Santikhiri Ruan Zhi Oolong is a lovely light and floral oolong made from a ‘Ruan Zhi’ cultivar. It is a high mountain oolong grown at an altitude of around 1,200-1,600 metres and was plucked in Summer 2020. This is an oolong counterpart to our Santikhiri Ruby Ruan Zhi black tea.
This Santikhiri Ruan Zhi Oolong is made from the Taiwanese Ruan Zhi or ‘Soft Stem’ (軟枝) cultivar that is favoured for lighter floral oolongs. Confusingly, this is the same cultivar as the highly prized Qing Xin or ‘Green Heart’ (青心) cultivar. The difference in the name for this cultivar comes from the fact that the Ruan Zhi cultivar was originally brought over from mainland China to Taiwan. Over time it went through a selection and propagation process that has significantly altered the plant. There then seems to have occurred a split in the naming convention of this cultivar. Our tea master in Taiwan confirmed to us that the Ruan Zhi and Qing Xin are one and the same (and different from the Bai Lu TRES #17). Farmers and people that work with the leaf tend to refer to it as Qing Xin, while tea writers and people around Taipei tend to stick to the older name of Ruan Zhi. The grower of our Thai teas refers to this oolong as being from a ‘Ruan Zhi’ cultivar, so we decided to adopt the same name on this occasion.
This Santikhiri Ruan Zhi Oolong comes from around Santikhiri village (formerly Mae Salong) that is located in Mae Fa Luang District and around the highlands of Doi Mae Salong mountain, close to the border with Burma and Laos. When this area of Thailand went from growing opium poppies to sustainable tea growing, many tea cultivars were imported from Taiwan in order to quickly establish a booming tea industry. Taiwanese cultivars were particularly attractive since they matched well the growing conditions of northern Thailand. Furthermore, many consider Taiwanese teas to be of fantastic quality hence fetching a premium price, something Thai tea growers were understandably attracted to. It is safe to say that while teas grown in Thailand still have some way to go in matching the top tier Taiwanese teas, the offerings from Thailand are certainly of very solid quality and generally are at an attractive price point for tea lovers.
Santikhiri Ruan Zhi Oolong comes in tightly rolled leaves that have the appearance of a classic green oolong. It produces a medium golden liquor with a light fresh aroma and a hint of creaminess. The well balanced flavours are light and floral with a defined citrus edge. A very balanced yet floral oolong with a refreshing and comforting character.
It is best brewed at 90°C for 3-4 minutes and should be brewed multiple times.