Taiping Houkui Tea (Monkey Chief)
Why Big Is Sexy

An excellent mid grade, this 2009 spring harvested Taiping Houkui tea (Monkey Chief) is grown in the shady part of the Yellow Mountain above Taiping Lake.

As an office worker, I daydream from time to time.

I daydream I could retire early to an idyllic corner in China, where I would meditate early morning, sip tea and talk, watch the day go by in a stroll.

Where would I go?

Hangzhou is the tea capital of China, but it is commercial and touristy. Lhasa is the spiritual heart of Buddhism, but it can be harsh and remote.

Then there is Wuyi Mountain: the world depository of tea plants. And at the top of my mind: Yellow Mountain (Huangshan).

Yellow Mountain

Yellow Mountain is the tallest mountain range in Eastern China, with the highest peaks reaching 1,864 meters. Alongside Guilin, it is considered by many to be the most spectacular of Chinese landscape.

Great scenic mountains produce great teas. This saying is nowhere truer than Yellow Mountain.

It nurtures 4 of 10 Famous Chinese Teas:

  • Taiping Houkui green tea

  • Huangshan Maofeng green tea

  • Liuan Guapian green tea

  • Keemun red tea

Celebrity Status

taiping houkuiAlthough Houkui tea is the youngest of the Famous 10, it was the first to win international acclaim.

It joined the celebrity circus in 1915 when it won the gold medal in Panama Pacific Exposition and became the first tea to win an international award in modern China.

The award-winning Houkui tea came from the famous villages of Houkeng, Hougang and Yanjiacun.

Today, these villages produce only a small quantity of tea each year, not enough to meet the huge Chinese demand.

The consequence...    

High Prices and Falsifications

Wholesale prices are driven sky-high. Low cost factories spring up like mushrooms. Quality suffers. People like you and me buy cheap products and ask "I can't see why this is a famous tea?"

So when I discovered Hu's tea garden in a relatively remote part of Yellow Mountain, I simply couldn't contain my excitement.

His tea garden lies just a few kilometers away from the famous tea villages, costs much less, and still retains the essential spirit of this wonderful tea.

Taiping Lake

taiping houkuiHu's tea garden resides at an altitude of 500 meters, surrounded on its 3 sides by the scenic Taiping Lake.

It is an out-of-this-world paradise. Breathtakingly beautiful.

When HQ visited, he too was impressed.

He is not easy to please. His family owns 3 tea gardens in the most pristine part of Lion Peak Mountain. That is the benchmark he is comparing against.

Despite its natural beauty, Taiping Lake is still not widely known in China.

It probably is just a matter of time. The Lake has recently been voted as the most scenic Lake resort.

And best of all, Hu owns a garden in the shady part of the Mountain. The locals say tea produced here has a delicious aroma.

Big Is Sexy

taiping houkuiIn the world of Houkui tea, size matters.

While Dragon Well is usually graded by harvesting dates, Houkui tea is graded by size.

The larger, the better.

In fact, the word Houkui means Monkey Chief. So called because it is made from the largest and stoutest tea shoots from the Monkey villages.

It is one of those few teas that I get easily excited about.

While Eastern China is dominated by small-leaf varieties, the Houkui tea plant produces enormous leaves of up to 15 centimeters, which shrink to half the length after processing.

Can you believe it? Hu harvests his tea over just 2 weeks in the spring. It takes only a few days for these tea shoots to become this big...

See the picture to the right?

Going Upclose and Personal...

taiping houkui tea
Click To Enlarge

While the leaves are big, they somehow retain the pointed shape of a high grade.

The one-bud-and-two-leaf are known as "two knives and one pole."

You can even detect the crisscross patterns and faint red veins.

Houkui tea is baked rather than roasted. The process is time consuming. It takes Hu 1 hour to make 1.5 kilograms.

While China has many thousands of teas, only a handful has a name ascribed to its taste.

Houkui tea is one.

The pristine environment and baking give Houkui tea the unique Monkey Yun, which is often described as a sweet vegetal and silky feeling, sometimes with a perfume at the back of the mouth.

For further information about this amazing tea, read Taiping Houkui Tea - The Insider's Guide.

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Reviews and Feedback

Ian from Kostelec nad Orlici rates Jipin grade 4.5 out of 5

The Monkey King maybe my favourite green tea (or Anji Bai Cha), it has a lot to live up to, though I have only had low grades before.

This tea blows them out of the water, especially when opening the bag. I'm very satisfied. I give it a 4.5 out of 5. There is something missing for it to be a full 5, but I can't put my finger on it, it could quite easily be the water I'm using (dead filtered tap water).

The leaves are a mix of medium and long, the longest being about 9cm, but I am slightly surprised by their appearance, I think I expected the individual leaves to be long, but the overall length includes some stalk. This has no apparent detrimental affect on flavour.

Matthew from Silver Spring Jipin grade 3.5 out of 5

The 2009 Green Monkey King, has an absolutely wonderful aroma.

However, I got two bags, and noticed an inconsistency in the aroma and flavor between the two bags. One of them was green, and flowery, the other had more of a roasted vegetal aroma.

I can not rate this higher then 3.5 because of the inconsistency of the bags.

However, I would absolutely buy this tea again. It has a light, gentle soft flavor, floating and cloud like on the palette. Each one of the bags offers a slightly different flavor.

Thank You for providing such awesome tea!

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