Review: Tao Tea Leaf Golden Monkey

Black Tea, Tao Tea Leaf Add comments
Sophie’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The first infusion is excellent, striking a beautiful balance between caramelized tones and woodier ones. However the subsequent steeps are very dry and bitter. "
Sophie’s Teaview: 7.2/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 6/10, Geoff gave it 9.5/10, Shaiha gave it 9.2/10, Jamie gave it 8.75/10, Laura gave it 9.5/10
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This hand-processed black tea comes to us from the Chinese province of Fujian. The product of an early spring harvest, it only includes young leaves. Elegantly twisted thin tan and gold ribbons tumble out of the sample's package, still impressively coated in their downy coverings. Their aroma is sweet and toasty, akin to that of a honey-nut cereal.

Tao Tea Leaf provides very extensive brewing instructions. These may be more than the average tea drinker bargains for, but they sure are a treat for those looking to get the most out of their leaves. Following the given directions, I infused 3g of tea in water heated to 85 degrees Celsius for 1 minute. Lacking the recommended gaiwan, I used a small lidded cup with a built-in infuser instead. The liquor bears a rich caramel colour and a deliciously malty aroma. The top notes are a little abrasive, being heavily laden with tobacco and wood notes. These subside to reveal a very bold finish, rife with roasted root vegetable, clover and caramel notes. As the tea cools, cocoa and malt flavours also appear. The sweetness appears more intense in contrast to the brash, almost bitter entrance. In the end, the result is predominantly smooth however.

The brewing instructions state that these leaves can be steeped up to 4 times. I proceeded with a second 1 and a half minute-long infusion. The tobacco notes are now completely dominant, the sweetness of the first steep being almost absent. The cup is unpleasantly acrid and drying, like having 95% cocoa dark chocolate. Still, as the tea cooled a bit, a striking honeyed huigan lingered on the tongue.

My third 2 minute and fourth 2 and a half minute infusions were virtually identical. These are fortunately less brash than the second brew but not as stellar as the first. Malt and caramel notes have returned but there is still an astringent, bitter feel throughout the cup. There is also an interesting brothy edge that contrasts nicely with the sweeter tones.

The first infusion is excellent, striking a beautiful balance between caramelized tones and woodier ones. However the subsequent steeps are very dry and bitter. I got much smoother and more pleasant results brewing this tea Western-style, using a heaping teaspoon of leaves and a 3 minute steep. I would recommend these leaves to those who are comfortable with a stout tea that seesaws between extremes. Compared to other teas in their catalogue, I personally preferred Tao Tea Leaf's more subtle, not to mention cheaper, Keemun Gongfu.

— To purchase Tao Tea Leaf 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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