Roaming elephants, ancient temples and morning mist rising from the mountains mark the horizon in Mae Salong, a remote village between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand, but it is a tea that tastes like baked fruit, chocolate and Turkish apricots that is the treasure of this magical place.
Thai Ruby is organically grown here by the descendants of the Yunnanese hill tribe freedom fighters who fled the communist regime in China in 1949. After living as nomads in Burma for a while, they eventually settled in this little village and called it Santikhiri, Hill of Peace.
These are some of the original tea people, having come from the Akha tribe of Yunnan, China, the birthplace of tea, where ancient trees up to 800 years old still live today. Tea is in their blood.
Thai Ruby is a deeply oxidized, balled oolong that is made by one of the most well respected tea masters in the valley. The cultivar is Ruan Zhi, which grows plentifully in the area, but few tea makers can coax the lingering sweetness, intoxicating flavor and creamy body of this tea like he can.
If you go, make sure to try the Burmese Tea Leaf salad at the tea shops in Mae Salong and visit the Anantara Elephant sanctuary on the Mekong River.