Got this one as one of my free samples from Origins Tea. It’s a very nice hong – and quite interesting as well. The leaves looked pretty impressive, long and spindly and black. The dry leaves had a slightly sour raisin/dry fruit smell along with the normal hong maltiness. The wet leaf had an interesting aroma to it – still some raisin, a bit of cocoa…and Play-Doh. It took me so long to figure out what the hell I was smelling, probably because I haven’t smelled it in over a decade, but once it came back to me, it was quite distinct. Not a bad smell – like not dirty/gross kid-hands smelling Play-Doh, but the fresh stuff. I guess one could also say it smells kind of like clay.
The tea started out with a nice malty steep which also had non-sour raisin character.
The second steep was a bit more subdued and complex – there was a muddy/earthy clay flavor, with maybe a hint of cocoa. It sounds awfully unpleasant, but it was actually pretty enjoyable. There was also a blueberry aftertaste to this one. It went on in much the same way for the next couple steeps, with some maltiness added in along with the earthy taste. The earthiness also made it feel like this tea had a bit of muddy thickness to it. I keep feeling bad about saying muddy, because it sounds so negative, but really it was good. The blueberry aftertaste never really came back, though there were still hints of dark fruit in there.
After the fifth steep, the tea started to get a little bit weaker, with the fruit and earthy notes starting to fade and leaving more of a generic malty-sweet hong taste. I called the session after the 8th or 9th steep I believe.
Very interesting black tea, this one. I’ve never had a Ruby #18 black tea before, so I’ll have to make an effort to try some more of them at some point and see if they all smell like Play-Doh and taste like tasty mud and stuff :)
Flavors: Blueberry, Cocoa, Fruity, Malt, Mud, Raisins, Sweet