tea review: hong yue [ruby black] tea from rishi tea

hong yue / ruby black

Hong Yue – Ruby Black Tea from Rishi Tea

2010 was the Year of the Tiger, but for me it’s been The Year of Tea.  Experiencing and experimenting with teas like this Hong Yue are part of the reason why – it’s so unusual, but so good – something that reminds me I have so much more to explore and that there are strange, but fantastic surprises along the way.

So, what is Hong Yue I hear you ask, well it’s a bit like a black-puerh-oolong hybrid, perhaps not technically but that’s how came across to me. It’s kind of complicated and it took me a few experiments to find a strength that suited my palate, but when I did it was lovely and the exercise was rewarding.  Visually it’s black as the night; with long, really long leaves that were pretty to photograph!

Before I go much further, here’s a little background courtesy of the Rishi Tea blog:

In the 1920s, the Japanese introduced assam tea plants to Taiwan and for many decades, Taiwan was famous for high quality black tea, much of it consumed domestically or in Asia. Hong Yue, as translated from Chinese, means “red jade,” or “ruby.”   This special breed of tea bush is a cross of Burmese wild tea and Taiwan wild tea. Ruby Black/Hong Hue, is the premier black tea cultivar in Taiwan and renders a very unique character if processed with skill. Ruby Black has the aroma of clove, camphor, red date, raisin and cinnamon. Ruby Black brews a very assertive, strong flavored cup with a deep red colour.

yellow nitrogen-fixing herbs in the tea garden

The flavor/scent profile, with its fruits and spices, reads like a flavored tea blend, but incredible it’s not, it’s just a very special, crafted tea.  Once steeped it was this very pretty black/red colour and it smelt the same (if that’s even possible, to smell like a colour!). It’s a strong tea, in both taste and personality – one I really enjoyed, one I may have ‘broken’ a few times while tweaking the steep time and volume, but one that I had an absolute ball breaking, then correcting, then loving.

Regular readers will know that I always want to know the story behind my tea, where it’s from, who grew it, what makes it special – and the Ruby Black/Hong Hue has a tale of its own.

The Nantou farm where this tea comes from is five years old is too small for organic certification but the tea is still cultivated without any pesticides or harmful chemicals. Special yellow flowers (above) are planted between the rows of tea bushes to help nurture the young tea bushes in place of fertilizers. Their roots aerate the soil and create an environment where beneficial bacteria thrive.

If you’d like to try this little gem for yourself, you can find it here, in the Rishi Tea store.

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