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monkey

Limited Yiwu Spring 2016 from Bitterleaf Teas

I’m not usually a pu erh tea drinker but I saw the lovely label from Kelly Puissegur on the Yiwu Spring 2016 blend from Bitterleaf Teas and had to give it a go.  This is a limited run of tea, so you won’t be able to get this exact blend anymore, but the same tea harvest for 2017 can be found in the year of the rooster blend.

This tea starts off like many of my past pu erh tea sessions.  The scents are intense and fermented, and off-putting to me as a prelude for something I’m about to taste.  The aroma isn’t bad exactly, in fact with smells like old books or leather or wet grass, I find the flavors to be nostalgic and dreamy; they just aren’t something I’d personally want to smell right before I take a sip.

I steeped this tea over the course of a session, brewing several times.  Before I even tasted it, I stepped for 1 minute in 200F water to rinse and let the leaves open up.  After that I steeped for increasing 5 second intervals.

The first brew had the typical hay barn scent I expect, but less fermented and much more fresh.  Almost like green grapes or wet peony flowers. The brightness in the first steep was a pleasant surprise.

In the second steep there was more white tea buttery earthiness, but still the green grapes and peony came through on the aftertaste.  The tea is very smooth on the tongue.

In the third steep the hay scent was more gentle and the overall flavors were more relaxed.  The brew was sweeter almost like cacao earth tones and smooth honey floral flavors, paired with a very pleasant caramelly mouthfeel.

On the fourth steep and beyond, the tea still holds up the fresh grape and peony tones, but eventually the earthy cacao flavors end up taking over.

I’m not a pu erh expect but this tea took me by surprise and contained pleasantly complex flavors that I wasn’t expecting.  Be bold and try one of Bitterleaf Teas’ pu erh harvests for your next brew.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Pu erh
Where to Buy: Bitter Leaf Teas
Description:

This Yiwu raw puer is one of our two Year of the Monkey puers. The material for this tea comes from a recently transitioned fang yang (literally meaning “left to grow”) garden that receives minimal human interference, to the extent that all weeding is done once a year by hand (taking up to one month) and is harvested only in the Spring. The tea itself has an initial and surprising honey-like sweetness at the front, which yields to some slight roughness and unique lasting aroma. With good cha qi/tea energy and a solid mineral fragrance that lingers, this is a strong candidate for storage.

Typical of Yiwu teas, this one is on the softer side of things for now, but still maintains a solid backbone with plenty to offer. This also makes it a very drinkable young raw puer, and well suited for beginners and experienced drinkers alike. Don’t be fooled though, Yiwu teas tend to age well, even if they seem lighter in their early years.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

52Teas’ the 12 Teas of Christmas – Day 11-Spoilers!

Day 11!

Christmas Eve already: are you excited?  The penultimate tea of the 12 Teas of Christmas is Caramel Monkey Bread Rooibos.  Monkey Bread is known for its cinnamon sugar and bouncy yeast bread base. This tea has plenty of cinnamon scent as soon as you open the bag.  But the cinnamon is sweet, not too hot or spicy, just the comforting warmth of a kitchen spice cabinet.

Brewed, the caramel notes come forward, enhanced by the natural toasted-sweet flavor of the rooibos.  If I were blind folded, I might guess that this tea flavor was snickerdoodle, with all the cinnamon sugar goodness that I taste.  There is that hint of caramel or caramelized sugar among all the spice. Is there such a thing as caramel- drizzled-snickerdoodles?  If not, this tea is making me think that maybe there should be.

The great part about this blend is that it is a decaf rooibos base, so you can drink it before bed (or as you are setting out the cookies for Santa), and still get some sleep before Christmas morning.  Well, as much sleep as you can with all the excitement and sugar plums dancing in your head!


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Red Rooibos
Where to Buy: 52Teas
Description:

This is one of the final teas (tisanes) that Frank crafted during his time with 52Teas and I have a wee confession – I hadn’t tried it until a day or two before I blended this batch. I had the tea in my stash – but it was still sealed … never opened! At the time when I received this tea in my subscription package, I was preparing to take over 52Teas: testing samples from my wholesale sources, setting up the website and blending teas. I was so busy back then I was running around like a crazy woman with her hair on fire and to be honest, I really didn’t have time to sit back and enjoy a cuppa. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I certainly enjoyed most of the samples that I was sent by my wholesale sources, and I definitely was enjoying the teas that I was blending and then taste testing – but I didn’t have any time left to sit back and enjoy a cuppa that wasn’t directly related to taking over the operations of 52Teas.

So I stashed this tea away in my tea cupboard and – forgot about it! Yes, I forgot about this blend completely until someone mentioned that they’d like this tea to be reblended as part of this year’s 12 Teas of Christmas box. So a few weeks ago, I dug out that pouch and tried it out before I attempted to reblend it – so that I could get a fairly good idea of what I was going to do with this blend.

And as I sit here now, sipping on the results of that blending session, I must say that I’m a little bit impressed with myself. I often worry that I’m just not good enough to be a tea blender – but it’s times like now that I realize that I AM good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, I’m worthy of my self-appointed title of “Mad Tea Artist” because this is REALLY GOOD. It’s sweet, caramel-y, with a nice cinnamon note and a bread-y note that tastes a lot like … well, it tastes like freshly-baked monkey bread!

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Golden Monkey from Tea N Joy. . ..

I’m not always the right tea taster for the special harvest, unflavored tea samples, as much as I wish I were overjoyed about a pu erh cake or a shade-grown green tea.  That said, I’ve definitely come to enjoy black teas with golden tips, so I was excited to brew up a cup of Golden Money from Tea N Joy.

It’s hard to resist an animal-inspired tea name.  I’ve tried oolongs called “Monkey-Picked” because of the treacherous areas where the trees grow. Golden Monkey sounds like a tea named for a beautiful blond-haired monkey.  This tea is actually named for the golden tips of the tea, and the fact that the leaves are sharply curved, like monkey claws.

Brewed, this tea is smooth and chocolatey, even after only a short brew.  The tea doesn’t taste exactly a chocolate bar, but there is a distinct sweet herbal flavor that brings to mind dark chocolate.  On my second steep, I gave the leaves a longer steep time, and even with the added brew time, the strength of the cacao notes don’t overpower the silky, mellow black tea base.  This tea is full and rich, very drinkable with lots of subtle sweet flavors that open up the more you drink.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a tea connoisseur, do yourself a favor and try a cup of Golden Monkey from Tea N Joy.


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Black
Where to Buy: Tea N Joy
Description: Golden Monkey Tea is hand-processed each spring with a careful plucking of only one leaf and one bud. It is among the finest Chinese Black Teas available today. A rich, full-bodied Tea. The name comes from its unique appearance: the leaves resemble monkey claws. Sweet and very ‘nosy’ with the aromas of: savory roasted apples, cocoa and spice notes that linger as you sip. Rich, coating texture and very smooth, soft mouth-feel. Delicate, almost indistinguishable astringency.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Ma Liu Mie the Monkey King and Monkey Picked Oolong from Teavivre

There’s a lot to take in with a name like Taiwan Monkey Picked (Ma Liu Mie) Tie Guan Yin Oolong Tea, but the most exciting part is “Monkey-Picked.”  What?  Really?  There were monkeys involved in getting this tea from the tree to my teapot?  According to legend, the steep cliff-side where this tea is grown is too treacherous for tea farmers to reach the leaves, so they trained monkeys to pick the leaves for them.  Ma Liu Mie is an honorable nickname for this tea used by the locals, as well as the name of the tea-picking Monkey King of legend. Read more about the tea under the “more info” tab here.

My first impression of this tea is that the leaves are small and dense, not cut or broken, but simply in a different shape than the long curls of black tea I’ve come to expect.  Dry, this oolong smells pleasantly earthy with a bit of stone-fruit sweetness like raisin or apricot.  I followed the recommended brewing instructions, using very hot, boiling water and a hefty serving of tea leaves.

At first sip, I notice strong roasted flavors.  However, this tea is not full-on smoke-flavored like lapsang souchong, instead it is more complex, like the perfect warm, golden-char flavor of eating food cooked over a campfire.  There are some of the aged, fermented notes I tend to associate with pu erh, but they are much more gentle and less sour. This type of earthiness is concentrated and layered, with notes of toasted grains, warm woods, and new leather.
On a day-to-day basis, I drink tea that is drinkable and easy-going.  I have to be in the right mood to want a bold, smokey lapsang souchong, or a challenging, fishy pu erh.  This Monkey Picked Oolong is a perfect compromise between all three.  It is so much more than a basic breakfast tea, but it is not so sour or smokey to bowl you over.  It is gentle and earthy, smooth and toasted, and it has a well-earned, legendary reputation.

How could you not give Monkey Picked Oolong a try?


Here’s the scoop!

Leaf Type: Oolong
Where to Buy: Teavivre
Description:

Using Taiwan autumn tea as material, this Monkey Picked Tie Guanyin carefully selected by TeaVivre is baked slowly by soft fire (the baking process falls into three steps and every step lasts two minutes). The degree of fermentation is 100 percent so that the dried tea can keep a long-lasting fragrance. After brewing, the smell of honey peach and the baked flavor can be perfectly appreciated and the beverage tastes gorgeously smooth.

Learn even more about this tea and tea company here!

Golden Monkey Champagne Black Tea from 52Teas

Golden-Monkey-ChampagneTea Information:

Leaf Type:  Black

Where to Buy:  52Teas

Tea Description:

Here’s an awesome Golden Monkey black tea blended with marigold petals and organic champagne flavors. Not only that, each pouch contains a unique fortune for 2015. We are only making 70 of these, so get yours today.

Learn more about this tea here.

Taster’s Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve had a sip of champagne.  As I’ve said before, I’m just not all that big on drinking alcohol.  (I’m a TEA-totaler!)  But this Golden Monkey Champagne Black Tea from 52Teas is a nice way to enjoy some ‘champagne!’

First of all, I have to mention the fortune!  What a fun idea!  I liked opening the pouch to discover what my fortune for 2015 will be.  Here’s what mine said:

This year: someone will do something “for all the tea in China” and then have a monopoly on Chinese teas.

Yeah, it’s a little corny and silly, but it’s fun.  It’s a little ‘out of the box’ and that’s what I’ve come to love about 52Teas – the whole concept is a little out of the box!  A different tea every week?  That’s a little crazy!  But it’s crazy good!

And that’s why I want to keep 52Teas going.  Check out my Kickstarter campaign and help me keep this company going – I need your support!  Every little bit will help!

But, let’s talk more about THIS tea, shall we?

The base of this tea is a Golden Monkey, and it’s delicious!  It’s rich, robust, and full-flavored.  It has chocolate-y notes along with that earthy, leathery flavor that I’ve come to love about a Golden Monkey.  A hint of smoke in the distance.  Undertones of caramel.  It’s very smooth and has a pleasant, thick texture to it.  There is some astringency at the tail but it doesn’t disrupt from the enjoyment of the overall flavor.  It’s not bitter.  It’s just really, really LOVELY!

The champagne flavors have been added in a smart way – they don’t go overboard.  They’re not too much.  It has a light, champagne-y flavor that complements the overall tea.  I can taste the champagne but more importantly, I taste the nuances of the Golden Monkey and when you have a tea like this Golden Monkey – you WANT to taste it!  I like how the champagne is represented here, in a way that I can taste it (it’s especially noticeable in the aftertaste) but not so much so that it overpowers the excellent flavors of the tea itself.

This is a really enjoyable cuppa.  I’m surprised that more people haven’t grabbed this one up!  It’s a really lovely tea.