This tea epitomizes what Red Circle is about: bringing the most rare, unique, and high quality teas straight from the tea artisans to the western world. This a tea they actually worked with a Taiwanese monastery co-op to produce—it took them years to persuade them to produce the tea especially for Red Circle! The resulting tea is really fascinating… it’s not a flavor everyone could enjoy, but the quality and complexity is apparent. It’s a tea that no connoisseur should pass up.
The tea is a fully oxidized black (or “red”) tea, which is unique in and of itself for a tea coming out of Taiwan… Sina & Carnie (Red Circle co-founders) explained that this tea is a hybrid between a Taiwanese oolong varietal of tea plant and a Burmese Assam plant!
The flavor is somewhere in between as well. The tea is extremely malty, but also smooth like a Chinese black tea. Along with that comes this amazing minty menthol note that you might find in a puerh tea. However, this is mixed with a sweet fruity aftertaste. It’s balanced, complex, and totally different than any other tea I’ve ever tried.
The leaves are beautiful too. Long, twisted, and unevenly oxidized, indicating the hand processing. Oh yes – that’s one more thing that is unique about this tea. It’s entirely hand-processed, in a traditional style that died out years ago.. it took 100+ hours to make a few pounds of tea.
It’s great to hear Sina & Carnie talk about how the monks cared for the teas too. The tea is organically grown, and the monks fertilized the plants with only soybeans and honey. They carefully applied fly tape around the bushes as the only form of “pesticide.”
Perhaps some of this story is part of why I enjoyed the tea so much, rather than the flavor alone. But that is also part of enjoying tea – feeling connected to the larger world you are in, and appreciating the cultures and people from which tea comes. Appreciating this tea is my way of honoring the work and love that these Taiwanese monks poured into making this ancient yet also modern tea.