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I got to do something fun recently, by not only trying Fong Mong Tea‘s new Ruby 18 GABA tea, but also tasting it by doing a side by side comparison with the original Ruby 18 they carry. I previously reviewed that tea here. The leaves when dry, look quite similar,and smell quite similar as well. I am not a professionally trained tea sommelier, and so they differences here were a little to subtle for me to tell. I was eager to see what the tasting had in store.

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For the first tasting I used a gaiwan method. As this is a black tea, I opted for fewer, longer steeps. I used 2g of leaves per 60ml of water. I used water just at a boil, with a first steep of 20 seconds, preparing both the original Ruby 18 and it’s GABA counterpart at the same time.

My first sip was of the original, and it was just as I remembered it, albeit a little more potent this time for tasting purposes.  The original is complex: malty, rich, with camphor, menthol, cinnamon earthiness and slightly fruity. It is also astringent, a truly delightful experience.

Now what about this GABA variety? I took a loud slurp and contemplated. At first impression, it seemed very similar. Perhaps the flavours are a bit more potent in this one. I sipped again. My mouth began feeling that familiar drying sensation as I tried to tease out the nuances of this variety. It is a bit different. But it is still entirely as Ruby 18.

The note in Ruby 18 that always strikes me most is that strong camphor and menthol. The warming cinnamon is there too. I feel like this GABA one has more intensity to it and a bit more natural sweetness. It’s quite soothing and the mouthfeel again is rich and smooth, I think I find it a little more astringent than the original Ruby 18. There’s a minty freshness in here to complement the rest of the bouquet.

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Steep 2 was 40 seconds. Both teas were still heavily potent and highly flavourful. I feel like the most noticeable difference to me as a tea enthusiast (not a tea expert) is that the GABA version seems more sweet and potent, and the aftertaste lingers a bit longer than the original Ruby 18. These are, of course, my personal opinion and a subjective observation. I thoroughly enjoy both.

Third steep was a minute long. Again, full of flavour, but starting to mellow, hitting the tastebuds more gently now. I think I taste more minerals on the original Ruby 18. The GABA version is giving me a hint of molasses. Both are still malty and delicious.

I let the fourth steep be the final one. Usually with a black tea I wouldn’t go past three, but I wanted a really long steep to see if I could tease anything else out from these two. I feel very calm and focused, perhaps the beginning of the GABA effects. This final steep sat for several minutes.

Both of these teas are beautiful and of high quality. After a long suffocating steep, both were still very enjoyable and I could not tell you any distinct flaw in them. They are simply great teas. Overall I feel the GABA tea is a bit sweeter in a cinnamon and mint kind of way. Both teas retained a lot of flavour and strength even into this fourth steeping, and could have been pushed further. Due to the sweetness and enjoying the relaxing GABA effects, if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose the GABA version.

The GABA Ruby 18 is distinct in flavor from the original, but not extremely so. The differences are more in subtle nuances. You will still definitely know on the first sip that you’re drinking a quality Taiwanese Ruby 18. I’d definitely recommend trying both and comparing them for yourself to see how they strike your own palate. You can find the Ruby 18 GABA tea here, and the original Ruby 18 here on Fong Mong Tea‘s website.

 

A sample of this tea was provided for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Other Fong Mong Tea Reviews:

Tea Review: Spring 2018 Sijichun Four Seasons Oolong from Fong Mong Tea
Tea Review: Tsui Yu Jade Oolong from Fong Mong Tea
Tea Review: Jin Xuan by Fong Mong Tea
Tea Review: Zhu Lu Alishan High Mountain Oolong from Fong Mong Tea
Tea Review: Gu Yun from Fong Mong Tea