Pacific Northwest Taiwanese Black Tea Comparison

I’m up to no good. I’ve been collecting Taiwanese Black teas for a rainy day like today. I’m gonna brew a bunch up together and see how it goes. It is thundering outside, as long as I got a mobile data and enough kettle water I’m good.

All the Taiwanese Blacks were obtained from local Pacific Northwest tea sellers – two Seattle and a Portland one. The Seattle teas I purchased in person, and Totem Tea mailed me a sample of their Ruby 18. These are all 2015 teas just to be fair. I have more Sun Moon Lake and Ruby 18 kicking around but they are 2016s.

Our teas, tasted in this order:

Seattle’s Best Ruby ? Sun Moon Lake (I was told this was a Ruby 18 and pointed on the can where it said it. Upon inspection and running google translate it says Sun Moon Lake AND Ruby.)

Totem Tea’s Ruby 18

Floating Leaves Tea’s Ruby 18 (currently sold out online)


Dry Leaf

Seattle’s Best Tea – very sweet scent. I could be mistaken for sniffing a candy bowl instead of tea.

Totem Tea – has a bit more tropical fruit in scent.

Floating Leaves Tea – not as fruity but bit more earth scent.


Appearance wise all the teas look the same. The only difference I found was Floating Leaves Tea looks like it has less leaf despite same weight.

Steeping Method

We are in for a stiff strong Taiwanese Black tea session. I used 1gram of leaf to 12ml of vessel ratio. I used boiling water and did a single rinse. I am in the mood for strong, viking axe swinging black tea. I also figured steeping it strong and boil will push this tea hard, showing its true colours.

Tasting of Pacific Northwest Tea Sellers Taiwanese Black Teas

This isn’t exciting at all – all three teas look practically the same, maybe Totem Tea’s is darker. The scent from each is different. Seattle Best has well balanced earthy fruity sweet scent. Totem Tea’s is the most floral to an almost soapy scent. Floating Leaves Tea is the most fruity and sweet smelling.


First, Second, and Third Infusion:

Seattle’s Best Tea – sweet, earth, balanced, lots of salivating. The background has an excellent fruity flavor dancing around. This tea has a sweet soft aftertaste and a thick body. It also oddly reminds me of peaches and almonds.

Totem Tea – features a sharp flavor of rich wood and earth and fruit, with a tannic dry finish. The tea is quite potent and the texture gives me a dry feeling after each sip wanting me to drink more. The feel is an lip balm oil on the lips.

Floating Leaves Tea – is sweet, woodsy with a mellow fruity background. Sweetest of the bunch and least woodsy. Body is cream thick and smooth to drink.


Third, Fourth, and Fifth Infusion:

Seattle’s Best Tea – developing a slight crispness and brighter body and creamy body. It is losing some earth, going more sweet, and fruity. The finish is shell nutty and smooth. I love the transition here. The aftertaste is a stone fruity flavor and richness.

Totem Tea – sharp and woodsy. The finish is a strong brisk and fruit dipped in bitter sweet chocolate. I get a lingering fruit flavor and bittersweet after each sip.

Floating Leaves Tea – big flavor shift as the flavor and feel shifted to cool. I sip and I get a cooling sensation as a breath. It is woodsy mostly with a bit of sweet, though the body is still thick. Each steeping gets more and more cooling of a sensation.

Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Infusion:

Seattle’s Best Tea – super well balanced is the theme with this tea. Fruity, woodsy, nutty, sweet, a very enjoyable tea.

Totem Tea – big shift here! Totem’s Ruby 18 sips in quite bittersweet but now I am getting a cooling sensation after each sip. This one is much less fruity than the rest, kinda gives off a mint chocolate vibe. This is like drinking an Andes mint chocolate!

Floating Leaves Tea – The freshmaker! Super cool that I’m getting the shivers. It is woodsy and sweet, but what overtakes everything is how cool feel this tea is after each sip.


Ninth and Tenth Infusion:

I did long infusions here. Likely I can ride all three of these teas to the 15s or so but at this point I’m not feeling good. Too much caffeine at once. My scalp is crawling and all I want to do is snuggle in a chair and eat a tin of corn. I’m going to bang out to 10 rounds and stop before I lose all sanity.

Seattle’s Best Tea – is sugar sweet and fruity. The flavor is nicely bright and deliciously sweet peaches.

Totem Tea – lost its cool, it is just bittersweet and light here. I love the chocolate bitterness quality in this one.

Floating Leaves Tea – is soft sweet, and fruity. Bit of a malty dry finish. This one weaned me off the cooling effects to bring me back to sweet snuggles.



All these teas are good, they each had their own personalities, tastes, and feels. These all go down the personal preference on which one you want to go for. Admittedly I don’t want to get super critical here, these are all local teas!

The Seattle Best Tea was the most balanced flavor and excellent fruitiness that was nicely sweet. I went in thinking this was a Ruby 18, and when I did the final editing I did a closer look and the can does say Sun Moon Lake and Ruby. I found this tea well done but I really missed the cooling effect that I come to associate with Ruby 18 teas that I am thinking this is a REALLY flipping good Sun Moon Lake. It is an excellent tea to sip and enjoy the complexity and shifts inbetween infusions.

At first I felt the Totem Tea Ruby 18 didn’t belong with the group, I’m wondering if this is a different varietal or processing differences than the others as the flavor is very different as it tastes more tannic, malt, chocolate and dry. The Totem tea ruby did get a great cool mint feel by the end. This one had a more classic black vibe to it from the brisk quality. I could see this one westerning very well and an overall more friendly tea for a black drinker. Totem Tea’s Ruby 18 would be the choice for someone who wanted a meaty heavy black experience.

Floating Leaves Tea’s Ruby 18 tastes like it was sourced to be the most cooling. The cooling feel started soon, along with a thicker texture. This tea gave me the most feeling and body experience. However, it was the most mellow and lighter of the bunch. Since I haunt Floating Leaves Tea often, I can certainly taste Shiuwen’s preferences in this tea – she got something with a thick body and strong cooling sensation.

TLDR? #PWN Taiwanese black game is strong.

(Totem Tea provided for review, others were purchased by me)


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  • Geoffrey F. Norman

    Totem’s Ruby is a burly arse sum-bish. More like a Taiwanese Assam rather than a Ruby. Still liked it a lot. Haven’t had the other two.