Monday, August 23, 2010


Golden Monkey on left, Organic Golden Yunnan on right
with fewer golden leaf buds and a chunkier leaf -- click for a
closer look at the lovely furry golden peko on the buds.

I'm taking another run at the organic Golden Yunnan from Tao's Tea House, and comparing/contrasting to the Golden Monkey, also from Tao's.  I should admit off the top that Tao's Golden Monkey is currently my favourite tea ever.  Has been for the past 4 or 5 months.  Mmmm-mmmm good.  Yes, it's on the pricey side.  And, um, yes, I don't tend to offer it to visitors unless I think they'll appreciate its richness.

Both have lovely golden tips in them.  Both are from China albeit different provinces.  I got the Golden Yunnan thinking it might be in the same taste corner and seduce me as well.  It didn't, although it's not a bad tea.

TEA NAME: Organic Golden Yunnan
The Yunnan province is down in the south-west of China, and is considered one of the birthplaces of tea.   Its cultivation there started some 2000 years ago, but apparently it was only in the 1940s that black tea production began.   Yunnan black tea is generally called Dian Hong in China, which translates literally as 'Yunnan Red.'  Dian being another name for Yunnan Province, named after the Bronze Age Dian Kingdom, and red referring to the colour of the tea liquor.  We remember, bien sur, that in China what we call black tea is called red tea.  According to the Heiss's comprehensive book, The Story of Tea, historically Yunnan black tea has been grown from an indigenous variety of large, broad-leaf tea bush known locally as dayeh and classified by botanists as a subvariety of Camellia sinensis var. assamica.  I've no idea if that is the case with this tea but I did wonder, given its taste profile.  The Heiss's also note that Yunnan Buds of Gold and Yunnan Golden Needles are both among the highest grades of Yunnan black tea and "yield an exquisite creamy and malty, sweet-liquoring tea with almost no bite."  That certainly wasn't my experience with this Golden Yunnan and sounds much more like the Golden Monkey.  Hmmmm.

WATER TEMPERATURE:  Just off the boil
STEEPING TIME:  2 minutes, 10 seconds

Per the photo above, the Golden Yunnan on the right is chunkier-looking, and is a dark charcoal grey with bright silvery-gold threads and small broken bits mixed in.  Under the magnifying loup, the threads are revealed as gorgeous furry pekoe on unopened leaf buds with the darker (though still showing pekoe) slightly twisted young leaves.

Organic Golden Yunnan wet leaves.

Small broken leaves of a very deep, coppery-brown (dark penny colour) with occasional dark green evident.

Organic Golden Yunnan brewed tea.

Very deep red-brown with a green ring around the rim.
Hmmm.  Bit of a bitter after taste -- I think this is a tad overbrewed.  But still a sweet, caramel flavour coming through, and behind that the slightly steely bitterness.  Nice round mouth feel -- bit of fur on the tongue.  Medium to soft briskness -- ie: refreshing in the mouth, and can feel water being formed in the lower jaw bone area indicating lack of astringency.  When I add a bit of milk the bitterness is mostly overwhelmed -- and it is now a nice balance to the sweeter front notes.
Curious about the bitterness I did a second brew with 2 grams of leaves instead of 2.5 grams.  It's still got a bite and the big mouth feel.  Could this be due to it being c.s. v. assamica...?

TEA NAME: Golden Monkey (Zheng He (or Zhenghe) Hong Gong Fu) from Fujian Province
In trying to track down what the heck the tea's Chinese name means I stumbled on the Babelcarp site which is fab.  All I previously knew was that "hong" means red.  But Babelcarp tells me that zheng he is the name of the place that is the centre of bai cha (literally white tea) production in Fujian province, or the variety of red tea produced from a cultivar usually made into white tea.  It also tells me that Gong fu literally means work or effort, and can signify either the gong fu tea service or red tea --  I find this confusing.  Does this mean there are other Fujian red teas with this descriptive or what?  From this translation device it appears that zhenghe hong gong fu literally translates as "the variety of red tea produced from a cultivar usually made into white tea + red + well made red tea"....?  Elsewhere on a tea purveyor's site it was explained that the english name, Golden Monkey, comes from its unique appearance: the leaves resemble monkey claws.  Not sure I see that but then I've not come across many monkeys.

WATER TEMPERATURE: Just off the boil
STEEPING TIME:  2 minutes 10 seconds

Per the photo above, I identify this tea by its long (3/4"), slightly grey-black long wiry pieces with loads of golden threads and light crinkly-ness -- it looks and feels very airy.  Under the magnifying loup this is revealed to be all furry pekoed long thin leaf buds.  It's such a special, funny sight you must try it some time.  Or click on the photo above.

Golden Monkey wet leaves.

Beautiful long buds and bud + leaf in a slightly grayed coppery brown.  (This photo is under halogen light and is redder and yellower than to my eye.) They kind of look like slippery little eels, don't they? Or little wet seals. (Okay, the latter might be stretching it.)

Toffee. Peppery.  Faint sweet apricot note. Lower down there's a light musky-musty note.

Golden Monkey brewed liquor --  much more orangey
than the Golden Yunnan.

The colour is a medium, bright orangey-brown.  I've noticed the brew also tends to have a bubbly, slight scum which on closer examination seems to be a result of the leaf bud's hairy pekoe.

Mmmmm. Sweet toffee, with some apricot, light soft bitterness to balance out the flavour.  Nice lush medium body in the mouth -- a light velvety furring, and not at all brisk.  When I add milk -- which is the way I tend to drink black tea -- it smoothes out the furring abit, and is still a wonderful, addictive brew.

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