An excellent Hou Kui, worthy of its name and price tag. THIS HAS BAGS of Hou Yun from the first sip - that sweet orchid aftertaste that almost becomes juicy and zesty like fruit gummies.
This Hou Kui may look quite different to the larger, paler and flatter teas that you have seen - this is because this batch has been mostly handmade. The folding and pressing phase of the fresh leaves has been done by hand and fed one by one through a machine rather than laid out in large batches for the machines to do all of the work. The handmade Hou Kui may not have the same 'wow factor' appearance as the machine-made teas but, in general, produce a richer and more characterful tea and is reserved for the better leaves and terroir.
Watch me taste this batch (tasting starts at 28:50)
This 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 Taiping county from the larger and pointy Shi Da cultivar. This tea is different from other Green teas in that, generally, the larger the tender leaves, the better the tea is considered to be.
The leaves are processed differently from other Green tea. They go through a brief wok-fired Shaqing phase before being folded and pressed and laid out in drawers. These drawers are put in a heated oven and the drawers are moved to adjust the temperature. The leaves are baked at descending temperature before being laid and pressed flat for final drying. They do not undergo any further rolling.
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!
Hou Kui suits long and narrow brewing containers so we recommend brewing in a Flute Brewer or glass. We really like brewing this tea Grandpa style - in a glass and topping up with water.
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.