The first steep is wonderfully smooth, and pleasantly strong without being too strong. I find sometimes with Red Jade you have to have a slightly lighter hand with brewing or it gets really brisk and almost too strong, that did not happen with this tea at all. It starts with robust malt and sassafras notes, then moves to cocoa and cherry with linger well into the finish and aftertaste. They are joined at the finish with sweet, syrupy honey and tangy dried tomatoes. The sweetness sticks around into the aftertaste for quite a while.

For the second steep, the aroma is very sweet and super rich, notes of cocoa, cherries, and malt blend with a gentle sassafras note, or as I describe in my tea notebook, this tea is a little sassy smelling. Somehow this steep manages to be even more rich than the previous one, strong notes of sassafras dance with yams and cherries with a strong cocoa note. Around the middle a strong brown sugar note creeps in and lingers til the end.

Third steep's aroma is pretty similar to the second, but a stronger note of cherry and malt with an underlying pie crust note that really has me craving cherry pie...and Warrant, but I always want bad 80s (techincally 1990, but come on) music. This steep really ramps up the sassafras and malt, it is wonderful, I never get sick of that note, reminds me of growing up in the south and the wonderful sassafras trees in my backyard. I also noticed a surprisingly fun note that I have never encountered in tea and it took me a minute to nail down, there was just a delicate hint in the middle of strawberry leaf. I got several more steeps out of this tea, I sat with it for quite a while enjoying its depth and was sad when the tea finally called it quits.

This tea was sent for review purposes by the company.

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