2012 Tai Ping Hou Kui

I have to confess that I started this tea session with the plan to use my jade gaiwan. The last time I used it was just after its purchase in Dali (大理) with some average shou puer. It didn’t work particularly well. I had the thought that maybe it would work better with some green tea. When I started warming everything, I poured some hot water (probably around 90 C) into the gaiwan and heard the terrifying sound of cracking stone. Ah, impermanence! The gaiwan is still intact, but I’ve made the decision that it is definitely more of a show piece than a tea pot. Back to the shelf it goes!

For the tea, I chose a large-leafed green that I don’t make enough: Tai Ping Hou Kui (太平猴魁), usually called “The Monkey King”. Hou Kui tea is from Liu’An (六安) in Anhui (安徽) province, where I spent a few days last spring. This particular Hou Kui was purchased from some friends we met there who owned a small tea company.

The cultivar, according to Wikipedia, is Shi Da Cha. The leaves are massive. I think that they’re larger than any Hou Kui I’ve had before. When I was in Liu’An I didn’t have a chance to see the bushes where these leaves were harvested, but now I wish that I had made an effort. Beautifully pressed into flat, patterned leaf sets much like Hangzhou Long Jing, they melt into the gaiwan like long pasta once water is poured on.

What a delicious experience! It was stronger than I expected. Greener tasting, too, for a year-old tea. Bold and sweet, a bit spinach-like with a crisp finish. I started brewing with 1 minute at around 80 C to begin with, by the third infusion I am steeping it for 3 minutes. Still, the crisp green flavor remains.

I thought that some bold green tea (even from last year) might be a good choice for today to help start the season. The sunshine is appearing on and off, and there’s definitely the feeling of Spring in the air. The qi of this tea is solid and stout; it’s energizing but not overly so. A delicate pale-green liquor reminds me of new-grown grass.

Still potent after 5 infusions (3.5 minutes), it’s impressive what can be made from so few leaves. I didn’t weigh them, but I generally infuse around 4g of leaf tea and this was probably half of that.

All told, I managed 6 good infusions before they started becoming a bit lightweight. With a few more leaves in the gaiwan, I bet I could have managed 8 easily. Well done, Xian Ming Xiang Li Pin Cha She (纤茗香礼品茶社)!

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