Taiping Houkui is a pleasant, mild green tea from Anhui Province in China. It's apparently sometimes listed as one of ten notable China Famous Teas, and it's name in Mandarin means "Monkey King," though nowhere in my research did I come across the origin of such an interesting name. The tea looks and smells wonderful right out of the pouch. The leaves look like a cross between pine needles and freshly cut grass, and the aroma is crisp, mildly sweet, and refreshing. The smell and appearance remind me a bit of Silver Needle white, a fantastic white tea, and one of my favorites (that will have to be an upcoming review).
One day, I'll buy a cheap thermometer just for making green tea. It's critical to get the temperature right for green and white teas, and it's not always so easy. My rule of thumb is grab the water while it's briskly steaming, but before small bubbles appear. Small bubbles mean boiling, boiling means scorched, bitter green tea. A thermometer would make this a bit easier, but I guess take some of the skill out of the process. Anyway, this time I got it right; briskly steaming water hits the leaves in my warmed pot, and they brew for about two minutes. Some sites I scanned about Taiping Houkui say as little as a minute and a half...your mileage may vary, but the one thing they all agree on is that this tea is one of those lucky ones that does well with multiple infusions. Simply lengthen the steeping time with each pot (or cup if you're brewing individually), and watch the flavors develop and change across each brewing. My review is based off of just the one infusion, but perhaps another time, I'll do several and note what changes with each new brewing.
This is a mild, pleasant green tea. The first sip confirms the initial aroma: very clean, crisp, and refreshing. The notes are mild; I find hints of vegetation and copper, and a very muted sweetness. Nothing stands out too much; this isn't a bold tea. But there are several unique and pleasant flavors mingling around behind a crisp texture and mouthfeel, and absolutely none of the astringency that sometimes appears in a green. Taiping Houkui leaves a pleasant, lingering aftertaste with faint floral notes, again reminding me just a little bit of Silver Needle. At the end of a cup, my mouth feels clean and refreshed.
Something I've found of mild greens and whites is that they play well with citrus. A splash of lemon or orange juice often mingles well with the soft floral flavors. Yes, it's sort of a waste of a fine tea, but it's also a great mix of flavors. In this case, 100% grapefruit juice met Taiping Houkui, for a sweet and refreshing mixture.
Score: 80 (B-) Nothing bold in this tea, but a nice, clean, refreshing cup that mostly reminds me, I should get more Silver Needle white.