Today I’m sampling Taiping Houkui and Taiping Houkui Superior next to each other. The difference between these two teas is that the regular one is processed partially by machine and the superior is entirely hand processed. There’s also a fairly significant difference in the price, to account for the amount of extra labour that goes into hand processing.
I believe this is my first time having Taiping Houkui.
The dry leaf varies in colour from medium to dark green. While it is quite flat, it is not perfectly flat or uniform. There are some large pieces in my sample, but also quite a few broken bits. The smell is rich, with strong umami and seaweed qualities, and just a touch of roasted character. I am reminded a lot of a good quality sencha. Compared to the standard version, the leaf is less uniform in shape, size and colour. This smells slightly sweeter and richer.
I steeped 1g of leaf in 50ml of 80C water, three times, for 60 , 60 and 90 seconds.
Steeped the leaf smells sweet and umami with no grassiness. The variable sizes of leaf and leaf fragments make for a less visually stunning steeping experience than the standard version.
The soup is pale yellow green, and very clear. It is slightly paler than the standard version. Smell is mild, slightly tangy and vegetal, but present.
The flavour is complex. Notes of seaweed, umami, and nuts, with both sweetness and a vegetal tang. There is a hint of caramel in the cheeks. The flavour is pungent but more delicate than regular. The body is quite light, and one of the most noticeable differences between these teas.
After the first steep these teas diverge quite a lot. The second steep is more bold than first – tangier, more vegetal and pungent. Also sweeter, with more distinct caramel. The finish is nice and tangy. The third steep is less sweet and less tangy than the first two. It has a mellow vegetal, grassy flavour. Toward the end of the sip there’s a bit of roastiness that comes out. Compared to the standard, more umami and nuttiness remain in the third steep.
I feel that if I were so inclined, I feel that I could get another steep out of these.
Both of these are excellent teas. I am reminded in many ways of sencha. While they are very similar at first, and I’m not sure I would notice the difference if I had not had these side by side, the differences show in later steeps. I enjoyed the Superior slightly more, although I’m not sure the difference in the tea is big enough for me to personally justify the price difference. However, supporting the art of handcrafting might be.
Samples provided by Nannuoshan.
Flavors: Caramel, Grass, Nuts, Roasted, Seaweed, Sweet, Tangy, Umami, Vegetal