Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Teance "Monkey Picked" Tai Guan Yin Medium Roast

First things first, "monkey picked." Tea vendors will use this phrase to indicate that the particular tea is high quality, and perhaps also as in attempt to add a little exotic appeal to the product. This phrase should instill in you the same warm fuzzies I get from McDonald's "Premium" Coffee. It's a bygone phrase ('cause seriously, have you seen what monkey's do with their hands all day? Do you want them picking you tea?) from a time when supposedly they used trained monkey's to climb to the tops of trees to pick the tea leaves (now China can just use kids).

Yes, a company can add the phrase to a legitimately superior tea, that is quite good and worth your money; buyer beware, that's all I'm saying. If you find yourself thinking, "oooh, monkey picked," your bull-shit detector may need adjusting.

Second, medium roast my ass; this, and to be fair to Teance, every other medium roasted TGY I've tried, tastes lightly roasted at best to me. Maybe there is something I don't understand about roasting.

The aroma is somewhat typical but more complex than usual, sweet, toasted grain, caramel and honey with greener bits that come and go. The aroma of the rinsed leaves reveal a surprising and faint hint of peach.

The first time I brewed the tea, it was indeed peachy, like a dan cong, and I was very pleased, but I have since been unable to replicate it. It has a flavor similar to a gao shan, but not as floral and with a heavier body and thicker mouth feel.

I'm still hunting for roasted TGYs, but they seem to be going out of style.

And on the subject of Chinese mythology, meet Yu Zhi, daughter of Xiwangmu, Queen Mother of the West. The pictures is taken from a Ukiyo e woodcut by Nishikawa Sukenobu. Just the outline so far, color in about a month.


Bill said...

Good review and awesome ink!

Anonymous said...

Nice tattoo

Anonymous said...

Good review. I do like peachy flavored teas, so I will have to try some.

Anonymous said...

Great post, thanks.

Will said...

Everyone's idea of "medium roasted" is different, and with greenish oolongs being so in fashion, I think people's idea of "roasted" are skewed in the green direction. Also, the roasting itself can be either high-fire or low-fire (or in between).

Unfortunately, the more roasted style is not that popular these days, especially in Mainland China. I think older people, and folks in HK and Taiwan like still do drink it, though.

I can recommend a few, both from places I visited recently on a trip to the Pacific NW.

First, Best Tea House (they have a branch in Canada) has some that are pretty reasonably priced; their "monkey picked" is bittersweet, a true "medium" roast IMO, and about 36 CAD or so for 100g (you can probably negotiate a slight discount on some of these prices). They have an "elegant queen" which is higher fire and more sweet / roasty. Then they have 2 higher grade ones of which I've tried at least one. Even the most expensive one is not too horribly expensive, and while I imagine it's mostly commercial grade tea, it's pretty consistent, and the roasting is well done IMO.

Their # is
Michael (the owner, and brother-in-law of the owner of the HK shop) is the proprietor; he speaks pretty good English.

You should also try Josh @ J-tea in Eugene OR - he has some good roasted TGY at a variety of price levels (most of it Taiwan grown TGY rather than Anxi TGY). These days, it's harder to find good quality TGY from the mainland, probably because the greener stuff is so popular right now. Josh's prices are now a little lower than the ones listed on the site.

His first prize winning roasted 2007 Mu Zha TGY is very nice. Whether it's worth the price is your call. I am sure he'd be willing to send you a sampler pack for a small amount of money.

You could also check out this aged '94 Taiwan TGY from Hou De, which I think is very nice, though it's a different flavor from a younger tea.

Anonymous said...

I have always wondered what "monkey picked" actually meant. It was on my list of topics to research.

Great post and review. I always love learning about a new tea fact.

Space Samurai said...

Thanks for all the info Will. I've been hearing some of the same things since I've been hunting around for roasted tgy, that green is in right now. That's unfortunate but understandable.

Anonymous said...

Ha ha, like it, nice article. Was aware that monkeys didn't actually pick this tea but always liked the imagery, you're ruined that now!

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