Taiwanese Sun-Moon Lake Black


Fully oxidized tea leaves for a robust cup.

Taiwanese Sun-Moon Lake Black

Postby aaronlawson » May 1st, '09, 07:40

I just got back from Taiwan where I probably drank 100 cups of tea -it's everywhere you go there! Almost all of them were oolong/pouchong style teas but one black (they say 'red' there) tea really stood out -a beautiful, long-leafed tea from the shores of Sun-Moon Lake, called 'Ruby Tea'.

Like in Taiwan I brew this gongfu style for about 20-30 seconds in a clay pot. In addition to having the longest, narrowest leaves of any tea I've had it also has the dramatic and wonderful flavor. It has a subtle wintergreen aroma and is so fresh and clean -reminiscent of walking through a balsam fir forest. Some infusions are spicier, with cinnamon and clove aromas. I simply love it.

I was wondering if anyone else had encountered this tea? Where can I get it other than returning to Taiwan...

-Aaron (I'm new here)
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Postby Janine » May 1st, '09, 10:02

I have read about and heard about this tea and I'd love to try it. If anyone has a source please let me know.
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Postby Victoria » May 1st, '09, 11:23

Wow, sounds great.
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Postby TokyoB » May 1st, '09, 12:50

I was fortunate enough to drink this tea in Taiwan overlooking Sun-Moon Lake. However when I tried to buy some they told me they were all out of it. I looked for it for over a year and then gave up. Then this year I suddenly found 2 sources - Upton Tea and Camellia Sinensis Tea House in Montreal.

Here is the link for Upton where the tea is called "TT54: Special Production Formosa Black" but they do say it is also called "Sun Moon Lake Tea" or "Ruby Tea". Their selection is a very high grade with beautiful leaves but is priced accordingly at $28.80 for 40g.

http://www.uptontea.com/shopcart/item.asp?itemID=TT54

At CS the tea is called "Sun Moon Lake T-18" where T-18 refers to Taiwan cultivar #18. The flavor is about the same as Upton although the leaves do not look like they were handled as carefully. I thought I saw something from Upton that said their version was completely hand-processed. The CS version is more reasonable, but still not cheap, at $19.75 for 50g.

https://camellia-sinensis.com/tea/fiche ... +Lake+T-18

If you try one let us know how you think it compares. I had it about a year and a half between drinking it in Taiwan and in the US.
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Postby Janine » May 1st, '09, 13:40

Thank you TokyoB! I have heard good things about Upton and was considering giving them a try.

I'm trusting their customer service is good. Thank you again so much!
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Postby Victoria » May 1st, '09, 13:48

"Lightly mentholated" says CS. Interesting.

Janine wrote:Thank you TokyoB! I have heard good things about Upton and was considering giving them a try.

I'm trusting their customer service is good. Thank you again so much!


Not to open a can of worms, but I wouldn't suggest anything but blacks from there. But yes, good, well fast, service.
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Postby Janine » May 1st, '09, 14:08

Thanks, Victoria :-)
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Postby spot52 » May 1st, '09, 14:10

Image
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Postby Janine » May 1st, '09, 16:59

According to Roy Fong of Imperial Tea Court, this tea was an assam originally from India but brought to Taiwan during the Japanese occupation. Now I am even more curious to try this tea.
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Postby Victoria » May 1st, '09, 17:28

Yeah ma too. Maybe we can share?
PM me.
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Postby aaronlawson » May 1st, '09, 17:43

Great find about the Upton Tea Sun Moon Lake. The picture of the leaves looks very similar to what I have. I plan on ordering some from them before my Taiwan stock runs out, which could be soon since I'm drinking it right now, so I can compare.

The tea shop salesman, who was naturally obsessed with tea and knew all about it, claimed that Sun Moon Lake Ruby tea was a cross between Assam and native Taiwan stock.

This tea is a lot cheaper in Taiwan, of course. I paid 900 TND (about $27-28) for 150 grams. It looks about twice that price at Upton.

In terms o tea quality, I've always had good experience with Upton, but I generally ordered black teas. Should I beware of their greens? (I'm entering a green and oolong phase right now due to my Taiwan trip :) )

Thanks for the info,

-Aaron
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Postby TokyoB » May 1st, '09, 19:38

Janine wrote:According to Roy Fong of Imperial Tea Court, this tea was an assam originally from India but brought to Taiwan during the Japanese occupation. Now I am even more curious to try this tea.


It is actually a cross between a Burmese Assam and a wild Taiwan plant. It is Taiwan cultivar #18 and was developed at The Tea Research and Extension Station near Sun Moon Lake.
Here is much more detailed info:
http://barismo.com/2007/03/new-cultivar ... no-18.html

Also from the Tea Reseach and Extension Station website:
"Meanwhile, the TRES has propagated and extended the new cultivar-TTES No. 18 since 1999 in Yuchih, and this tea smells like natural cinnamon and fresh mint and is pretty popular among consumers."

http://kminter.ttes.gov.tw/teais/intern ... p?type=532

Here is more info on the TRES.
http://www.sunmoonlake.gov.tw/EN/03000574.aspx

I went there 2 years ago but no one was there at the time - we think they were out to lunch. Anyway, there is a sign saying that they don't accept visitors. However we later found out that a friend of a family friend works there. So I hope to go again someday.

By the way, Sun-Moon Lake is beautiful. Take a look.
http://www.sunmoonlake.gov.tw/EN/02000465.aspx
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Postby TokyoB » May 1st, '09, 19:46

Victoria wrote:Not to open a can of worms, but I wouldn't suggest anything but blacks from there. But yes, good, well fast, service.


I would generally agree. I have found that most of the greens and oolongs from Upton have just been ok - average at best. For Taiwan oolongs you can't go wrong with Hou De Tea.
http://www.houdeasianart.com/

Also Camellia Sinensis Teahouse in Montreal seems pretty good based on the first order I had from there and has some pretty reasonably priced teas.
https://camellia-sinensis.com/tea/

Also for Taiwanese teas, Shan Shui tea is also good. It is run by Brian Wright in Washington, DC (online only).
http://www.shanshuiteas.com/

You can sometimes find a good green or oolong at Upton, but it is usually something that is a small batch and unique. I did order the Spring Sprouting Jade (Chinese green) from them a couple of years ago and it was pretty good. Otherwise though there greens are hit or miss. I have a gift certificate to use there and might wait until I want a Second flush Darjeeling or maybe a Keemun. I don't think their Japanese greens are too good.
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Postby Janine » May 1st, '09, 19:58

Thanks for all the info! To be fair, Roy just told me it was from an assam brought in during the Japanese occupation. i assumed it was from India but of course Burma makes more sense.
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Postby TokyoB » May 1st, '09, 20:11

Janine wrote:Thanks for all the info! To be fair, Roy just told me it was from an assam brought in during the Japanese occupation. i assumed it was from India but of course Burma makes more sense.


Roy is actually referring to a different tea! He may not be familiar with Taiwan cultivar #18 (fyi - this is how it is referred to in Chinese - "Tai bi 18"). There are Assam plants in India that were brought in by the Japanese as Roy states. This Assam tea is also sold in the Sun-Moon Lake area and probably elsewhere in Taiwan. Here is more info on the Indian Assam and Tai bi 18.
http://www.culture.tw/index.php?option= ... Itemid=235

Here are some key items from that site:

"In early 1920s Taiwan began to plant black tea tress when the Japanese government imported Assam saplings from India to Taiwan. In the 1920's Japanese tea company Nitton ran in fierce competition with British brand Lipton in the global black tea market. The locally produced Formosa Black Tea was sold by Nitton in London and New York, and was very well received by the market."

"In addition to the Assam tea trees, the Council of Agriculture's Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES) has also introduced a new species of tea tree, named TTC-TTES No.18 or Ruby, to Seshui farmers. The Ruby tea tree is a new breed derived from the hybridization of a Burmese tea tree and Taiwan's wild tea trees after years of research by TRES. Ruby black tea has a natural fragrance of cinnamon with a slight hint of mint, and local farmers are hoping the distinguishing qualities of Ruby can help them to build up their reputation."

As you can see, I talked to several people about it while at Sun-Moon Lake and then researched it further upon returning. I find it interesting. Hope you do too! For awhile Hou De tea was selling some black tea from the wild Taiwan tea plants which sounded interesting. Honestly, it was just ok - very mild. Tai bi 18 is quite good though. However to me it still has a very noticeable oolong taste to it, like an Oriental Beauty.
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