Review: Mellow Monk Crimson Grove

Black Tea, Mellow Monk Add comments
Geoff’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!" The flavor really hit it out of the park for me."
Geoff’s Teaview: 9.5/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 9/10, Sophie gave it 8.7/10, Dan gave it 7.8/10, Jamie gave it 9/10, Katie gave it 8.1/10
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Japan isn't known for its black tea production, but over 150 years ago they tried their hand at it - government mandated, no less. The endeavor never really caught on mainly because of the island nation's close proximity to Sri Lanka and Indonesia. They produced black tea for far cheaper and far quicker. As a result, Japan stuck to what it was known for best, finitely refined green teas. However, roughly 1% of the tea production in Japan is of the black or oolong variety. Some farmers utilize green tea varietals and oxidize them. The result is "kocha" - rare Japanese "crimson tea".

Mellow Monk presents Crimson Grove, one such kocha not produced in the usual region of Mariko, Shizuoka Prefecture. Instead, this hails from the Kumomoto region of Kyushu, which popularly produces the sencha variant known as tamaryokucha ("curly green tea") - my favorite type. Yabukita cultivar leaves are processed in a way similar to tamaryokucha but are lightly fermented after steaming. This marks the second kocha I've had the pleasure of trying. I liked the Shizuoka one I sampled, but it wasn't my favorite. I had higher hopes for this.

The leaves were larger than the Shizuoka black, at least in terms of cut. Instead of looking CTC-grade, these resembled curly leaves that'd been blackened. Longer, gold-colored twig pieces also dotted the canvas. The aroma was also quite pleasant, resembling a medium-bodied, sweeter oolong rather than a black tea.

Brewing instructions - per the Mellow Monk site - called for 1 tsp of leaves per 8oz of boiling water, steeped for two minutes. Successive (and optional) steeps at thirty seconds to a minute. I had no qualm with these recommendations. Sounded about right to me. I went to work.

At the two-minute mark, the liquor infused to a prime gold color. Not quite what I was expecting from a dark-seeming "red" tea, but no matter. The aroma could've almost passed for generic black tea if it weren't for a kick of sweetness toward the end. I likened it to kukicha and a Taiwanese black on scent. The flavor really hit it out of the park for me. The initial foretaste was typical in its...uh...black tea-ish-ness, but followed that up with a middle texture that reminded me of sweet tree sap and/or honey. The aftertaste screamed oolong but without the dryness. A fruit note also appeared on the finish that was wonderfully inviting. A second infusion didn't fare as well, ending up a bit too woody. Overall, though, Mellow Monk does it again.

— To purchase Mellow Monk Crimson Grove, 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.

Teaviews Member: Geoff Geoff
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