For any of my readers who are affected by or going to be affected by Hurricane Matthew, stay safe! This particular Hurricane looms heavily in my mind for two reasons, the first and most important is I have family in its path living in Charleston, luckily they are smart and evacuated to the rest of my family in PA, but before I knew they were evacuating I was obviously worried. The other reason is it reminds me of one of the more impactful events of my early life, Hurricane Hugo. I was living in Columbia, SC at the time when that beast slammed full on into the Carolinas, at the time it was the most costly hurricane to hit the US (long since been removed from the top ten) but still ranks #2 on the Hurricane Severity Index. I could tell many stories of the night Hugo hit, they are some of my most vivid early memories, but the real impact this storm (and the tornado I experienced about a month later) had was instilling a phobia of storms that lasted for YEARS. I was almost an adult before I finally broke that phobia, all those (and still) I spent studying Meteorology and eventually the phobia turned to fear, then respect, then outright love.
Today I am looking at a tea that I have not had in literal years, Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea, specifically one from MeiMei Fine Teas. My first time having this tea all those years ago sadly did not wow me, I thought that it was tasty but kinda boring, that I was paying the steep price for the visual appeal rather than taste (like with blooming teas) and figured I should indulge in other green teas. When MeiMei Fine Teas sent me a sample of their Tai Ping Hou Kui I was excited to give this style another chance, especially since their teas have all impressed me in the past. First off, these leaves are impressive, massively long emerald to peridot (when a rockhound tries to describe colors) green leaves with a delicate patterning of the pressing. The other TPHK (as I am not abbreviating this tea) I had was machine processed, this one is handmade, and I can tell, where the previous leaves were paler green and almost translucent, these are thicker and much more solid.
The aroma of the leaves is pretty great, light notes of green beans and asparagus, nutty sweet chestnuts and sesame with a touch of peanuts, and sweet green peas and cooked rutabaga. Like a ghost as my nose heats up the leaves, a sweet floral note arises from the leaves, it starts as peony and finishes as delicate orchids and is quite evocative of spring. I really love green teas that are vegetal and also have strong nutty tones, but delicate floral accompaniment is an extra layer of depth.
Originally I was going to brew this in my tall porcelain gaiwan I bought specifically for green tea, but I realized it would not do these leaves justice, so I went with the traditional method of brewing in a tall clear glass and pouring into a smaller glass. It is similar to grandpa style but instead of drinking from the leaves I am pouring it off, but still leaving some liquid in with the leaves. Sadly I do not have a gooseneck kettle (the only time I really want one is when I am dealing with delicate teas) and I have a very unsteady hand, so my bludgeoning pour meant a few leaf crumbs were broken off, I mention this because they were not there until I poured a deluge onto the leaves and all over my teadesk while trying to pour on the side of the cup. Oops. The aroma of the now wet leaves is green and crisp, notes of asparagus, cabbage, green beans, lima beans, spinach and peas dance with a subtle orchid and sesame notes. The liquid is light and sweet, notes of snap peas and chestnut with a hint of distant peony and cooked rutabaga.
The first steep is so crisp and green, crisp in taste and texture! It starts with notes of lettuce, water chestnuts, and bean sprouts. I have had other greens with notes of sprouts and water chestnut, but this one is the most distinct, I feel like I just bit into lightly sauteed both, still crisp and a touch raw, but with that slight cooked taste. Towards the finish notes of green bean and cooked peas, finishing a bit more savory than the start with a lingering aftertaste of alfalfa sprouts.
Oh my that is so smooth! Where the first steep was crisp, this steep is buttery and smooth. Blending notes of cooked spinach and cooked bean spouts with green bean and chestnut, I feel as though I am drinking the liquid form of a wonderful stir fry with a side of roasted chestnuts for dessert. The finish is a blend of cooked collards and cooked peas with a hint of starchy lima beans, the aftertaste is a delicate rain water on peony blossom that does not last too terribly long and has an almost effervescent quality.
This next steep is like a blend of the other two but with added fun, the crisp flavor notes of the first and the smooth mouthfeel of the second. It starts with sweet and crisp snap peas, water chestnut, and squash blossoms. Then it moves to cooked peas, bean sprouts, sweet chestnuts, and a gentle orchid note that blooms into the aftertaste. One of the best things about this tea is its longevity, usually a lot of greens kinda piddle out at steep three, but not this one, I sat and refilled it a good six times before I was too full of tea. Gongfu is hard when you are solo-ing a large amount!! I am so glad I gave this style tea another try, totally worth it.