Posted by: ben | March 24, 2009

breaking out the zoo

monkey-header(title with apologies to Belle & Sebastian)

Ben: Scrabbling through the ridiculously big box of samples we received from Adagio, there were three or four I pounced on before Dan could get his grubby giant’s hands all over them. One of those, and the one I was most eager to review, was Golden Monkey, a variety I’d been reading up on ever since creating this blog.

Tearing open the packet, the bag is very reminiscent of teapigs’ silver tips white tea which we reviewed a month or two ago. Now, Dan gets a bit grumpers about tea being in bags, saying that tea was born loose and should stay loose. I’m kinda indifferent on the subject – as long as the tea is nice, who cares if it’s in bags or if it’s loose? Frankly, a bag is more convenient – cleaning up after making a loose leafer takes forever and leaves leaves (sorry) all over the bottom of the sink.

This, then, would be a bit of a litmus test for me. I’d tried teapigs’ bags when reviewing their silver tips but that was when I was something of a tea tenderfoot.

The leaves and the packet

The leaves and the packet

Let’s do this properly. The smell of the leaves is very woody, what we’d expect from a normal black tea. The leaves themselves look a little lost in the bag, but squinting through the gauze shows lovely little twisted leaves that are dark at one end and a wonderful, vivid gold at the other. I couldn’t capture this particularly well with my shonky camera – their website has a great illustration of them. Just from looking at these bad boys you know they’re not the normal leaves used in other teas. Oh boy oh boy!

Adding water gives, disappointingly, a pretty average ‘black tea’ smell. There’s nothing overly unique about the smell – it’s got a light freshness about it that’s perhaps a little more characteristic of white tea but this is, as far as I’m concerned, No Real Worry.

Because the reason we make tea is for the taste.

Rich Uncle Monkey Bags

Rich Uncle Monkey Bags

And the taste here is amazing.

I really mean that! I bandy that word around in my reviews far too much but here it’s entirely deserved. With a dot of milk and a tiny amount of sugar (look, I’m trying to go pure but it’s a struggle, ok?), it’s utter utter heaven. It’s got the lovely smokey depth of a ceylon but with a full mouthy texture and, brilliantly, a wonderful note of the darkest of dark chocolates you’ve ever had. Drinking the tea over half an hour and letting it cool, that chocolate flavour becomes more pronounced, meaning that I actually wanted it to cool down before drinking it further.

What does this mean? Well, my standard go-to blends if I want a black tea (and most of the time I do!) are Jing’s English Breakfast (which I really need to review sooner or later) or their Ceylon Black. I’m now going to have to add this blend into that rotation – have to, you understand! Adagio only sent us one bag of this so now I am forced to go over to their website and figure out how much I can afford.

Oh, and the teabag issue? I’m a little torn. It was nice to be able to make the drink so quickly with little mess but the leaves looked too crammed into the bag. They didn’t unfurl fully as they do in my infuser or my teapot which makes me think they’re not especially superior. But when the tea tastes this good, who cares?!

Ben was drinking Adagio’s Golden Monkey, available loose from their American site from $4 for a sample tin of ten cups and in bags from their UK site for £5.99 for 15 bags. Decisions decisions!



  1. Adagio is a great company, and I do love Golden Monkey teas, so I must try this one.

    Thanks for another great review!

    • Thank you! Do give it a try – it really is a wonderful example.

      Out of interest, which other Golden Monkeys have you tried? Are there any particular favourites?

  2. The other Golden Monkey that I have tried was at Teaism in Washington DC. A wonderful small chain of tea rooms…splendid food, too. Their salty oat biscuits were to die for!

    • There’s not many tea chains as such in the UK. Those that do exist tend to focus on the Olde English Tea Experience (doilies, cakes, bone china cups etc) rather than the tea itself.

      What a luxury to have not just a cafe where looseleaf tea is served but a whole chain of them!

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