Extremely small batch, fully handmade version of this top drawer Chinese Green tea.
Skip to 18:30 for a tasting of this tea.
Hou Kui is a tea which looks stunning but degrades very quickly over time. This is partly due to the fact that the leaves are pressed flat using machine presses for a glorious appearance. The leaf juices are brought to the surface which is great when drinking fresh but this combination of a thin leaf with all of the juices on the surface means that the leaf will shrink and darken quickly.
For this small batch, the producer did not use a machine press to flatten the leaves. This means that the look of the leaves are less flat and darker green. Making the tea in this way (without the use of machine pressing) means that the leaf liquor is stored more within the leaves leading to a richer taste which will not degrade as quickly over time.
Taiping Hou Kui is a deceptive tea because it has such large leaves but the flavour is so fragrant and delicate. Consistently voted one of China's top ten teas, Hou Kui is a special tea made in Tai Ping county from the larger and pointy Shi Da cultivar. This tea is different from other Green teas in that the larger the leaf, the better the tea is considered to be.
The leaves are processed differently from other Green tea in that they are individually placed on cloth (after firing) and pressed flat before baking at various temperatures. They do not undergo any further rolling. You may notice a criss cross pattern on the leaf which comes from being pressed between sheets of cloth.
Hou Kui is a very delicate tea and must be stored in perfect conditions otherwise it darkens and loses its verve and aromatics. Be very careful to keep this tea airtight and in a cool location and make sure that you are drinking this year's tea!
Oh and in case you were wondering, this tea is NOT picked by monkeys. This name comes from the legend that these tea trees growing on the edges of cliffs were too dangerous for the farmers to pick and so they trained monkeys to go and pluck the leaves. This is not true and has never happened as far as we are aware.