Taiping Houkui (太平猴魁, Gǔ fǎ Tài Píng Hóu Kuí, "Great Peace Monkey Chief") - Everything about this tea is remarkable, from the unique cultivar used, to its laborious and intensive processing method, down to its name which means “Great Peace Monkey Chief.” Hailing from Anhui province’s famous Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain), Tài Píng Hóu Kuí is one of China’s most famous green teas, and won global recognition by being awarded a gold medal at the 1915 World’s Fair in Panama. For starters, Tài Píng Hóu Kuí is the largest-leafed Chinese green tea, grown from a cultivar known as Shì Dà Zhǒng 柿大種 (“Persimmon Big Type”) because its leaves are as big as those of a persimmon (not really, it’s hyperbole). They are processed over the course of more than 24 hours, with picking beginning at dawn and ending once the morning dew has dried. The picking window can be as short as a week or two depending on the weather, and there is an entire ephemeral village at the top of the mountain that is uninhabited for most of the year that exists just for this brief flurry of activity. The freshly picked tea is allowed to rest before being fixed through the Shā Qīng 殺青 ("Kill the Green") process and fastidiously hand-straightened and subjected to a gradual drying process involving 6 different treatments of charcoal at varying temperatures. The result is instantly recognizable by its huge, extended but leaves, full, sweet taste with no bitterness, and vibrant Qi. This revived style is called Gu Fa meaning "ancient technique". As with many famous Chinese green teas, counterfeits abound - the most traditional, such as the one we source from master He Xiaoling, are large but not completely flat and regular, and lack the distinctive grid lines of the half-handmade versions. These half-handmade teas are pressed using a roller, which hastens the processing and produces very flat, uniforml leaves but squeezes out the juice of the tea, reducing its flavor. and potency. Completely counterfeit versions are produced from other varieties of tea and are flattened to make them appear larger. These also lack grid lines but can be identified by their exaggerated size, larger than real Tài Píng Hóu Kuí, and being flattened to the point of translucency.
This First Grade Taiping Houkui is completely hand-processed using this Gǔ fǎ technique by Master He Xiao Ling, and it represents a labor of love in recreating a time-honored tradition.