My Sweet Golden Monkey
by Lady Baker's Tea founder and Tea Sommelier, Katherine Burnett
I don’t have any pets. My current living situation just does not allow for them. But as I look at my selection of teas in my cupboard, I realize they could be considered my pets since I talk to them as if they are the joy of my life!
Here’s what you may hear as I greet them huddled together on my kitchen shelf:
“Well, I‘m so glad to see you today.” Or
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for being such a comfort to me this morning.” Or
“Let’s see. Who wants to go into my pot today?”
Don’t worry, I live alone and so don’t have to account to anyone about these secret indulgent conversations! Although I guess they are not so secret now.
Five years ago, I spent a fascinating two weeks on tea estates in the Assam and Darjeeling regions of India. There I learned of the passionate and loving care that goes into tea from the growing to the plucking, sorting and processing. Tea has life!
At Lady Baker’s Tea, we aim for the affordable best so that our tea friends can enjoy high-quality loose-leaf tea without breaking the bank. I have tried some very rare and costly teas at conference workshops over the years. We are not in the market to provide these rarities, but we can give you a taste of some teas that are in a higher price range for good reasons.
One of these is Golden Monkey.
I had taken a small stash of it on my reconnecting-with-family tour over the holidays.
When I was in Texas, I asked my granddaughter, Mae, why she thought a tea would be called Golden Monkey? I thought she might answer maybe that monkeys pluck the leaves. It is rumoured that centuries ago, this tea was so special that only the Taipans and overlords enjoyed it and that the leaves were plucked by the Golden Monkeys which inhabited the mountains of Fujian Province. But that falls in the category of tea myths. Her answer was short and to the point.
"The tea probably grows best where Golden Monkeys live"! As an avid reader and researcher at 11 years old, she continued to tell me about golden monkeys. That was that.
Lady Baker’s Golden Monkey is a product of an area in the high Wuyi mountains in China and its growers think of it as the ‘king of Panyong (village) Congou (China black tea designation).’
Mount Wuyi (Wu Yi Shan), Fujian Province, China
I went to Wikipedia and the writer of that entry says - The name of the tea comes from the leaves that resemble monkey claws. I honestly don’t know what the leaf looks like before processing so I can’t verify this. But the finished leaf is the result of great care.
Special Tippy Orange Pekoe
The grading system for Lady Baker’s Golden Monkey establishes the quality. Most often the plucked leaves are the bud and leaf just below. This varietal of Camellia Sinensis is hairy or downy. The plucking is tedious, and the process is very labour intensive with hand sorting to keep the leaf intact.
‘Tippy’ means the tip of the new shoots and during the manufacturing process, these tips turn a golden brown. Tippy tea indicates exceptional quality. The finished leaf you see is a bit curly, twisted and wiry and there’s a high percentage of tip. It’s a very pretty tea!
I could say for several years that Keemun was my favourite black tea! I love its burgundy colour and rich taste. I still get great pleasure out of a cuppa. But this winter I had to ask it to move over a bit so I could add a tin of Golden Monkey to the front row of my first choices. Golden Monkey has golden hues in the liquor and its depth of taste is exotically characterized by a less appealing term as ‘mouth-feel.' I particularly like the fact that there is little or no astringency. If you prefer astringency, Darjeeling is a good example of that; and I might add, an excellent lighter black tea with its own distinguished taste.
I suggest you do as I do. Smell the dry tea. Admire its beauty. Inhale it deeply. Then smell the brewed tea, letting the steam waft up into your nostrils. And then sip (I like it best with a tad of milk).
At this stage I add a sigh...there’s layer upon layer of deep and delicious flavours. You really must try it to appreciate it.
I am back from my travels and extremely grateful that I was able to follow the Health rules diligently and avoid getting Covid. My eight grandchildren were seen, held, hugged and that energized me although the three grandboys, ages 3 and 4, without even trying, kept me on my toes!
My daughters were so thoughtful in setting up a little tea corner in their guest rooms for me. My stash dwindled and I had to order more from Lady Baker's Tea. The order arrived in perfect time!
In North Carolina, granddaughters Ruby and Charlie, now as tall as me, requested tea lattes after supper. I was the designated latte maker of Chai and Butter Tart Supreme with this amazing milk foamer. I had to buy one for myself.
I thought I just might escape the most of winter while away for three months, but alas, not so. There's been lots of snow and shovelling since returning mid February.
Now it’s time to cuddle up with my tea-pet of choice, Golden Monkey. It and the wonderful memories of my trip bring me great joy and comfort in this moment.
Oh tea, you are so sweet!