Ho Kui green tea has been produced since the early 20th century and is one of the Ten Famous Teas of China. Ho Kui green tea is named after the original producer of this green tea. Wang Kui-Cheng was the tea grower who improved the processing of the local variety of tea known as "jian cha." Wang Kui-Cheng is from Ho-Keng village, and so the tea came to be known as Ho Kui green tea.
The best grade of Ho Kui tea is from the originating village of Ho-Keng in Tai-Ping county of An Hui province. Ho Kui tea is produced from tea trees rather than tea bushes, and the processed leaves are large and flat.
Ho Kui green tea is only harvested once per year between March and May three days after the beginning of the GuYu, (grain rain). At this time the tea trees are budding and the buds along with two young leaves are picked. Due to the size of the leaves, Ho Kui tea is heavy. One kilogram of dried Ho Kui tea leaves has about 20,000 buds compared with about 70,000 buds per kilogram of other types of tea.
After picking, the tea leaves are pan fried and then pressed flat between layers of cloth. The leaves are allowed to cool and then the process is repeated several times. Finally the leaves are roasted over a charcoal fire.
Unlike many other teas, Ho Kui tea is not rolled, but purposely left flat. The threads of the cloth used to press the leaves can be seen in the finished product. Processing of Ho Kui tea is labor-intensive and all done by hand.
Growing Ho Kui Tea
Ho Kui tea is from the slopes of Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) in Tai Ping county. The tea is grown on the hills overlooking Tai Ping lake, a heavily forested area with rich, fertile soil. On average, the skies are overcast for one-third of the year with high humidity. These are ideal conditions for the tea trees which are used for producing Ho Kui tea.
Brewing Ho Kui Tea
Ho Kui tea is best brewed with moderately hot water – about 150 to 170 degrees F. The tea should be steeped about 3 minutes, and several infusions can be made while providing a satisfying taste.
From its introduction in 1900, tea connoisseurs have recognized Ho Kui tea as an exceptional tea. It won a gold medal during the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in San Francisco. It was included in the list of Top Ten Chinese teas in 1955.