Review: Mellow Monk Shaded Leaf Green Tea

Green Tea, Japanese Tea, Mellow Monk Add comments
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"The creamy mineral quality nods of fukamushi sencha while the vegetal aromas and flavours are darker in nature than sencha, reminding me of collards and kale without the chlorophyll bit of greenness of parsley or as much butteriness as fresh cooked spinach. "
Raven’s Teaview: 8.3/10
Other Teaviews: Vanessa gave it 8/10, Geoff gave it 8.6/10, Jamie gave it 8/10
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One just has to ask, are there hyper monks? I don’t think it’s a profession running rampant with A.D.D. But the zen of Mellow Monk’s name is very in sync with tea while also having a smurf-like vibe as if there’s a Mellow Monk counseling Papa Smurf along with Handy or Brainy smurf. I wonder if there’s Monk-ettes? But I digress. Outside of animé, Mellow Monk is serious about tea. Not just any tea, as their focus for meditation and masonry is guricha, a Japanese variety that describes the processing as well as the variety. When fired or roasted to dry, this leaf is known as tamaryokucha or kamairi-tamaryokucha for round green tea, but when steamed, much like sencha, it is transformed into guricha that has less kneading than sencha to lend a curved shape to the leaves. Mellow Monk thus features a small selection of green teas and one black all featuring the guricha variety of varying quality and cultivation. For a first try, their Shaded leaf which is grown in the shade for several weeks before harvest, similar, but for less time than gyokuro, caught my interest as a gyokuro goon. Plus, Having it made in the shade is indeed living large, so how could one go wrong?

Thinking of white asparagus, another shade grown kin, there’s nothing shady about the leaves. They are brilliant, with an incredible shine that sets off their dark almost emerald hue. The leaves and stems are very fine, mostly folded into spindles and hairs from less than a quarter of an inch down to sheer specks, with a consistent colour. A few “C” curls showcase its hallmark and add a playfulness to the uniformity and weightiness; quite smurf-like indeed.

As engrossing as the leaves look, it’s all the more provoking to see how they animate. The Mellow Monk offers brewing recommendations on their website to do just that, as steeping one teaspoon per cup with 167°F water for two minutes. So as the kettle whistled merrily along to the temperature, there’s time to meditate over the leaves. Out in the open, their scent is sweet and bold with a fresh mineral vegetal depth. The bouquet captures features of both fukamushi sencha and tamaryokucha. The creamy mineral quality nods of fukamushi sencha while the vegetal aromas are darker in nature than sencha, reminding me of collards and kale without the chlorophyll bit of greenness of a parsley or as much butteriness as fresh cooked spinach. While sweet, it is more bracing and sturdy than sweet as a flicker of diesel or oil structures the sweetness. But it has a deep mineral fullness to easily please.

Skipping along the path into the cup, the tea has a nourishing wholesomeness that is also blunting and resolute. The flavour prances with the same stalky vegetal as the aroma alludes, giving it a darker hardiness more than a grassy, leafiness, like spinach or protein nuttiness, like asparagus or snap peas. While it has some sweetness, it isn’t as sweet as some sencha or gyokuro, as the vegetal flavours seem darker and a bit more bitter, like cooked collards, but it has just as much appetizing appeal. The flavour encompasses one’s mouth, full and eager, with an almost mineral rich vegetal flavour to seem almost chewable. This bold fullness also seems almost creamy from its saturation and texture, as if pureed collards, rather than having milky overtones in flavour. Yet, while the tea is smooth with a medium body, there is a trickling of astringency that hastens the flow. In the aftertaste, the tea further delights as it becomes almost fruity and the sweetness concentrates with a touch of pineyness to seem a bit like green tomatoes or gooseberries as it builds in one’s mouth through the cup.

With a la laaaa lee-la la laaa, another infusion for one minute this time and the cup almost glows with its translucent green colour as something Gargamel could surely have created. Yet, the lush bouquet maintains its boldness with a deep, vegetal aroma. The cup is also just as pleasingly full. The flavour seems more broth-like though, as it loses some of the forward vegetal essence. The brothiness has a tasty warmth and sustaining richness in its weight without having a lot of umami or saltiness. The tea also continues to carry in a medium aftertaste with a flicker of fruity sweetness. A third one minute infusion is quite hazy with a light to medium green that retains a fresh scent that becomes less vegetal and grassier, like dandelion leaves and escarole, still with a hint of cooking oil. The leafier bouquet is almost the nicest yet, as it still has a mineral greenness. However, the flavour is only lightly oily tasting laced with more flint-like minerals to the green flavours that is almost too light to match the thick feel as it seems slightly pasty and leaves a tingle around one’s back teeth. Some may still enjoy it though.

Out of the forest, the Mellow Monk’s Shaded Leaf captures all that darkness to shine in its full, creamy flavour and definitive mineral and deep-steamed vegetal character. Despite its shady beginnings, it is certainly a bold enough cup to greet one’s day, particularly when the Smurfs are on.

— To purchase Mellow Monk Shaded Leaf Green Tea, 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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