Review: Mellow Monk Top Leaf Green Tea

Green Tea, Japanese Tea, Mellow Monk Add comments
Raven’s Teaview Snapshot
Thumbs up!"Rich and hearty in its mineral laden, vegetal character and toothsome feel, the brew maintains a fresh lightness with a sweet finish. "
Raven’s Teaview: 8.5/10
Other Teaviews: Geoff gave it 10/10, Vanessa gave it 8.0/10, Jamie gave it 9/10, Erika gave it 8/10, Troy gave it 9/10, Sophie gave it 8.4/10, Katie gave it 8.5/10, Samantha gave it 9.0/10
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mellowmonktopleafIn the arena of Japanese teas, Mellow Monk is certainly on top of their game. As a purveyor of guricha from Kumamoto, they have a small but swinging league of teas, including mostly green but also one black tea. After catching the game of one of their other teas, it seemed only natural that their Top Leaf green tea, a North American Tea Championship winner, would be a must try. Harvested from the youngest leaves at the top of the plants and grown with extra TLC, their Top Leaf, is processed like sencha, yet finished with the guricha curve ball to pitch a tamaryokucha or round green tea.

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.

— To purchase Mellow Monk Top 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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