Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea From TeaVivre

I found myself today yearning for a Chinese green tea. That is a rather broad term for such a diverse category of teas. Unfortunately, I must admit that at the moment my selection of Chinese green teas is rather limited. Fortunately, those few green teas I do have come from a reputable source, TeaVivre.

This particular sample today is one I have been holding on to, and looking forward to the day when I had the time to truly enjoy the experience. Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea, particularly those of good quality, is arguably one of the most interesting teas to visually observe in all stages of the review: dry, steeping in water, and exhausted. I made sure to keep some extra memory on my phone/camera for this review.

TeaVivre sources this Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from the Houkeng Tea Garden, located in the famous Huangshan area of Xinming County, Anhui Province, China. This tea garden sits at an elevation of about 2,600 feet (800 meters) above sea level. The leaves used for this tea are harvested from the Shidacha seedling bush, a large leaf species. This harvest is usually performed in late April. This particular sample is from the 2017 spring harvest.

Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea is in the list of top ten Chinese green teas, and is renowned for, among other things, the uniquely flattened, long leaves. The leaves are seriously as flat and thin as a piece of paper. It’s appearance is unlike any other style of tea I have ever come across, and is immediately identifiable.

Let’s get to the review… Be prepared … There are more photos than usual, and this tea deserves the extra attention.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 1)
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (shot 2)

The dry leaves vary in color from pale bright green to pale dark green. The leaves are all unbroken, fully intact leaves still attached to the shoot. There are no fragments or bare stems in the mix. The leaves all measure between 3 and 4 inches long (75 to 100 mm). I expect there to be two to three leaves and a bud attached to the shoot. The leaves have the standard paper thin, flat appearance, as Tai Ping Hou Kui teas should have. The classic checkered pattern is also present on the leaves (see the photo below), a result of the process used to flatten the leaves. The aroma has scents of fresh cut grass, light brown sugar, and a subtle touch of wild flowers.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Dry Leaves (Close Shot)

Forgive me for this, but I had to use my clear glass infuser mug to steep these leaves. I really wanted to observe the infusion process. So I used the full contents of the five gram sample packet in the twelve ounce (355 mL) mug, and infused in 175°F (80°C) water for 2:00 minutes.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infusion Process
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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a pale, light yellow-green color. The aroma has scents of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of brown sugar. The body is medium, with a silky, refreshing texture. There is a medium level of astringency, and no bitterness. The taste has notes of fresh grass, sweet corn, wild flowers, peas, and a touch of lemon. The aftertaste starts off grassy, and evolves into an impressive, lasting flowery essence. This flowery essence is truly remarkable.

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Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a fairly uniform fresh forest green color. The blend consists entirely of unbroken, whole leaves and buds still attached to the shoots. The pluck varies from two leaves and a rather developed bud to three leaves and a developed bud. The  opened leaves are long and very narrow, and have an incredibly soft, smooth texture. The aroma carries the scents of grass, peas, and wild flowers.

This Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is, in my opinion, a very good quality specimen of this style of tea considering the price that TeaVivre offers it at, and the fact that this is only their “premium” version (i.e. not their best quality offered). In addition to the enjoyment I got out of observing the leaves in all stages of the review, the aroma and taste quality of the infusion itself was very admirable. I also got four quality infusions out of the leaves, and a fifth that was still worthy of drinking. There is no question in my mind as to why this is in the top ten best styles of green tea from China. This product has all the characteristics of a Chinese green tea that people are looking for, with some specific qualities that cannot be found elsewhere. This is a tea worthy of the time it takes to fully observe and enjoy at all levels.

Thank you to TeaVivre for supplying this sample of Premium Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea! Cheers!

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Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea From TeaVivre

Today, I will be focusing on the Spring 2017 harvest of Huang Shan Green Tea provided by TeaVivre.

The TeaVivre website is among my favorite tea vendor sites because it provides so much interesting content on each of its products, including harvest information, garden information, history, etc. A website with this amount of information on each product is a great credit to the owner of the business, proving that they care about the quality of products they are offering, and actually know and want to teach about the products they are offering. They are not just sourcing cheap teas and selling at retail price to make the most profit. They are proud of where their products are sourced from. Cheers to TeaVivre for their care and efforts!

True Huang Shan Mao Feng green teas are sourced from the Yellow Mountain (HuangShan) in the Anhui province of China. The tea bush used to make this style of tea is of the HuangShan large-leaf type. This type of tea bush is known for the number of buds it produces, and the abundance of downy-like fuzz on those buds. It is also quite cold-tolerant, which is important since it is grown in the mountains.

This particular Huang Shan Mao Feng green tea is sourced from the Dailing Tea Garden, which is owned and operated by Mr. Ke, in Da Guyun Village. Mr. Ke has been working with his family in tea growing since the age of 15.

You can purchase 50 grams of this Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea for USD $10.90 from the TeaVivre website.

The map below shows the general location of HuangShan.

Let’s get to the review.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea – Dry Leaves

The dry leaves have a bright, fresh forest green color, with the buds having silver downy-like fuzz on them. The stems have a green-yellow color. The pluck is mostly two leaves and a tender bud intact on the shoot, and a few detached leaf fragments. There are no totally bare stems in the mix. There are no obvious signs of oxidation on the leaves, indicating that the leaves were properly processed to stop the oxidation process very shortly after being harvested. The leaves are very lightly rolled, and have a light, fluffy density. The aroma has scents of fresh hay, light brown sugar, light vanilla, and a touch of pecan and dried chrysanthemum. The aroma is gently sweet and very attractive.

Five grams of dry leaves were placed in a 5 ounce (150 mL) porcelain gaiwan, and infused with 175°F (80°C) water for 30 seconds. Each subsequent infusion added another 30 seconds.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea – Liquid

The liquid has a light, green-yellow color. The aroma has scents of chrysanthemums, fresh hay, and lighter scents of steamed asparagus and baby spinach. The body is medium, which is more than I expected, with a very smooth, buttery texture. There is a nice astringency in the earlier infusions, which provides an uplifting energy to the tea. The taste has notes of chrysanthemums, hay, steamed asparagus, and a lighter note of baby spinach. The aftertaste carries the floral notes, and leaves a refreshing, lingering floral essence in the mouth.

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Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea – Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh, bright forest green color. There is no reddish tint on any of the leaves, confirming that very minimal oxidation had occurred in the leaves prior to processing, as is expected from a green tea. The leaves, buds, and shoots appear to be rather young and tender. There appears to be signs of bug bites on a few of the leaves, perhaps indicating a lack of chemical pesticides being used on the farm, which is definitely a good thing. The aroma carries the scents of chrysanthemum, hay, grass, and lighter notes of steamed asparagus and baby spinach.

The Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea from TeaVivre is an excellent example of a classic, world-renowned Chinese green tea. Neither overpowering or underwhelming, this green tea is a perfect way for black tea drinkers to begin their expansion into other styles of tea. The fresh, floral character of this tea provides an uplifting, refreshing experience. The body is fuller than expected, and provides a nice depth of texture that serves as an excellent first impression of the tea liquid as it passes the lips. Tea drinkers who want and prefer that grassy, vegetal punch from a green tea may find this style to be underwhelming and generally unimpressive. But for those who can appreciate the varying styles of green tea, this one will be a highly satisfying experience.

Thank you to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Spring 2017 Huang Shan Mao Feng Green Tea! I am looking forward to reviewing the other products included with this sample packet. Cheers!

Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre

Today’s review will focus on the Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre. TeaVivre does many things well, like offering many varieties and grades of Chinese teas (and some Taiwan oolongs), being generous with offering samples, having competitive pricing, and reasonable shipping times. However, I think the best thing about TeaVivre is how much information on every single tea is provided on the website. Every tea that I have looked at has two full pages of useful and interesting maps. photos, and information, from the history of each tea product itself, to the specific production methods, to the grower, and the history of the region that the tea originated in. I cannot think of another tea retailer, myself included, who provides such in depth information about the products offered. Knowing much about the tea you are about to drink makes the experience that much more interesting, and TeaVivre does a phenomenal job of giving you all the information you could want about each product.

So, rather than repeat all of the great information that TeaVivre already offers on the product page, I will simply highlight a few details. This product is grown and manufactured in Hou Keng, on the famous Huangshan Mountain of Anhui Province, China. This tea is completely handmade. The unique production method of this tea causes the leaves to be flat and thin, with very specific textured markings. There is no mistaking the Tai Ping Hou Kui style of green tea from other styles. The cultivar used is the Shidacha (Shiyecha), a large leaf member of the Camellia Sinensis Sinensis family.

The sample packet has been opened, and the unique look of the Tai Ping Hou Kui leaves is immediately recognized. Let the journey begin…

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves range in color from light forest green to dark forest green. There is a reddish stripe visible on some of the leaves, which is characteristic of Tai Ping Hou Kui. The leaves are mostly whole leaves and large fragments. There are some crumbs and medium fragments, but I am assuming that these are the result of having to break some of the larger leaves to fit into the sample packet. The pluck appears to be two leaves and a medium sized bud. The average length is around two inches (51 mm). The leaves are flat, thin, and have the textured imprints typical of Tai Ping Hou Kui. There are no bare stems in the mix. The smell has scents of brown sugar, raw cacao, toasted nuts, dry grass, and dried apricot.

Three grams of dry leaves were placed in a five ounce (150 ml) porcelain infusion cup. Purified water was heated to 185°F (85°C). The leaves were infused for 3:00 minutes.

My suggestion for at home preparation is to use three grams of dry leaves for every six to eight ounces (180 to 240 ml) of water to be used. Heat water to 175°F (75°C). Steep the leaves for 1:30 to 2:00 minutes. If possible, use a glass teapot or even a tall drinking glass for infusion so that you may watch the leaves open in the water. Expect three to four quality infusions out of the same serving of leaves.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a pale, light yellow color, almost like the flesh of an apricot, clear and transparent. There is a mild amount of fine particles in the cup. The aroma carries scents of fresh grass, toasted nuts, light brown sugar, steamed asparagus, butter, and lighter scents of flowers and apricot. The body is medium, with a clean and crisp texture. There is a medium level of astringency. The taste has notes of toasted nuts, fresh grass, steamed asparagus, light butter, light flowers, and apricot undertones. The aftertaste carries the grass and asparagus notes, and evolves into a strong, persistent floral essence that lingers on the breath for minutes. As the aftertaste evolves into the floral character, the tea will have a drying effect on the mouth and tongue.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves

The infused leaves have a uniform fresh forest green color. The leaves are mostly large fragments and whole leaves with stems intact. The stems show a two leaf and medium bud pluck, with the leaves enveloping the bud quite securely as a result of the unique production method. The leaves unfold into fairly long and narrow leaves, indicating the Shidacha cultivar. The leaves have a lightly grooved texture (as shown more clearly in the photo below), and are quite fragile. There are some leaves with a few small black specks on them. According to the TeaVivre website, this is a result of the manual drying method (as compared to the mechanized drying method) used by the manufacturer. The smell has scents of fresh grass, flowers, light apricot, and asparagus broth.

TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture
TeaVivre Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea Infused Leaves Texture

The Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea from TeaVivre is a very good quality product of this type. The appearance of the leaves is immediately recognizable. The aroma and taste of the liquor are both highly attractive and consistent through three infusions. The slightly brisk, crisp quality of the tea is refreshing and uplifting. Tai Ping Hou Kui is among my preferred Chinese green teas, both for the visual qualities, as well as the taste/smell. This Nonpareil Cha Wang version from TeaVivre provided the full experience that I come to expect from a good quality Tai Ping Hou Kui green tea.

Thanks to TeaVivre for providing this sample of Nonpareil Cha Wang Tai Ping Hou Kui Green Tea. Visit the TeaVivre site, and check out the wealth of teas and information, by clicking here. Cheers!

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea from Changsha Nutrahealth

On October 18th of 2013, my journey through the world of tea tasting carried me to the Anhui Province of China. This sample of Keemun Mao Feng tea was provided by Changsha Nutrahealth Biotech Co.

The leaves used in this tea are the same leaves used in the well known and delicious Huang Shan Mao Feng green tea. Generally, these tea bushes are grown in the Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) region of the Anhui Province. There are some awe inspiring photos of these tea plantations that can be found with a simple Google search of “Huang Shan Tea Farm photo.”

The sample pack has been opened, and a sweet smell of dried fruit and licorice is nicely complimenting the brilliant looking black and gold leaves. Let the journey begin…

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Dry Leaves
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Dry Leaves

The dry leaves of this Keemun Mao Feng black tea are either a uniform black or gold in color, with a slight edge to the gold leaves in overall number. The leaves are nicely twisted, with a fairly uniform size and shape. The pluck is very evident, being one leaf and the bud. The aroma is sweet, like dried fruit, there is also another slightly sweet and spicy scent, I am going to classify it as licorice, for lack of a better term. There is minimal breakage and no crumbs.

The standard method of preparation was used for this sample. Purified spring water was heated to 200°F (96°C). Seven and a half grams of dry tea leaves were placed in a 21 ounce (600 ml) cast iron tetsubin teapot. The leaves were infused for two minutes.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 1st Infusion
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 1st Infusion

The first infusion produced a liquor with a lively deep amber color, clear and transparent. The aroma is sweet like malt, and slightly woodsy. The body is full, with a smooth texture. The taste is sweet (malt), with a very light and pleasant bitterness. The aftertaste is mild and lightly malty.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 2nd Infusion
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 2nd Infusion

The second infusion produced a lively deep amber color, very slightly lighter than the first infusion. The aroma remains malty and woodsy. The body remains full and smooth, very slightly lighter than the first infusion. The taste remains sweet (malt), with the bitterness lightening slightly. Aftertaste remains mild and malty. This was a very tasteful second infusion, almost at the same level as the first.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 3rd Infusion
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea 3rd Infusion

The third infusion produced a brighter shade of amber color. The aroma lightened some, but remains malty, with the woodsy quality having diminished. The body remains surprisingly full and smooth. The taste remains malty, although lighter than the second infusion, with the very light bitterness remaining. Aftertaste is lighter. Overall, still a tasteful third infusion for a black tea. I believe a fourth infusion could provide an acceptable flavor.

Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Infused Leaves
Keemun Mao Feng Black Tea Infused Leaves

The dry leaves are a perfectly uniform lighter brown color. Pluck is one fine leaf and a bud. Plenty of buds are present, as well as plenty of fully intact leaves, some still attached to the stem. There are also some leaf fragments, but even so are larger fragments. The aroma is sweet and malty. The leaves are somewhat durable, suggesting that a fourth infusion may have some taste to offer.

Having sampled many Darjeeling and Ceylon black teas recently, this Keemun Mao Feng was a nice way to return to the realm of Chinese black tea. This is a nicely balanced, full bodied black tea that anyone can enjoy. Although I found no need for additives to enjoy this tea, it would certainly take milk or cream well. All three infusions had a high quality taste and beautiful color. This tea is ideal for beginning the day. It is easy to understand why teas of this style are popular in breakfast blends.