The dry leaf of this is long, spindly, and a dark matte brown. The leaves are relatively straight, rather than being all twisted and curled up, and there isn’t much evidence of silver, white, or gold leaf tips. Dry, they smelled kind of fruity and woody, like prunes or bark.
I brewed this tea twice, and in so doing used up the entire sample. First, I did a traditional western steep with a giant mug — 2.8 grams of leaf in 2 cups of 95°C water for 2-3 minutes. After steeping, I had a sip that tasted of rose and citrus, like a Ceylon tea. However, it was much too hot to drink so I let it sit for a bit; while the fresh tea was a warm amber colour, it darkened considerably once it cooled. The cooler tea also tasted quite different, because the flavour turned from citrus to something more resinous, like camphor or pine.
The remainder of the leaf was brewed up gong-fu style in a gaiwan. I used 5.3 grams of leaf in 95°C water, started with a 20-second steep, and increased each subsequent steep by 5 seconds, ultimately getting about 6-7 steeps before letting things rest. Each steep of tea produced a cup of beautiful amber-coloured liquid.
And here is where words fail me, because this tea was so good. Every single steep I had smelled like cinnamon. And not just your bog-standard chai cinnamon sort of smell. No, this stuff smelled like whole cinnamon sticks, like cinnamon and sugar. Sweet, spicy, tingly, vibrant.
The taste was quite different, though, and that camphor/resin note I experienced when steeping it western style showed up again here. It felt very herbal and healing, like I was drinking some sort of tincture meant to restore my health. I could feel the dry woodiness of it all the way into my sinuses and nasal cavity.
As the steeps continued, the cinnamon note of the aroma started to give way to something fruitier, like plums or prunes. For one magical steep (steep 5? steep 6?), the cinnamon and fruit notes were balanced perfectly so it smelled like apple cider! If I could have every cup of tea smell like that, it would be a happy world indeed.
After 7 or so steeps, I called it a night, and gave the gaiwan a last loving inhale: the aroma of the spent leaves was plummy, malty, and rich. The leaves were also easy on the eyes, too, a beautiful rich brown:
Assuming the day ever comes where I manage to get my tea collection under control, I would seriously consider giving Zen Tea’s Taiwan Ruby Black Tea a permanent spot on the shelf.
Full review at: http://booksandtea.ca/2016/05/taiwan-ruby-black-tea/