Review: Silk Road Teas Golden Monkey

Black Tea, Silk Road Teas Add comments
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Occasionally, I run into caramel, malt, and a robust "hint" of cocoa, but this was like smelling chocolate leaf dipped in nutmeg."
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.2/10
Other Teaviews: Jamie gave it 8.5/10, Dan gave it 9.1/10, Shaiha gave it 7.3/10, Vanessa gave it 6.5/10, Melanie gave it 8.9/10, Lynn gave it 10/10
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Silk Road Teas is a new company to me, but a relatively experienced hand at the tea trade. Boasting a 16-year track record, this couple-owned/operated wholesale/retail venture specializes in - as they put it - "single-origin, handpicked and carefully processed" teas that otherwise would rarely see export. One of the things that sets them apart from their competitors is their branding philosophy; as in, they don't really have one. Teas they sell in bulk are often re-branded, and they encourage it. Can't say I've seen that before. They also travel Chinese provinces in search for off-the-beaten-path shops, farmers, and markets for acquiring their teas.

Prior to hearing about Silk Road, I hadn't heard of Golden Monkey. The only Chinese black (or red) teas I'd filed away for future tastes were Keemun, Dian Hong (preferably Yunnan Gold), and Lapsang Souchong. And for the most part, I thought those were the only three black tea categories in China. Then along comes a new one from my favorite of all the provinces - home of Bai Hao Yinzhen (Silver Needle white tea) - Fujian. Due to its origins, it's no surprise that it's considered the counterpart to Silver Needle.

The dry leaves themselves were peculiar to look at; brown and gold, twisted needles with a similar appearance to a second flush pekoe. Their aroma was more unusual, imparting a creamy chocolate note on first whiff. Occasionally, I run into caramel, malt, and a robust "hint" of cocoa, but this was like smelling chocolate leaf dipped in nutmeg.

Brewing instructions per their site called for a two-to-three-minute steep at a temperature of 195F-205, basically a light boil. I measured out a rounded teaspoon - on the hefty side - with the leaves, infused in 8oz of 200F-ish water for three minutes.

At the tail end of the infusion time recommended, the liquor brewed to amber with a nose similar to roasted barley or chestnuts. Malt was also somewhere in the aromatic finish. The taste kept with this pattern, yielding a nutty taste in the beginning. Swished around a little, it settled into a creamy, caramel-like cup - nut aspect still there but subdued. As lauded, it had no astringency or bitterness. If I were to draw an immediate comparison, I would say it reminded me of a Nepalese black with its faint orange pekoe comparison.

The first prize for Chinese blacks still goes to Yunnan Golden Buds (or Needles, however you want to say it). This supersedes Keemun by a pretty fair margin, and - of course - Lapsang is left in its delicious dust. This is a black tea I will happily return to.

— To purchase Silk Road Teas Golden Monkey, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.

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