The final green from my most recent order is Tai Ping Hou Kui. TPHK is a very long flat-pressed leaf that is very different from many teas of any type. The initial hit from the smell of the dry leaf is strange, it’s hard to really put a finger on. My best single description is vegetal. But there is much more in there, almost too much to properly separate the smells out for accurate description. My first brewing followed suit and I was actually unsure of anything.
It didn’t help that I used my little glass teapot that I bought for artistic teas, which doesn’t get much use by me. I used it so I could get the long leaves into the post without disturbing them. The teapot has a thin rim of plastic and a plastic lid with a huge stainless-steel mesh basket that would allow you to fill the entire teapot with leaf if you wanted to. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t allow two materials near my tea brewing: Metal and Plastic. I only went with this teapot because the “plastic” is actually nylon and it was highly recommended by a close friend.
The reason for that aside about the teapot was that I thought I could taste plastic in the first and second brewing, and it put me off. I switched over to a larger gaiwan of mine and the flavor persisted even with new leaf. I realized that the flavor was not that of plastic but some sort of roasted flavor from the tea. Now, I’m not sure if just the thought of the plastic taste tainted my view right off the bat, but it took me about 7 or 8 brewings to get past it… and that is why it took me this long to cover it. I’m still on the fence with this one. Again, yes, it is a highly prized and unique tea, but is it a favorite or an amazing standout? Not quite. I’d take my Huo Mountain Yellow or Teaspring’s Bi Lo Chun in a heartbeat over it. I do get the nutty and slightly sweet flavors but I do not ever experience the flowery notes they describe on their site. It is a complex flavor though and varies wildly based on the brewing so I’m not ruling out that I may get it to appear yet. I’ve found that a medium amount of leaf with a bit hotter water than normal for greens is my personal sweet spot. Just as in the initial smell, there is a lot going on with this tea, and that may appeal to many but for me it is just too much to really enjoy. It’s kind of like a treasure hunt where you could almost taste anything you can think of during each sip; charcoal, plastic, nut, sweet, sour, citrus, and what may be the strangest notion I’ve ever had with tea: Roast Beef. Yep. Roast beef. I have had this thought on more than one occasion while drinking this tea and while it may seem farcical I promise you it is there.
This tea has been an enigma from the first opening, it has taken me from plastic to roast beef and all points in between (of which there are quite a few). I’d say I got my money’s worth just in the adventure with this one. Would I place it in my personal 10 famous teas? No. Would I ever crave it? No. Can I understand the allure? No. But it is interesting, unique, very different, and a great singular experience? Yep.