We often hear of white tea: 一年茶, 三年药, 七年宝 “one year tea, three years medicine, seven years treasure”. This tea is now eleven years old and while we don't know what a Fujianese marketeer would say about it, we are sure it is one of our favorites.
寿眉 Shòu méi refers to the most leaf heavy plucking grade in the world of white tea; one bud and 3-4 leaves are harvested as a set in the spring or autumn. Unfortunately, many shou mei producers have taken to the practice of separating the highest growth of the pluck for a Yin Zhen or Mu Dan Wang production, removing some of the fragrant characteristics that add dimensionality to the full bodied shou mei cha. Be sure to look for the furry, downy hairs that grow most prevalent on buds as an indicator for this quality.
This 2010 leaf-heavy offering represents the most complex, rich, and oxidized offerings of our white tea selection, as the amount of enzymes present in this cake must have been absolutely brimming — and given the time it's had to age — all of the catechins have been converted to theaflavins and thearubicans. Because of its level of nearly full oxidation, this tea is like a black tea but has taken on the layers of years of transformation to get to this state. Unlike black tea, you can taste all these marvelous layers of maturation, as well as the original unmistakable charm of white tea throughout. Read more about the dimensions of white tea on our blog. A younger, 2017 version of this Shou Mei produced by this family is also available.
One of the virtues of this aged shou mei is its adaptability to all kinds of brewing parameter modifications: leaf quantity, water temperature, brewing vessel size, steep time length; not to mention the seemingly endless amount of infusions it can yield. Indeed this tea excels in nearly any brewing environment: from the gong fu table, the grandpa-style glass, the raised tea bowl, to the stove top as a refreshing boiled lao bai cha.
This tea was grown in the Zhen Qian growing area of Zhenghe County at around 800 meters above sea level, using the 政和大白 Zhenghe Dà bái cultivar, harvested in late April of 2010.
More on Zhenghe:
While the capitol of white teas in the world is sure to be the coastal city of Fuding, we are pleased to be able to offer teas from Zhenghe, sure to be its rival. Zhenghe shares the same government district of Nanping with the iconic and legendary post-volcanic mountainous region of Wuyishan. The average elevation of Zhenghe is 200 meters higher than Fuding, and as such the leaves grow slower; their average harvest date is later.
While Fuding white tea production takes advantage of earlier seasonal sunshine for withering, Zhenghe’s later production time-frame bookends the onset of monsoon season, necessitating producers to use partial indoor-outdoor withering methods with less direct, more passive light. Leaves can often oxidize at slower rates and lower temperatures, resulting in a more robust and sweeter profile. If you like Fujian style white teas, you must try Zhenghe teas.
Wowza! This tea is an absolute stunner. Fruity, floral, earthy. I was easily able to get 14 infusions from this tea followed by boiling it for 5 minutes; this was the first time I’ve boiled white tea and I couldn’t believe how incredible it tasted even after so many infusions. I look forward to more sessions with this beauty!
Thank you Gus for the advice on brewing this! It really is almost like a black tea but a very unique experience.