55 Tasting Notes


I lean toward bolder black teas, so perhaps my tasting of this dainty green is somewhat skewed. I saw what I was in for when the dry nose was dusty and smelled of hay. After a three-minute steep at 180° (per Upton’s instructions), the leaves were now bright green and smelled somewhat of bread dough (that’s a compliment – I bake a lot of challah and other breads and I love the smell of the dough). The pale yellow liquor still had a bit of hay, plus some citrus. It had very little finish and overall did not excite me much. Then again, perhaps my palate is not refined enough for this delicate brew.

Flavors: Citrus, Hay

180 °F / 82 °C 3 min, 0 sec 5 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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I was surprised at the number of sticks that were mixed in with the leaves. Is this typical of this style? It made it hard to measure, so I had to make my best guess (I really need to get a scale).

I did three 2-minute gaiwan steeps of this tea. The first was almost too subtle. Sort of herby with a clean finish, but nothing really jumped out at me. The second had a darker liquor, with less herb flavor. The final steep seemed slightly more astringent (though not much) and had a bit more forest-floor-dry-sticks flavor.

Overall, I liked this but was not wowed. I’d recommend it for when you’re in the mood for something subtly warming and comforting.

180 °F / 82 °C 2 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 4 OZ / 118 ML

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I happily fell victim to Leaf & Spoon’s sale earlier this week and ordered the Golden Monkey, Lemon Ginger Snap, and Ginseng Oolong. Golden Monkey is a house favorite, so I was eager to try L&S’s version and it did not disappoint.

Side note: I’m not a big fan of adding other flavors and fruits to tea. Likewise with beer and I prefer single malt scotch, so I guess I’m a bit of purist that way. It just seems to me that there is so much variety in flavor and texture that can be gleaned from unadulterated tea leaves. I enjoy that for what it is without finding the need to add ingredients. That said, the Ginger Snap (green tea with ginger root, lemongrass, and lemon myrtle) and Ginseng Oolong (oolong with licorice root powder and ginseng root) looked like they would make lovely iced teas. I’ll review those as soon as I brew up a batch. Now, as for the Golden Monkey . . .

When I opened the package and took a deep whiff, those glands at the top of my jaw just woke right up and started to dance. The nose was somewhat-but-not-too sweet and it made me anticipate a nice cup. The leaf appearance lives up to its name. They are more gold than black, and not just the tips either, the whole leaf is a lovely cream yellow. I did note that the brewed leaves did not seem to open up very much, though I only had time for one steep this morning, so I’ll check that next time when I resteep.

Steeping note: the L&S website recommends 212 degrees for 2-3 minutes, but the bag says 4-5 minutes. I steeped for 4 minutes on this first attempt.

The taste is everything I hoped for in this style: softish mouth feel, full flavor from the get-go, and just a faintly astringent after-taste. This is not a full-bodied tea, but it’s got a slight nuttiness with some subtle spice in the back. What sweetness there is comes out more in the aroma than the flavor. I’d happily serve this to friends who are just discovering real tea so they can see how nuanced the flavors can be. Altogether, this is a delightful example of Golden Monkey and I expect I’ll be back for more when this ounce is gone.

Boiling 4 min, 0 sec 2 tsp 12 OZ / 354 ML

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I grew up drinking Lipton with lots of sugar and lemon. It’s only over the last few years that I’ve come to discover and appreciate real tea. Now I’m on a mission to expose as many of my friends as possible to the delights of Camellia sinensis. I dream of opening a tea shop someday where people can sit, slow down, and enjoy a proper cup properly steeped. I have so much to learn to make that happen, so I’m eager to chat, meet, and sip with those who know more than I.

I can’t say that I’ve discovered a favorite tea yet. I lean toward the bolder black teas (I don’t think I’ve tried a keemun I didn’t like), but those with lots of golden tips spark my taste buds too (Golden Monkey, dubbed “Monkey Butt” by my then-teenage son, is always popular in my house).

I love the pu-ehrs I’ve tried, but I know that that is a whole world of flavors that could take me years to explore. I keep sampling subtler white, green, and yellow teas, and I’m learning as I go. Let’s face it, I’m sampling everything I can and having a ball doing it.

Speaking of sampling, I’m eager to swap, so feel free to peruse my cupboard (I’m making a concerted effort to record what I have) and ask me for any of it.

When I’m not steeping, I write, bike, raise kids, love my wife, and cook fine vegetarian fare.

That picture is of me at a rest stop on a long bike ride. I’m still working on how to combine long-distance cycling with tea drinking. Hmmm . . .


Newton, Massachusetts

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