Golden Monkey is the tea that awakened me to black tea after avoiding it for most of my life. The YS 2016 version was marvelous. Last year’s version was also good, though not as sweet. So this year I decided to upgrade to the Imperial grade stuff to see if was really worth it. Well after gongfuing around with this tea, I can say this is totally different from the standard grade version and not in a good way.
This tea resembles keemun in appearance with its dark curly leaf. There’s fewer gold-tipped leaves here than the regular grade version. On the nose, I get an almost pungent aroma of dried fruit, smoke, and malt. The tea brews to a nice reddish amber. The taste though was far removed from any other golden monkey tea I’ve ever had. It has a very basic black tea, dare I say Lipton-like flavor. I didn’t get any of the deep caramel and molasses notes I love. There was no sweetness or real nuance to it at all. Subsequent steeps tasted the same.
I’m still scratching my head at this tea. It wasn’t bad or anything, just flat and kind of boring. Maybe this was an off year or something, but it’s hard to believe this is golden monkey tea let alone the high grade stuff.