September 28, 2020
by Cynthia Fazekas
Ruan Zhi is a Taiwan tea plant cultivar that is usually used for oolong teas. It is known for a buttery, yet floral character when processed masterfully and when grown in favorable conditions. Transplanted in the fertile soil of Anxi, Fujian China, another region known for oolong, it takes on the terroir of its surroundings, which are slightly different floral notes and perhaps a bit more mineral in the finish. However in this case, the leaves have been processed as a black tea - and result is sublime.
When the offer sample first came to my tasting table in the spring, the infusion spoke to me of my favorite autumn treat: cider donuts, with hints of spice and an apple-like sweetness. It was a hearty “yes” to bring it in. I was smitten. Complex, layered, and lingering on the palate, this tea had all the things we seek for our Masters Teas. Later, I cupped it gong fu style to see how it nuances change over the course of multiple infusions and was not disappointed. While one initial strong infusion – a la western cupping style – resulted in the cider donut notes and the deepest body, I found that giving this tea some freedom to blossom in multiple infusions, it did just that: The character of its oolong origin beguiled with honey sweetness, and a smooth plum blossom finish. In early infusions it offers hints of spice, cocoa, that gently gave way to soft floral notes. Lovely!
Now that autumn is here and our (favorite) local orchard is open, I did what I waited all summer to do by pairing this beautiful Anxi Ruan Zhi Black with a local farm-made cider donut. The spice of each underscored the other, with the cinnamon-sugar and apple sweetness of the donut balanced by the much softer sweetness and mineral notes of the tea. A quite harmonious and supremely delicious pairing that I may need to repeat. Fortunately, this tea is just arriving, perfectly timed so you can share in my autumn indulgence.