Reserve Tea Offering: Hong Yue

[flickr-photo:id=4407473848] Developed under the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, Hong Yue is the result of the Taiwanese Tea Institute experiments in blending native or wild varietals of Taiwanese tea with varietals grown in Japanese-controlled territories. Since the Japanese controlled Burma, they brought an Assamica plant similar to the Da Yeh varietal (Yunnan varietal) from Burma to breed with native plants. The result was Hong Yue.

Considered a red tea, Hong Yue is a similar to a black tea, but is brewed more like an oolong. Intelligentsia’s Doug Palas provides the back story: “This is the first Hong Yue I’ve ever tasted that lived up to its billing. The farm that I bought our Hong Yue from started growing the tea 7 years ago. They originally planted it because it is a tall leafy plant. In Taiwan land is parceled strangely. The island is so small so large plots of land are divided amongst families. The two families that produce our teas thought a barrier was needed to block wind to prevent soil erosion from occurring on their land. They planted Hong Yue to do just that. They harvested and made just 10 kg of this tea by hand. Intelly is buying all of it. This is only the third time in my 7 years of tea buying that I have come across a black tea of this quality.” The Hong Yue deserves careful consideration over multiple infusions. It begins with a first cup of mellow, honey-like flavors and a velvety mouthfeel. Successive infusions bring out crisp wintergreen flavors that are never malty or brisk-- most unusual for a black tea with this level of oxidation. It is best enjoyed as a self-drinker: no milk or sugar for this tea.