Golden Monkey Tea is a Chinese black tea that gets its name from the hairy golden tips and the shape of the dry leaves, which resemble a monkey claw. It took second place in the ‘Signature Famous Tea: Hot Tea Class’ of the 2009 World Tea Championship.
Golden Monkey tea is made from the buds and the first leaves of the tea plant. These are withered lightly in the sun, then fermented and dried. This process results in a distinctive, light flavor with honeyed peach tones and no bitterness.
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Where to Buy Golden Monkey Tea
This tea can be found in many specialty tea shops or through a number of online vendors. If you are unsure where to begin, you can check out some of my recommendations below.
How to Prepare Golden Monkey Tea
The preparation instructions given here are for loose leaf teas. For tea bags, you can just follow the instructions given on the box.
The best brewing temperature is 90-95ºC (194-205ºF), which is just below the boiling point. You can simply boil the water using a stove-top kettle and then let it cool for 20 seconds.
If you plan on trying a lot of varieties of tea and/or coffee it might be worth it to invest in a water boiler/warmer/dispenser or an electric kettle with a variable temperature setting.
Personally, I recommend this Cuisinart kettle, because it has presets for every type of tea, so you always get the perfect temperature:
This tea can be brewed in a variety of vessels. For these instructions, I will use a traditional Chinese clay teapot known as an yixing. They come in many shapes and sizes. The following is an example:
- Fill both the teapot and the cup about halfway with hot water to pre-heat them. Tilt them a bit so that the water creeps up the side and then rotate them so the insides get wet all the way around. Then pour the water out.
- Put 1-2 teaspoons of Golden Monkey leaves into the teapot. If using a different vessel, use 1-2 teaspoons for every 8 oz. (236 ml) of water.
- Fill the teapot with 90-95ºC (194-205ºF) water.
- Place the lid on the teapot and let the tea steep for 2 minutes.
- Pour the tea into the teacups and enjoy your tea!
- You can get 3-5 infusions out of most varieties. Increase the steeping time 30 seconds for each infusion. How many infusions you do depends entirely on your taste. Experiment.
Use the amounts given in these instructions as a rough guide. If you find the resulting tea too weak, add more tea leaves; if it is too strong, reduce the amount of leaves used. Similarly, try increasing or decreasing the steeping times.
Here is a video showing how to brew Golden Monkey tea. For those asking about the glass teapot with infuser in the video, that link takes you to a post reviewing the 10 best.
Best Golden Monkey Teas
Many people already have an account with Amazon.com so it is probably the easiest place to buy tea online. The best Golden Monkey tea I’ve found on Amazon is this one from Golden Moon.
Art of Tea has the highest quality Organic Golden Monkey I’ve found online. At the time of writing, it was actually a bit cheaper than the one from Golden Moon above, but I like it a lot better.
If you are looking for something cheaper still, you might want to check out Teavivre’s Golden Monkey.
The quality is pretty good, considering the price, but it doesn’t come close to the one from Art of Tea.
More Information About Golden Monkey Tea
Golden Monkey tea leaves are grown at altitudes of over 1000 meters above sea level in the cloudy and misty mountains of Fujian and Yunnan provinces in China. The leaves are hand-picked.
Pickers carefully remove only the bud and first leaf. They wait until the tips are as large as they can possibly get without actually opening into a new leaf.
This results in a sweetness to the tea, because the tips contain more sugar at this point, which they were storing to help them grow into full leaves. These tips are the part of the tea that turns golden when oxidized, lending it a unique appearance.
Some say the name comes from the fact that monkeys are used to pick the tea, because it grows on slopes too steep for humans. This is not true. The name actually comes from the fact that the leaves look like monkey claws (I don’t really see it, to be honest).
About three quarters of the leaves have a dark brown color and are about an inch long. They are twisted up, which is what gives them the supposed monkey claw appearance. The remaining quarter of the leaves are the tips, which take on the golden color. The ratio of dark leaves to golden tips can vary, as you can see in the photo at the top of this page.
As mentioned, the golden tips add a slight sweetness to the tea, giving it a flavor reminiscent of bittersweet chocolate, but without any actual bitterness. It also contains notes of stone fruits and nuts. In terms of color, the steeped tea is best described as honey-brown to copper.
Growers in Yunnan have been growing this tea for 1700 years, but have only recently begun producing it for export. For that reason, it is a fairly new tea on the world market, with a short history of only 20 years or so.