Hong Yu (also written as Hong Yue), which translates as “Red Jade” and is also referred to as Ruby Black tea, is Black Tea Number 18 in the tea varietals numbering system developed by Taiwan’s Tea Research and Extension Station (TRES). A small tea-growing region in Yuchih district in Central Taiwan, close to the internationally famous Sun Moon Lake in Nantou county, is the source of Hong Yu – one of the most amazing black teas in the world.
This area has been successfully producing high-quality Assam black tea for many years. It was originally introduced in the early 1900s from Assam, India. The Japanese administration that occupied Taiwan at the time – wanting to grow black tea in Taiwan – carefully studied various geographical, environmental, climatic, and soil conditions to find the most suitable location to produce black tea. Finally, the hills surrounding Sun Moon Lake were chosen. The area has an altitude of 600-800 meters (1,950-2,650 feet) and its stable humidity levels and diverse landforms help to create the ideal growing conditions.
In recent years, Taiwan’s TRES has worked with local tea farmers to further develop and improve production of the black teas in the area, as well as experiment with cultivating new strains. An Assam tea strain from Burma was crossed with a local wild tea strain to produce Hong Yu black tea. This organically grown black tea has since been carefully refined by TRES and is now an excellent quality and a much sought-after premium-grade black tea.
Here are some excerpts gleaned from reviews of Hong Yu by tea masters and tea tasters:
- “A delightful, full-flavored tea with a beautiful hand-harvested leaf, both before and after steeping. A very consistent cup during its three infusions. The result is one of the most interestingly wonderful teas you will ever taste.”
- “The full flavor profile is absolutely awesome. It is easily one of the best black teas I have had in a long, long time. It offers much more flavor in and of itself than many flavored black teas do – the raisin, date, caramel-cinnamon flavors are incredible, and the properties of this tea – the different flavors, textures, color, smell, aftertaste – cross boundaries of black tea, pu-erh, oolong. This tea is an impressive mix of flavors …”
- “The tea has a luxuriant red / orange color and yields a delicious, flavorful liquor through multiple steeps. As one would expect from a leaf with Assamica in its pedigree, Hong Yu produces a strong brew, with intense depth of character. I’ve read descriptions that compare it to brandy, which is understandable given its wine-like tones. It has a deep, slightly bitter woody quality, somewhat akin to the character imbued in a wine casked in oak rather than stainless steel. Even before the first sip, I recommend inhaling deeply to experience the rich complex aroma, which includes a slight note of peppermint.