|"Rich and hearty in its mineral laden, vegetal character and toothsome feel, the brew maintains a fresh lightness with a sweet finish. "|
By look alone, there’s not much to hint of the difference of the small leaves from a sencha except for a bit wider rolls and a few fine threads with a curl. Their light shine adds some luster to the uniform, deep, dark forest green hue of leaves and bits that at less than a quarter inch long, are wee but weighty. Their neat leaves and dark colour stack up a high powered looking team yet their bouquet brings it into field. The medium scent has a green sweetness, woven into a mineral laden vegetal that brings to mind roasted kale leaves from its implicit hardiness. The sweetness defrays a strongly or solely savoury scent adding an intriguing interplay of fresh aromas.
Upon infusion of the leaves as Mellow Monk suggests using one teaspoon, 167°F water for 2 minutes, the leaves come alive from a hazy medium dark yellow brew. Its scent is light but it teases with the same sweet, freshness contouring the vegetal suave. With a light buttery-oil quality, the bouquet recants a seed dappled vegetal, a bit like cooked broccoli stems, with a denseness, flickering fresh, but less rich darkness than the dry leaves.
The flavour is enveloping, smooth and rich with a dark vegetal fullness. With a light to medium body, the mineral bounty and savour seems tangible from a particulate feel that adds a pleasing pull and almost creaminess accentuating the indulgence of the flavour. The flavour has the same fatty lushness as the aroma that seems more oil-like than butter to tilt the green darkness to a kale, chard or broccoli rather than a parsley or spinach brightness. Accompanied by a hint of sweetness that off-sets the verge of bitterness of the vegetal minerals, it’s engaging, encompassing salty, bitter and sweet. As it flows with decent momentum but little dryness into a short finish, there’s a light aftertaste with whispers of freshness, sweet on the edge of buttery, that brings to mind cooked romaine lettuce. Nice move indeed.
Batting in a second brew, it’s an equally jarring, now cloudy, chartreuse whose aroma intensifies some but still is on the lighter side. The scent rises with an almost berry-like sweetness immersed in warm fern-like vegetals in pan oil. Just as bold and dense as the first cup, the flavour hits a slightly bitter rich, vegetal, like kale, with a hint of gasoline that falls cushiony and full. It’s lightly dry with a touch of astringency as it finishes with a light to medium aftertaste, caught with a leafier finish, like fresh chard or baby spinach.
Rounding into a third steep, it’s all open green in sight and scent as fresher aromas transcend the cup with a light scent whose bright sweetness seems accentuated amidst the milder vegetal notes. While the flavour is still vegetal, a smoother span fills in the milder green flavours with a starchier curve thrown along the persistent light oil flavours. As a result, the tea maintains a satisfying density and savour. With less greenness, the unity of mild vegetals and safflower oil flavours seems more pumpkin seed-like in its stalk tinged brothiness. Despite a touch of astringency, there’s little increase in dryness, yet a freshness lifts the finish to hang in as it builds with cooked leaf lettuce and a slightly grainy slide.
Although I did get a fourth brew, you don’t have to play through nine innings to see, at the bottom of the cup, Mellow Monk’s Top Leaf has all the right moves. Definitively different from a fine sencha in character, it brings just as lively play and finesse. As a result, Top Leaf seems an ideal sip when celebrating a win or mustering through a loss, as its hearty flavour hits high across the field and drives it home, just like a satisfying cushion, to put one on top.
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