Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vicony Teas Company, Premium Taiping Houkui Tea

Taiping Houkui Tea joined the celebrity circus in 1915 when it won the gold medal in Panama Pacific Exposition and became the youngest of the Chinese Top 10 Teas since then.

Its leaf measures up to 60 mm; it is the largest sized leaf tea among the famous green teas. It produced infusion with delicate orchid fragrance and a mellow taste which lasts up to four brewing. In a glass, the leaf gracefully sways in the water which is described as the ‘Phoenix dances’.

This is my second tea supplied by Vicony Teas Company. It is listed on their website as Art No: SHK03. This Premium Taping Houkui Tea was produced in the Xinming township, Taiping county at the foot of Huangshan Mountain of Anhui Province. Taping Houkui is also known as Monkey King Tea.

I grabbed this one because the leaf is so interesting. It looks a bit like dried corn husks. The leaf is wide and very long – it measured a lot longer than the description – and yellow/green in color. I have had strips of bacon that weren’t this big. This looks brittle and dry but smells fresh and green.

It was hard to decide how much leaf to use. I finally just grabbed a small handful and put it in my press – the more vertical pieces were projecting above the rim. I added water well below boiling and let it steep for almost two minutes. I did not have the recommended brewing instructions with me, so this was a guess (Turns out I was close, they recommend a bit longer steep time).

The brew is green. The wet leaf has an aroma I imagine is like ocean water. Though admittedly I have never smelled ocean water.

The sip also evokes images of ocean water. It seems oddly salty. I have never experienced that in tea before. At the beginning of the sip the taste has a cave like earthiness. What I mean is this is very mineral tasting and a bit like mushroom. It has a long lingering bitterness in the aftertaste. In between there is a moment when this tastes like raw white potatoes. There is a lot of vastly different things going on with this tea. As the cup cools the flavors do meld together more and you don’t notice the transitions as much. I also noticed the liquor feels thick almost syrupy, especially as it cools.

In some sense this slightly reminds me of Dragonwell but only very remotely as it does have a very mild hint of butteriness to it. This definitely is not naturally sweet to my tastes.

On the second cup I shortened the steep time and this seemed to eliminate the bitterness, otherwise the taste was pretty much like the first cup. I actually found myself missing the bitterness as I liked that element in the taste. On the third cup I went back to a two minute steep. This was probably the most balanced cup, though the first remains the most interesting. This tea had an added benefit of leaving my lungs feeling more open and had a cooling affect on my breath.

My review was not matching what I was read by others in their experience with taiping houkui tea. They experience more of an orchid flavor with a sweet aftertaste. With knowledge in hand I tried this tea a second day using a longer initial steep of three minutes. This did not seem salty to me this time, however the rest of my previous tasting experience still seems accurate. I believe what I am describing as cave, mineral, and mushroom, is what others describe as floral and orchid.

Next I paired this with a ham and turkey sandwich on wheat with a side of grapes. This tea worked perfectly with that combination. In fact it developed a bit of smoked flavor that I would not have noticed otherwise. An excellent combination.

Camellia Sinensis never ceases to amaze me. How can that many different flavors and that vast an array of different leaf appearances come from one plant? This one is so different in an odd, but even more oddly, likeable way. I think most tea drinkers in the western culture would pass right over this one with out giving it a fair chance. My initial reaction is this is not likely to become a favorite of mine but I can’t wait to try another cup with different parameters to see what happens. Thanks to Vicony Teas for the opportunity to experience something interesting and different.


  1. It is very interesting that you thought it was not sweet. Taiping Hou Kui tea is usually considered very sweet; almost like the flavor of the sugar cane. Also, I've never had a salty Taiping Hou Kui before. But it is good to hear another perspective on this tea.

    1. I have not given up on this tea yet. Based on other reviews on the internet, I feel I must be doing something wrong. The leaf amazing on this one!

  2. I'll be getting a shipment of two different Taiping Hou Kui's to try really soon. And I agree: the tea leaves are amazing! Have you tried brewing it in a tall glass? I don't know how big of a difference taste wise it would make, but it definitely amplifies the presentation.

    1. I have not tried it in a tall glass but I will now. Thanks for the idea.