Ruby 18

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I used to think of Taiwan as the country of wonderfully floral, greenish Oolong teas. Only last summer I learned that they also make a few black teas, the most famous one called Ruby 18. This is one of the most intense black teas I have ever tasted: It shares strong chocolate notes with many Chinese black teas, but adds to it a malt and mint flavors. An intense experience. A second brewing is possible and more mellow. My latest delivery came from a company called Taiwan Sourcing.

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The vaccuum sealed pouches were accompanied by a handwritten note and a sample in an even smaller pouch. The leaves of the Ruby are long and thinly rolled,

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and expand quite a bit while being brewed. The history of this tea is remarkable. During the Japanese occupation, the Taiwan Tea Experimental Station researched local wild tea plants and their suitability for cultivating black tea. The crowning achievement became Ruby 18.

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I didn’t know that the Japanese were interested in black tea. Apparently, they even used to export it, but the production has shrunk to very small quantities, and I never had any of it.

 

There are other black teas grown in Taiwan.Very different in shape and flavor (but also excellent) is the Imperial Grade Lalashan Organic Black Tea, a high mountain tea:

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All this reminded of Twan Tan Eng’s wonderful book The Garden of Evening Mists, in which a Japanese gardener tends to a garden on a Malaysian tea plantation.