Today’s tea is especially fun.
Taiping HouKui, also called “Taiping Best Monkey Tea”, is considered one of the top 10 teas in China and is known for it’s (rather comically) large strips.
Plucked from the Shi Da Cha cultivar which is bred for its long, slender leaves, the best production comes from the town of Taiping in Anhui Province. The leaves are fixed green and then laid between layers of canvas, weighted down to flatten the leaves into thin strips, and oven-baked.
More about these special leaves in a moment. First, a little bit of intrigue to whet your mind:
The name “Houkui” actually means “Monkey King”. Legend has it that this cultivar of Camellia Sinensis was created when the Monkey King fell ill and died after losing his son. The day after his death, a gardener found the King’s body and buried him. A year later, in appreciation for the burial, tea plants had grown where the King was laid to rest. The gardener then cared for the tea plants and began to harvest the leaves and create this unique tea.
This tea can be a bit of a challenge to find and falsification is rampant, so be sure to purchase your Taiping HouKui from a reputable vendor that is known for quality teas. You’ll know you purchased a fake if the leaves look symmetrical.
As usual, I found Harney & Sons had this tea ready to procure.
Before steeping your tea, take a few moments to examine the leaves. Appreciate the delicate hint of the cross-hatch print embossed on the leaves from the canvas press, the deep green with white stripes and the occasional hint of red. With leaves ranging up to 3 inches long, it feels like you’re holding a piece of green bacon in your hand (will you have it in a box with a fox?).
When you’re ready to brew, it will feel like you’re about to cook some spaghetti with how the leaves stick up out of your cup. Have no fear! Once you pour your 175 degree water over the top, the leaves quickly bend and tuck nicely inside your vessel. Steep your green bacon tea for 2-3 min.
Some people suggest steeping the tea in a tall cylindrical glass to watch the leaves sway. This is often called the “Phoenix dances”.
Lori and I had such a kick with this tasting that we had to take a few extra pics for giggles. Enjoy!
Look at this tea leaf, y’all! This thing is ridiculous!! These leaves are almost as long as my hand!! (Also, please pardon me with no makeup; totally impromptu pics.)
Sticking up out of the gaiwan:
Mmmmm… Green bacon anyone???
The liquor should be a light pale green with aromas of steamed green beans and wet hay. The scent will fade quickly as the leaves cool, so you’ll want to be sure to get your sniffs in quickly.
The light to medium bodied liquor doesn’t have as much flavor as the aromas let on, but you’ll hopefully pick up a light Lima bean / butter bean (for all you southern folk) flavor. It is mildly bitter, but surprisingly mellow and well rounded. The finish is still slightly astringent with no real flavor of it’s own.
No matter how many other thoughts that I try to have while sipping this tea, my thoughts seem to always swirl back to Dr. Seuss. It must be the green bacon like strips which immediately makes me think of his wonderful children’s book, Green Eggs and Ham. But more than that single book are the wonderful words of encouragement that we get from the pages of Dr. Seuss’ whimsical writings.
As an INTJ on the Myers-Briggs, many of these quotes resonate with my mind, but two in particular sum up Contemplative Thoughts:
“Think and wonder, wonder and think.”
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.”
May you always wonder, think, and dare to look at life through the wrong end of the telescope.
3 Replies to “Taiping HouKui”
Absolutely one of the most beautiful teas around to gaze upon. It inspired a whole art series for my blog last month. Like you I didn’t find the flavor as robust as other greens, but for the uniqueness of its processing and appearance make it something everyone should try. Thanks for sharing!