Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea From Taiwan M’s Tea

Today, I will focus on the Mixiang Hongcha, also known as Honey Black Tea, from Taiwan M’s Tea.

This tea is generally made from the harvested leaves of TTES # 13 cultivar bushes (Tsuiyu), and are grown at around 500 meters altitude (1,600 feet) in Nantou County, Taiwan. The leaves are allowed to oxidize over 50%, then given a heavy roast. The Mixiang Hongcha is another of Taiwan’s bug bitten style of teas, so I expect to smell and taste honey in the tea. I am also interested in seeing how this tea will differ from the Ruby # 18 Black Tea that I reviewed recently.

Let’s get to the review…

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a mostly uniform charcoal-grey-black color, with a few dark red-brown areas, indicating that there is not full oxidation to the leaves. There are also a few small gold tips, and a few bare stems in the mix. The leaves are lightly rolled. The pluck varies from one small leaf and small bud to individual unbroken leaves with no stem attached. The mix consists mostly of large fragments and unbroken leaves. The heavy roast causes the leaves to crack fairly easily into coarse crumbs. The aroma has scents of anise, dry forest floor, honey, dried apples, and a touch of orchid.

Eight grams of dry leaves were placed in an 18 ounce cast-iron tetsubin teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 3:00 minutes.

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a bright, radiant orange-red color. The aroma has scents of anise, apple, honey, and touches of malt and toasted grains. The body is full, with a layered, juicy texture. There is a pleasant, balanced astringency. The taste has notes of apple, honey, anise, and touches of malt and toasted grains. The aftertaste is sweet and mellow.

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Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a dark forest green to dark brown color. The mix consists of large fragments, unbroken leaves, a few bare stems, and a few smaller buds. The leaves are fairly long and narrow. Most of the leaves are individually plucked, with no stem attached. The aroma has scents of apple, honey, anise, and malt.

The Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea from Taiwan M’s Tea is another example of the diversity and quality of specialty teas being made in Taiwan. This black tea is very different than the Ruby # 18 Black Tea that I reviewed recently, which is also from Taiwan. Both black teas are remarkable in their own rite. This Mixiang Hongcha is sweeter, and has a touch of the malt aroma and flavor typical in black teas. The Ruby # 18 (Hongyu Hongcha) is spicy and herbal, dominated by notes of mint and licorice. The texture of this Mixiang Hongcha is another highlighter, having a layered and juicy texture, which reminds me of apple juice or apple cider. The mild astringency also adds another layer of taste. The scent of the infused leaves is also very pleasant and comforting.

Thank you to Taiwan M’s Tea for providing this sample of Mixiang Hongcha Black Tea! When this company has a functional website, I will try and remember to update these posts with pricing and links.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea From Fong Mong Tea

Today, I will be reviewing the Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea from Fong Mong Tea. You may purchase 100 grams of this tea for USD $26.99.

This Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea is sourced from the Sun Moon Lake area of Nantou County, Taiwan. The climate of Sun Moon Lake makes it ideal for growing some world-class teas. Ruby # 18 (TTES 18) is also the name of the cultivar of tea bushes that the leaves are hand-plucked from. See the map below to get an idea of the location of Sunmoon Lake.

Let’s get to the review.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a uniform dark charcoal-black color (fully oxidized). The leaves appear to be medium to large size fragments. There are a few small bare stems in the mix, and no apparent buds. The leaves are lightly rolled. The aroma has scents of dried apricot, molasses, lavender, and a touch of pine. This is a very unique aroma, and I am looking forward to how it evolves in the cup.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 250 ml (8.5 ounces) bizen-ware kyusu teapot, and infused with 200°F water for 1:00 minute.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Liquid

The tea liquid has a bright, clear, orange-red color. The aroma is very interesting, with scents of apricot, molasses, licorice, mint, and a touch of lavender and pine. The body is full, with a layered, complex texture, and a brisk character. The taste is complex and amazing, with dominant notes of licorice, mint, and pine, with less dominant notes of molasses and even coffee, and a light touch of lavender. The aftertaste carries the notes of licorice, pine, and a touch of the lavender, with a mentholated effect.

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Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform copper-brown color. The leaves consist of all medium to large size leaf fragments. There are a few buds in the mix, as well as a few bare stems. The leaves have a thin, smooth wet leathery feel. Again, the aroma is the most noteworthy characteristic of the wet leaves. It has strong, deep scents of licorice and mint. I also pick up on a scent that I do not know how to describe any better than that of classic bubblegum. There are also lighter scents of lavender and pine. This is a very memorable aroma.

With all due respect to the many amazing teas I have reviewed this year, I have to be honest in saying that this Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea has really captured my attention, and burned itself into my organoleptic memory unlike other teas, specifically the taste of the liquid and the aroma of the infused leaves. The combination of herbal spiciness, sweetness, touch of floral and pine, and the brisk, layered character of the liquid is simply mind boggling. It had a flavor profile that was so clearly identifiable, and each flavor was so distinct from one another. This is a luxurious, rich tea that will certainly draw and hold the attention of whoever is lucky enough to experience it. I have had other Ruby # 18 black teas before, but none were as rich in flavor as this one from Fong Mong Tea. The aroma of the infused leaves is my second most noteworthy aspect of this tea. Again, with the licorice and mint sweet/spiciness, and the lighter touches of lavender and pine, and the “bubblegum” scent that I cannot shake from my memory. It was truly an awesome experience, and the highlight of my day.

Go to the link at the top of this page, and buy this tea. You can thank me later.

And thank you to Fong Mong Tea for supplying this sample of Hongyu Hongcha Ruby # 18 Black Tea. Cheers!

Red of Four Seasons Black Tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On September 18th of 2013, my tea tasting journey took me to one final visit to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi, Taiwan. Hopefully this will not be my last taste of the fantastic black teas that Sun Moon Lake produces, but my first round of samples from Easy Tea Hard Choice has been finished. Thankfully, a new round of high mountain oolongs just got shipped, but I will leave those details for a later date.

This particular sample is the Red of Four Seasons black tea. According to Easy Tea Hard Choice’s website, this black tea is produced from the native leaf tea bush that is native to Taiwan. Produced in somewhat the same fashion as the famous Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolong tea, the tea farmers wait for small cicada, commonly referred to as a leaf hopper, to begin feeding on the tea leaves. As the leaf hoppers feed, the tea bushes produce specific chemical compounds to fight off the cacadas. The transformation of these chemical compounds (secondary metabolites) during processing allows teas produced in this way to have very distinct aromas and tastes of honey and fruit. The difference between Oriental Beauty (Bai Hao) oolong tea and this Red of Four Seasons black tea is simple. Oriental Beauty is oxidized between 70% to 80%, and this Red of Four Seasons is oxidized to 90%. This 10% to 20% difference in oxidation causes significant aroma and flavor variations between the Oriental Beauty and the Red of Four Seasons. Both are phenomenal. 

Let the journey begin…

The dry leaves of this Red of Four Seasons black tea have a very dark brown to black color, indicating the higher level of oxidation. There is a good amount of gold tips. The leaves appear hand plucked, and are tightly twisted. There is some breakage and crumbs, but the majority of the leaves appear to be fully intact, or at least large fragments. The aroma is sweet and slightly woody, with notes of dried fruit, honey, and light wood. The aroma definitely can be compared to an Oriental Beauty oolong. Leaves range in length from 0.5 inches (13 mm) to 1.75 inches (44 mm). Leaves are very dry, and crack easily into fine crumbs.

Red of 4 Seasons Dry Leaves

 

This tasting included 6.5 grams of tea leaves (yes, I finally got a digital scale), and 18 ounces (532 ml) of purified water heated to 200°F (93°C). The tea was infused for 2 minutes in a cast iron Japanese tetsubin.

Red of 4 Seasons 1st Inf

The first infusion produced a golden liquor, very similar in color to light honey with a slight red tint. The aroma is rich and sweet with scents of fruit and honey, with a mild woody note. The taste that is most apparent is tree fruit or stone fruit, and honey. A very light woody taste is present, and a mentholated mouth feel is obvious. The aftertaste is sweet and persistent. The liquor body is medium and smooth. The characteristics are very similar to an Oriental Beauty oolong, but the higher level of oxidation definitely produces a black tea character. This is a great tea, and my love for Taiwanese black teas has been strengthened.

Red of 4 Seasons 2nd Inf

 

I brewed the second infusion for an additional thirty seconds, bringing the total infusion time to two minutes and thirty seconds. The liquor has a golden color, similar to the first infusion, but the red tint is lighter. The aroma is amazing, with strong scents of fruit and honey. The flavor maintains a medium body, with fruit and honey notes being most prevalent. The mentholated mouth feel remains, as well as the persistent and sweet aftertaste. The second infusion produced a great liquor, being just slightly less tasteful than the first infusion. I expect a third infusion to be highly acceptable.

Red of 4 Seasons 3rd Inf

 

The third infusion was brewed for a total of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. The color is nearly identical to the second infusion, being a golden color with slight red tint. The aroma is lighter, but still pleasant, with scents of honey and fruit. The aroma definitely indicates the higher oxidation level of the leaves, smelling much more like a black tea than an oolong. The taste is also lighter, but acceptable. The honey and fruit tastes have lightened noticeably, but are still prevalent. The mentholated mouth feel has dissipated some. The body is lighter, overall, but still smooth. The aftertaste is still fairly persistent, sweet and minty. I had no problem finishing the entire pot of this infusion, but do not expect a fourth infusion to be acceptable.

Red of 4 Seasons Infused

 

The infused leaves are a uniform darker brown color, with very little variance. The aroma is woody, and lightly sweet. The leaves maintain a good amount of durability, possibly indicating that additional infusions could produce an acceptable taste, despite the noticeably lighter character of the third infusion. There is very little breakage in the leaves, with a large majority being fully intact. The leaves are noticeably smaller than other Taiwanese black teas, indicating the small leaf bush variety used for this tea, as compared to large leaf hybrid bushes used for the Red Jade and Red Rhythm black teas. No bare stems present. Average length of the leaf is 1.25 inches (32 mm). 

After tasting all three of the samples of Taiwanese black teas from Easy Tea Hard Choice, I am surprised that there is not a larger market for these teas in the western hemisphere. Perhaps these teas are kept for domestic use, and neighboring countries, and I hope that changes for the sake of the black and oolong tea drinkers in the west. I am incredibly impressed by these black teas, and would love to have a stockpile in my personal collection. Every characteristic of these teas was impressive, from the size, shape, and aroma of the dry leaves, to the aromas and flavors of the teas during all three infusions, to the size and shape of the infused leaves. Great products, and I hope to be able to enjoy them many times over in the future. Do yourself a favor. Go to http://www.eztea-tw.com, and purchase these 25 gram samples. Be warned, you may not want any other black teas from any other country or region after trying these! They are really that good.

Red Jade Black Tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On September 12th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting had me return to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan. This sample was provided by Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

This particular artisanal black tea was produced by Dong Feng Black Tea in Nantou, Taiwan. The cultivar that produces the leaves for this tea is known as TTES18, and was developed by the Taiwan Tea Experimental Station (TTES). This cultivar is a hybrid between the local Taiwan mountain tea bush and the big leaf varietal from Myanmar.

Let the journey begin…

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The dry leaves of this Red Jade black tea are long and wiry, having been obviously hand twisted. There is very little breakage in this generous sample packet. The dry leaves have a sweet aroma reminiscent of light citrus and light mint, almost similar to the aroma of the grapefruit mint. There is also a note of spice, which I was not able to determine at the time. The color of the leaves are a cloudy black, with areas of dark green and brown, and a few tips of red. These leaves, just like the other Taiwan artisanal black tea (Red Rhythm), are unusually long, giving it an immediately unique character.

For this sampling, I used 24 ounces (710 ml) of water heated to 200ºF (93.3ºC), and about 10 grams of tea leaves. Infusion time for the first infusion was 2 minutes. I added 15 seconds to the second infusion, and 30 seconds to the third infusion.

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This first infusion had scents of light citrus, mint, and a light spiciness. The color was a bright reddish orange, clear and transparent. The taste was a very nice blend of grapefruit mint, and a light spice, with just a slight bitterness that helped balance the flavor. The body was medium. The aftertaste was sweet, and lasted for about 10 to 15 seconds. Although I do not think this Red Jade was as good as the Red Rhythm, this is still an excellent black tea, and I would prefer it to the majority of other black teas that I have had.

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The second infusion produced a darker shade of reddish orange liquor. The smell maintained a pleasant citrusy mint and spice character. The body was very slightly heavier, although still in the medium class. The taste was comparable to the first infusion, perhaps lightening up very slightly all around. The second infusion was just as good of an overall quality as the first cup.

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The third infusion produced a liquor that was very similar to the second infusion, having a nice reddish orange color. The aroma lightened up slightly, but is still very similar to earlier infusions. The body and flavor of the liquor has lightened slightly from the second infusion, but is still a good tasting tea. I enjoyed every last drop of this third infusion.

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The infused leaves had a uniform greenish brown color, with very little variance. The leaves averaged 1.75 inches (45 mm) in length, with the longest leaf at about 2.25 inches (57 mm). Many of the leaves were perfectly intact, with no bare stems whatsoever. Breakage is below 50%. Leaves have a pleasant citrusy and slightly roasty aroma. Leaves have some structural durability, suggesting that one more acceptable infusion may be possible. The long and broad leaves appear to be of very good quality.

Overall I am very  pleased with this Red Jade black tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice. The long wiry dry leaves excited me from the beginning. The aroma was very refreshing and unique. The taste was well balanced and nicely layered, with a sweet aftertaste being left behind. I hope that these Taiwan black teas gain some popularity in the U.S. market, because I am beginning to highly prefer them over other popular black teas. I admire the broad and full leaves, and the obvious hand twisted appearance. This is a very good product, and one that I look forward to enjoying again.

Thank you for taking your time to read this review. Please leave a comment and start a discussion.

Red Rhythm Black Tea from Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

On September 5th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting took me to Sun Moon Lake in Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan. From this farm came the Red Rhythm black artisanal tea which is the subject of this review. This sample of Red Rhythm black tea was provided by Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd. For more information on Easy Tea Hard Choice, please visit their website here.

Sun Moon Lake is located at the center of Taiwan, in Nantou County, as shown in the map below. In the tea fields around Sun Moon Lake, this exquisite tea is grown, hand-plucked, and hand-twisted. According to the Easy Tea Hard Choice website, the leaves used in this black tea are plucked from a hybrid tea bush from two varietal bushes, the Kimen and Kyang. The dry leaves of this Red Rhythm black tea are unusually long, with some measuring over two inches (50 mm). It appears that the Kyang varietal bush has the characteristic of producing large leaves. Taiwan County Map

The moment this package was opened, my office was filled with a very sweet, fruity fragrance. Between the smell and appearance of the dry leaves, I am very excited to try this tea, so let the journey begin…

Date: 09/05/2013

Product Name: Red Rhythm Black Tea

Purchased From: Easy Tea Hard Choice Co. Ltd.

Origin: Sun Moon Lake, Yuchi Township, Nantou County, Taiwan

Type of Tea: Taiwan Black

Tea Leaf Characteristics Prior to Infusion:

Red Rhythm Dry Leaves

Aroma: Rich, sweet, fruity, citrusy. Slight floral fragrances. Exquisite aroma.

Dryness: Very dry. Leaves crack easily in to coarse crumbles.

Color: Perfectly uniform smokey black.

Texture: Very dry, slightly rigid long twisted leaves.

Size, Shape, Length: Unusually long, twisted leaves. Average length of 1.5 inches (36 mm), with longest leaf being slightly longer than 2 inches (52 mm). Very low level of breakage.

Unique Characteristics: Amazingly rich and fruity aroma. Unusually long, hand-plucked and hand-twisted leaves. Very low level of breakage. Possibly the most unique and obvious example of a black artisanal tea that I have seen. Very high quality.

Sampling Measurements:

Amount of Water: 18 ounces (532 ml)

Amount of Tea: 9 grams

Tea Liquor Evaluation:

First Infusion:

Red Rhythm 1st Infusion

Water Temperature: 200°F  (93°C)

Infusion Time: 2 Minutes and 0 seconds.

Aroma: Rich, room-filling, fruity, citrusy. Slight floral fragrances.

Color: Bright light amber. Clear. Transparent.

Taste: Fruity, citrusy (grapefruit). Mouth-filling and smooth, medium body. Mild bitterness balances fruity notes. Lingering aftertaste of both citrus and bitter.

Comments: The first sip of this tea lived up to all the expectations created by the aroma and appearance of the dry leaves. I only wish I would have brewed a larger pot. The aroma fills the room with citrus fragrances. The taste was so satisfying that there is absolutely no need for any additives like sugar or honey. This tea should be enjoyed as it is. Excellent. One characteristic that I expected a better result is the color of the liquor. Perhaps it was my fault with a shorter infusion time of 2 minutes instead of 3, but I expected a more colorful amber appearance. Thankfully, color is the least important aspect to me.

Second Infusion:

Red Rhythm 2nd Infusion

Water Temperature: 200°F  (93°C)

Infusion Time: 2 Minutes and 15 seconds.

Aroma: Very slightly lighter. Fruity, citrusy. Floral fragrances slightly more potent. Very pleasant aroma.

Color: Slightly darker amber than 1st infusion. Clear. transparent.

Taste: Fruity, citrusy (grapefruit). Smooth, medium body. Bitterness has lightened with fruitiness, retaining a great balance. Aftertaste is slightly lighter, but still lingering and pleasant.

Comments: Excellent 2nd infusion. Not quite as rich as the 1st infusion, but the citrusy and bitter notes lightened equally, keeping a great balance. I have no doubt that the 3rd infusion will be tasteful, and that a 4th may be possible.

Third Infusion:

Red Rhythm 3rd Infusion

Water Temperature: 200°F  (93°C)

Infusion Time: 3 Minutes and 0 seconds.

Aroma: Fruity, citrusy and floral fragrances have balanced out nicely. Very pleasant aroma, despite being lighter.

Color: Darker amber than 1st and 2nd infusions. Clear. Transparent.

Taste: Longer infusion time allowed this 3rd infusion to maintain much of the same qualities as the 2nd infusion. The bitter effect strengthened slightly. Same lasting aftertaste.

Comments: Despite stronger bitterness, this 3rd infusion was of very good quality. The color of this infusion was more what I was expecting from earlier infusions. I suggest brewing this tea for 3 minutes from the 1st infusion. I definitely believe a 4th infusion will produce an acceptable flavor.

Tea Leaf Characteristics After Infusions:

Red Rhythm Infused Leaves

Red Rhythm Large Infused Leaves 2

Red Rhythm Large Inf Leaf

Color: Uniform brown.

Aroma: Fruity, citrusy.

Size, Shape: Many large fully intact leaves, as shown above. Average leaf length at about 1.5 inches (37 mm), with largest leaf at about 2.25 inches (57 mm) in length. Very low level of breakage.

Unique Characteristics: Very nice, broad, fully intact leaves, reminiscent of an oolong style of leaf instead of a black tea leaf. Durability is moderate, suggesting a 4th infusion is certainly possible. Nice aroma.

Final Comments: This tea is the definition of an artisanal black tea. This tea presents beautiful, large, fully intact leaves that are obviously hand-plucked and hand-twisted. The aromas of the dry leaves, as well as the tea liquor, and the infused leaves are all very pleasant and high quality. The taste is remarkable, not needing any additives to make it a treat to sip. I am very happy that this sample packet of 25 grams is generous enough for me to make one more large pot of this excellent tea. I highly suggest going to the website http://www.eztea-tw.com, and purchasing a 25 gram packet of this tea. Whatever the cost is including shipping, it is worth it. This is a tea that every tea drinker should experience. However, your typical Keemun, Earl Grey, or Darjeeling may not be so appealing after you get spoiled by this Red Rhythm black tea from Taiwan. Excellent product!