In 2003, Rishi’s Founder, Joshua Kaiser, traveled to Northern Thailand near Chiang Rai to study the tea sector and survey growers. This picturesque region is renowned for its ecotourism, amazing food, rich history and as a diverse ethnic melting pot which draws in visitors from around the world. During his visit, he met a family that produces extremely high-quality oolong teas. Since then, Joshua’s relationship with this family and several others in the area have blossomed and grown. This direct trade relationship is what allows us to bring several of top-quality oolong teas to the North American market.
Oolong tea’s birthplace and heritage comes from Fujian and Guangdong, China. Over the years, these techniques were also transferred to the island of Taiwan, where they excel in the artistic manufacture of oolong tea. The Taiwanese oolong tea production processes and tea bush cultivars were in introduced to Doi Mae Salong, Thailand, in the late 20th century through relationships between Kuomintang families in Taiwan and the Kingdom Thailand. Good oolong tea requires intricate and artisanal processing techniques that take years to master. The Thai oolong tea sector shows amazing promise and is known around the world as a high-quality tea origin because of the special farm care and great skills applied by the growers in Doi Mai Salong and other areas of Northern Thailand.
At the conclusion of the Chinese Civil War in 1949 the Kuomintang Army fled to Taiwan and into Burma. In the mid-1970s, those that settled in Burma were ostracized and driven out by local militias. At that time, the Thai King invited the remnants of the Kuomintang to settle in Northern Thailand to protect the Thai border and territory. The families were given Thai citizenship. During the 1980s and 1990s, they began working in tourism, fruit farming, and tea production to create income for ethnic minority groups and replace opium drug crops. In the early 1990’s, the tea farmers in Northern Thailand got lots of support and inspiration from the Taiwan tea industry to develop high-grade oolong in Thailand because of their deep connection through the shared Kuomintang history and Chinese diaspora that resulted in the Chinese settlements in Taiwan and Northern Thailand.
Working with the families and decedents of the Kuomintang, Joshua was able to help them gain NOP and USDA organic certifications in 2012 for tea production. Our Organic Ruby Oolong from this area is one of our flagship teas for our coffee partners and oolong tea lovers. In addition to our amazing Organic Ruby Oolong, we also import many other teas from these amazing Thai producers such as: Eastern Beauty, Dong Fang Hong, Bai Hao Silver Tips, sun-dried wild tea buds and gongfu hongcha. Over the years we have featured unique cultivars such as wild assamica, Jin Xuan, Qingxin, Zi Juan and the classic “soft-stem” cultivar featured in our Ruby Oolong, Ruan Zhi.
The Ruan Zhi cultivar contains ample polysaccharides, or sugars which contribute to the soft sweetness experienced in this tea. The cultivar is also noted for its rich contents of polyphenols, total tannin and caffeine which result in a strong and smooth cup. This full-bodied oolong tea is deeply oxidized and slowly baked to bring out complex layers of cacao, raisins, port barrel and black cherry with a sublime and elegant taste sensation. Ruby Oolong is an excellent introduction to the world of oolong tea with its deliciously sweet, caramelized fruit and chocolate aromas that permeate the air as soon as it is brewed.