Hey there Teacups! I’m back today with something new; god it’s been a while since I’ve said that hasn’t it? If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that going into 2021 my goal is to move away from just doing review all the time and to be a little more varied with my content, my hope are that it will enable me to be a little more creative and set out to achieve the goals I set myself when I started this blog. Today’s post is the first of something I have wanted to start doing here on my blog for a while now, Harvest Comparisons. I first had the idea to start doing this on my blog when the Masters team over at Adagio offered to send me some of their 2020 teas having already previously sent me some of their 2019 harvests. Instead of them sending almost the whole range like they did in 2019 I instead asked them if they would send only a few and match the 2020 samples to some of the 2019 samples I had already received so I could do a post other than a review.
The reason I wanted to do start doing posts like this is because on of my tea goals in to continue learning more about tea and all of the intricacies that can effect the way it looks, smells and tastes each year when it’s harvested. Of course I had to start of this new ”series” with a Masters Tea since they were kind enough to indulge in my ideas and send me even more of their amazing straight / pure teas to try. Through trying out their teas from different farms and regions I have learnt so much an I’m really excited to hopefully pass that knowledge on to you all through these posts. So for this post I’m going to be comparing the 2019 & 2020 Harvests of their Forma Ruby 18 Black.
”Ruby #18 is a unique cultivar from Taiwan, and a relatively new invention, only surfacing in the late twentieth century after over fifty years of research. A cross between a wild Formosa tea plant and an Assam from Burma, it was developed specifically with the intent to make phenomenal black tea.” – Masters Teas
Both were harvest in April of the year dated on their packets. Both packets were air sealed and I opened both packets for the the first time today. I did not tried the 2019 or 2020 harvest before putting this post together. Some differences in appearance, aroma, and taste could be due to the fact that the 2019 harvest isn’t as fresh as the 2020 but there are other factors that will also have effected each tea such as weather conditions, temperatures, slight differences in processing and so on. I used exsaclty the same amount of leaves in each steeping, the same amount and temperature of water, the same steeping parameters (first steep 2:30 Mins + 30s for every additional steep), and the same Gaiwan.
Origin: Longtan – Taiwan | Harvest Dates: April 2019 & 2020 | Farmer: Bao Zhu Fan | Elevation: 400m
2019: The leaves of the 2019 harvest are light black and dark brown in colour. They are twisted leaves in varying sizes, some are thick and other are quite thin and somewhat wire-like. There are some smaller, somewhat broken leaves in this but that is the fault of shipping and handing on their way to me and was only to be expected. 2020: The leaves of the 2020 harvest are much darker in appearance with the majority being black with hints of dark brown in areas. Sizes again vary and there are both thicker and thinner leaves with some being wire-like just like in the 2019 harvest, however there seems to be more thicker leaves in the 2020 sample I have than there was in the 2019. All leaves are again slightly twisted. Again there are some smaller somewhat broken leaves in this but that is the fault of shipping and handing on their way to me and was only to be expected.
Aroma: 2019 is sweet, slightly floral and has hints of plums and vanilla. 2020 is earthy, lightly sweet, with hints of plums again but soft notes of chocolate replace the vanilla that was present in the 2019 harvests dry aroma.
2019: I did four steeps with these leaves and surprisingly my favourite of them all was the third steep and fourth steep. The first two were delicious but just a smidge too strong for me initially. I wasn’t expecting such a strong steep from the first one, especially as the aroma was quite sweet, Slightly floral and had hints of vanilla too it. The earthiness, woodiness was surprising but paired well with the slight sweetness and I noticed those caramel notes and hints vanilla that Adagio mention in their description and there was definitely an underpinning of black liquorice, which isn’t normally something I enjoy but paired with all the other notes in this teas flavour profile it just worked. The third steep is where it started too mellow out a little and the strength was just right for me. It still had all of the notes from the first steep and second steeps but this time they were smoother and much easier on the palette. I would definitely say 4 steeps is as many as I would ever do with this tea after that it looses a lot of it’s best notes.
2020: Again I did four steeps with these leaves and unlike the 2019 harvest I couldn’t actually pick a favourite of all the steeps I did. It has all of the same notes I mentioned that were in the 2019 steeps I did but from the get go it was much more mellow than the 2019 harvest and each and every steep / cup I drank was perfect for my taste. There was also a very subtle spice and a super subtle chocolate note to it. Compared to the first steeps I did with the 2019 that brewed but quite a deep red / brown colour this one was much lighter and more of a copper/brown colour. Again remember I changed nothing in the way that I steeped these teas so I wasn’t expecting to notice as many differences as I did. The first two steeps with the 2019 harvest were a little drying but I didn’t get that in any of the steeps I did with the 2020 it was so smooth and easy to drink. It was also a little bit fruitier than the 2019 too, I can’t quite decide if it was a plum or black cherry like note as it was subtle bit it added a nice note to the overall flavour profile. While there are many ways you could steep this that would result in a delicious cup I recommend steeping it gongfu style
Wet Leaf Size Comparison
In terms of the change in leaf size after steeping there wasn’t too many differences really. The leaves of the 2019 harvest were a little more broken, not that they were small, but the larger leaves were cut almost in half and were missing the tops. There was some larger full leaves in there though that were a reddish brownish copperish colour with some light greeny/yellow patches in some places. The leaves in the 2020 harvest were around the same size as the full leaves in the 2019 but there were many more full & large leaves in the gaiwan after my steeping with the 2020 harvest and not as many broken/halved leaves in there. Colour wise they were pretty much the same in colour down to the greeny/yellow patches in some places.
Final Thoughts: While both the 2019 and 2020 harvests were delicious and I enjoyed them both, the 2020 harvest was my overall favourite and I’m so glad I’ve got a little bit of it left to enjoy in another session soon. If I weren’t on a tea buying ban I would definitely consider buying a big bag of this to have on hand whenever I wanted to reach for. I’m all buy certain I’ll purchase some of the 2021 harvest just to see how different that one will be from the 2020. This has to be one of the best straight / pure black teas I’ve had in a long time and it will take something pretty phenomenal to top it. If I were to give it an overall teacup rating it would get a 5/5.
If you want to find out more about Masters Teas and purchase some of the 2019 &2020 harvest of this tea to compare them for yourself you can do both here. As always if you have any questions either stick them in the comments or send them to me on Twitter/Instagram @teaisawishblog and I’ll do my best to answer them all as soon as I can.
Speak to you all again soon. Happy Steeping – Kimberley
*The tea featured in this post was gifted to me for the purpose of this post. All opinions are my own and have not been paid for*