Cold Brew: Hou Kui

Hou Kui is probably one of the most aesthetic teas available, its long flat leaves seem virtually intact and are a bright, translucent green. Upon opening the package, a strong seaweed smell wafted out and reminded me a lot of seaweed chips! The very marine smell kind of surprised me and I wasn’t sure what to expect upon tasting it. Yet, its taste is as delicate as the appearance of the leaves but much gentler than the smell. The tea is very refreshing and light even though for the hot brew I made it at 175F, it still felt pleasantly refreshing. The flavors I could detect where that of fresh cucumbers, sweet seaweed, fresh cut grass and a hint of sugar snap peas. Although green teas tend to be a bit bitter, there was no detectable bitterness in this infusion. This makes it a great green tea for people who are turned off by its association with bitterness . I had never had a tea so light and delicate as Hou Kui and although it can be pricy, I encourage people who love tea to invest in it at least once.

Besides being visually beautiful, Hou Kui also come with attractive legends about its discovery. One being about a small monkey getting lost and separated from his parents and tragically dying from exhaustion. When a kind farmer discovers the poor monkey he acts in kindness and gives him a proper burial. A year later when the farmer is around the same area where he found the monkey, he realizes the place is full of large beautiful tea trees and he figures that it’s the monkey’s way of saying “thank you” to him. You can read the full story and find more information about how Hou Kui is made and where it comes from here where I got mine.

Because of its unique leaves, Hou Kui is not brewed by traditional methods and is instead steeped in long glasses. This type of infusion makes the experience beautifully visual besides tasty- the glass can be continually refilled until the leaves have spent all their flavors. To do a cold brew, I filled a mason jar with a few leaves and left it over night with water in the fridge. I was able to refill and steep the leaves about 2-3 times. Because heat helps extract other constituents in tea, as I have said before, cold brews can be very different but I have found that the teas that change the most with temperature are green teas. As I described in my review of a mao jian I got from Teabook, this tea was also more vegetal as a cold brew. The more sweet, floral notes were not really present and instead highlighted more umami characteristics. Something else I noticed was that because the leaves were not exposed to heat- they retained their bright color for longer and didn’t wilt as they would have with a hot infusion. For my personal tastes, I probably won’t make this tea as a cold brew again as I think too many of the more complex and subtle notes were missing but taste is pretty subjective so I encourage you to try it! Especially if you prefer more umami flavors as opposed to floral or fruity.

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