It's quite hard to find good Tai Ping Hou Kui, in my impression, much harder than finding good Long Jing. That makes me a little stingy in drinking it.
Authentic TPHK has its leaves manually shaped one by one. Such kind of tedious labor often makes me feel guilty drinking the tea. Is it really worth it to make a tea in such a time-consuming and painstaking way? I don't dare to say it's not worth it. But I neither want to be the one processing the leaves nor the one paying big money to buy it :-p And if the tea is too expensive, I turn to other teas.
The TPHK I've got this year is pretty good, thanks to the cold spring weather. The leaves, in my eyes, are quite nice. But these are not the most beautiful leaves of Hou Kui. The top grade Hou Kui has all the leaves almost of the same length which would make me feel terribly guilty both for the labor it costs and for my own money :-p Again there is the question "is it worth it?" as there is no evidence that TPHK with even-length leaves taste better than that with shorter and longer leaves. But some people may think it's worth it, because the leaves can be so handsome and is one of the most beautiful tea scenes. As for me, I chose this one with modest leaves, which is still manually pressed one leaf after another one and, to me, is still quite expensive. So I was looking for a very small glass for Hou Kui.
Before I found a real glass that's small, I got a gift of red tea infuser. It's pretty much like a stout graduated cylinder with a cover and an infuser inlet. The infuser arrived broken but the cylinder and cap are fine. I didn't plan to use it for red tea anyway, but was glad to find it a nice vessel for Hou Kui.
Now this is my official Hou Kui glass (although I use it and its cap for white tea too). I use a small yixing of about 130ml as the water decanter. Hou Kui is a high mountain tea from Anhui and steeps well in very hot water. Unlike Zhejiang tea drinker, many Anhui tea drinkers never have the habit of cooling water before tea brewing. Very few Anhui green teas can be hurt by the hottest boiling water (when brewed in a small vessel, no cap, no steaming...). But I prefer to let the boiling water take a side step through the yixing before pouring it to the glass a short while later.
Hou Kui is a very volume-y tea. What's in the glass is very little by weight. This "red tea infuser" is small and tall, exactly what I had wanted for Hou Kui!
Tea is not a luxury of money. That's what I believe. If there weren't some strange-minded person ever inventing such a strange-looking tea this hard to make, then even the richest person wouldn't have a chance of this drinking experience. As far as I know, none of the emperors in Chinese history had the opportunity to enjoy the luxury of Hou Kui.
6 months ago