Mention Ruby Red to anyone and eyes light up in joy. The long and thin leaves of TRES #18 are marked by contrasting sensations of cool fresh air and cozy warmth, providing an unforgettable experience. As I hadn’t tasted this tea myself until very recently, I knew it was a time when I revisited the online shop of one of my favorite tea sources, Teawala. Let’s dive into a session together to learn more about this tea, this family that has cultivated this batch, and my reflection!
WHAT IS RUBY RED?
Going by names such as Red Jade, Sun Moon Black, or #18 – is made from the Hong Yu #18 cultivar: A hybrid between a native Taiwanese tea variety (Camellia sinensis forma formosensis) and an Assamica varietal from Burma. This cultivar (cultivated variety) commonly grows at a lower elevation around regions near Sun Moon Lake.
The Taiwan Tea Research and Extention Station (TRES) created Ruby #18 in the 1990s and reflects the relationship the leaves have with the Leafhopper insect, as its bite causes the plant to produce two compounds, monoterpene diol, and hotrienol. Both compounds contribute to the beautifully fruity and aromatic experiences recognized in teas such as Dongfang Meiren and Darjeeling.
CONNECTION TO THE SOURCE
In 2019, Mona met with Hank Kuo, a 3rd-generation tea maker, and selected Ruby Red from some of his highest grade teas. Her time spent in person touring the garden and meeting the family has surely allowed for a beautiful partnership!
Let’s jump into tasting!
Season: June 2020 (Summer Harvest)
Cultivar: TRES #18
Origin: Puli, Nantou, Taiwan | The Kuo Family
Picking/Processing: Bud + 2-3 leaves | Handpicked, withered, rolled, dried
Elevation: ~500 m
My Brewing Parameters
Leaf to Water Ratio – 10g for 150 mL
Starting Temp – 90°C
Infusion time(s) – 10 sec. +5
Eyes Dry: Charcoal black with blood-orange tones, rolled into twisted and flowing strips
Nose Dry: Pineapple, cinnamon, fruit taffy, menthol
Nose Wet: spiced rum, cocoa, pineapple, floral
Eyes Liquor: Caramel-peach core and rose ring. Growing into cherry red and whiskey gold
Mouth Texture: Medium-bodied, tingle similar to pop-rocks, clean with cocoa sweet linger
Mouth Taste: Floral, eucalyptus, chocolate and cinnamon
Nose Cup: Hydrangea
Mouth Finish: Cocoa powder dry sensation, flowery, cooling
Eyes Wet: Low fire ember red and cocoa brown
Body Sensation: Uplifting and energizing
This is my first Ruby #18 experience and third session with this tea, and so I’m excited to experience more! Mona also offers a Winter harvest of this so I’m strongly tempted to make another purchase in order to explore a comparative experience. From this harvest, a picture comes to mind:
The midsummer evening heat meets a midnight cold front as dew sits atop supple blades of grass. The scene is lit by the amber glow of string lights and the warmth of good company. An air of chest-opening eucalyptus, a spice of conversation peppered with wild woods, an experience that lasts hours into the early morning – the spell of this Ruby Red feels like a dinner party with a new, yet at the same time, familiar friend.
As the tea’s complexity lingers, I see a beautiful representation and standard to lead the way in tasting more Ruby #18! Have you sipped this tea yourself? Try both the Summer and Winter harvests of Ruby Red here. I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.