Batch 84 of the Eco-Cha Tea Club is a Red Jade #18 Black Tea from the historical Sun Moon Lake tea growing region of Taiwan. This cultivar, given the name Red Jade (紅玉) is registered as hybrid #18 by Taiwan's Tea Research and Extension Station. You can learn all about its background in our recent blogpost, but this Black Tea hybrid strain is unique to Taiwan, and was "born" in the 20th century. It has become quite popular over the last 20 years since it was first commercially introduced in the early 2000's.
Our friend and source of Lugu Competition Dong Ding Oolong had procured this batch of Red Jade with the intention of entering it into the local tea competition in the Sun Moon Lake area. In the Oolong Tea category, this friend is one of the top players in the tea competition industry, and he was inspired to apply his expertise in this Black Tea competition as well. It turns out that this relatively small tea producing community in Sun Moon Lake is less inclined to allow non-residents of the local region enter their competition. In other tea producing regions, local residents will "lend" their name and local status to outsiders for a fee. So it turned out that this batch was made available to us, rather than being entered into competition. Our friend — the competition pro, is a master tea roaster, and he put these leaves in his infrared tea roaster at low temp to just cure the leaves very subtly, to balance the flavor profile and give it a more solid composition.
This batch of competition grade Red Jade Black Tea was produced by a farmer in his 60's who has more than 40 years of tea making experience. His family settled in the area over 100 years ago, and has been producing Black Tea since the Japanese occupation ended with WW II. This plot of Red Jade #18 was planted only 6 years ago, and is currently in the prime of its life. This summer crop was picked at the beginning of July while the newly sprouted leaves were still young and tender, as shown in the top photo above.
The Red Jade hybrid strain is a very hardy and prolific cultivar that reflects its strong character in its flavor profile. It has very distinctive aromatic and flavor notes that clearly set it apart from pretty much any other tea strain known to us! In this sense, it is Taiwan's pride and joy as a large leaf type cultivar that manifest due to historical circumstances, and stands alone in its fragrance and flavor. Please check our tasting notes blogpost that includes a live tasting video for tips on how to brew it and what to notice about it.
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