Tuesday, June 16, 2009

REVIEW: You, Me & Tea, Golden Monkey

Montague Dawson, The Great 1866 China Clipper Tea Race.

Let me start by saying I truly enjoyed this tea. It's a fun tea, an exciting tea, an unusual tea that is definitely worth the time to explore.

The Chinese would call this type of tea a Dian hong, , or Yunnan Red (Dian being a contracted term for Yunnan). In China, a fully oxidized tea is called red, because the color of the liquor is actually a reddish hue. In the west, we think of this as a black tea. And the naming of Chinese teas often is quite fanciful, with something like Golden Monkey typically signifying a high-end, if not the highest-end, grade of tea. With the exception of pu-erh tea (which is also from the Yunnan region of China, and is a double-fermented, compressed tea) and Keemun (an oxidized red tea, which is what is often used for high-quality English Breakfast), almost all other tea from China is green or oolong. This hearkens back to the days of the tea trade, when the only people drinking black teas were the Europeans who had no choice, because the nearly year-long clipper ship voyage from China would naturally cause the delicate green leaves to oxidize into black tea. Interestingly, though, the production of uncompressed black tea in Yunnan is a recent innovation, only having begun production in the 20th century.

As is often the case, I wish the Web site description would have included more information. Just saying the tea is from China is not enough information to persuade someone to make a purchase, is it. You, Me & Tea describes the tea, thus:

Country of Origin: China

Cup Characteristics: A full bodied tea with an exotic origin character which tea tasters describe as "mouth-feel"

Infusion: Very bright and golden coppery color

Ingredients: Luxury black tea

The long, twisty leaves are a combination of black and gold, with a heady smell.

Nearly boiling water, 1 tsp per cup, 3 minutes.

In appearance the liquor is like a rich, amber ale (though without the bubbles, and steaming hot). This tastes very spicy and very, very unusual: an exciting, high-energy tea. In my notes, I described it as both "smooth and sharp," indicating the spicy brightness, coupled with a smooth mouthfeel.

This tea is wonderful and intense, and it commands my attention as I drink. The flavor is like hot metal and dark chocolate, though light and not heavy. This tea was good for at least three steepings, each with a satisfying, bright intensity.