Named for it's brilliant red infusion, this full-bodied, deeply fermented oolong is slow baked to bring out complex layers of cacao, raisins, and black cherry.
Deeply fermented? Slow baked? Oh yeah, you're speaking my language. This is a really unique tea, and a few months back when I got an email newsletter from Rishi promoting this tea, I knew I had to try it. It is from the Jin Xuan cultivar, and it originates from Doi Mae Salong mountain in Thailand. Rishi offers a wonderful Doi Mae Salong Travelogue about the method of harvesting, processing, and baking the leaves that will eventually become this tea.
Dry leaves - The leaves are rolled into tight little balls in the traditional oolong way. The dry leaves have a wonderful aroma of baked bread and dried fruit. I don't typically measure the amount of leaves I use, I just go with whatever looks good. I probably used a bit more than what is recommended for a rolled oolong, but it couldn't hurt. Into my 300ml pot!
Brewing parameters - 200F, 60s first, +20s after. 3m first, +1m after. I actually brewed this tea on two separate occasions. First was the website recommended 3m first +1m after, then I tried it at 60s first +20s after. Brewing rolled oolongs for more than 2 minutes on the first steep tends to give me a nervous twitch, but I tried it anyway. I'll document both sessions below.
Tasting notes - Cacao/dark chocolate, black cherry, raisin, baked bread, dried fruit
60 second brew first. The color of the infusion is a nice golden brown hue. Not exactly ruby red, but it's a pretty color regardless. The aroma has definite cacao/dark chocolate tones with fruity hints. The first sip is...wow, there's a lot going on in this tea. It starts off like the aroma hinted at: raw cacao with a hint of fruit. That fades into a full-bodied dried fruit blend, of which black cherry is definitely the most prominent. I can detect hints of raisin, black currant, and even red grapes in there as well. The cacao tones are still there, but not as powerful as the initial sip. It finishes with a lingering roasty cherry/raisin taste. Subsequent steeps don't change dramatically, but it's a generous tea. I quit after 8 infusions, and it was still going strong.
3 minute brew next. Three minutes gave me a mild eye twitch, but I powered through it. The resulting infusion is a dark reddish brown hue. I can see where the name "Ruby" came from now. The cacao tones that were present in the previous brew have changed to a rich dark chocolate now. Black cherry is almost completely dominating the fruity component as well, with just a hint of raisin and baked bread in the aftertaste. The flavor is much richer this time around, but the overall profile has definitely become a little muddled with the longer brew. It is still quite good, but just not as defined as the shorter steeps. It also got pretty weak after the 4th brew at 6 minutes.
If you like dark oolongs, you should absolutely give this one a shot. It's one of the most unusual dark oolongs I've ever tried, and certainly one of the richest in flavor. I personally preferred the shorter infusions over the longer ones, but your mileage may vary. Either way, Rishi Tea has a winner here that has earned a permanent spot in my tea stash. It has a nice price tag as well, sitting at $10 for 50g.
You can buy the Ruby Oolong from Rishi here: http://www.rishi-tea.com/product/ruby-oolong-organic-oolong-tea/oolong-tea