Hundreds/thousands of years ago, tea leaves were ground into powders or compressed into bricks for easier shipping. Tea merchants, who primarily traded at ports, could only see tea leaves as bricks or powders.
When tea leaves are ground or compressed, it’s challenging to visualize tea leaves’ original state and appearance. To most tea drinkers, the best way to determine the quality of a ground/compressed tea is to drink it.
As time went by, the transportation of tea evolved. Naturally, easier and faster shipping of tea changed how people enjoy tea as well. Tea drinkers started to favor real loose-leaf teas over bricks and powders. And the appearance of dry leaves starts to affect people’s subjective opinions of a tea.
Some teas, such as Silver Needle, stand out because of their beautiful slim and elegant looks; Some teas, such as Shou Mei, are treated differently because of the “rough” appearance.
Shou Mei (Chinese: 寿眉, literal meaning: longevous eyebrow), or Gong Mei (Chinese: 贡眉, literal meaning: royal tribute eyebrow), is the evident white tea product on the market. Shou Mei is usually harvest with one bud and three/four leaves.
Compared with Silver Needle and White Peony, Shou Mei has a higher output due to the lower harvest difficulty. A bigger production means a more affordable pricing. This is essentially why some tea lovers presume that Shou Mei is low quality.
This isn’t fair to Shou Mei. Despite being a more “common” tea than Silver Needle, the authentic Shou Mei is still a great white tea.
The merit of a good tea is always about the tastes and the aromas.
Shou Mei tea is harvested later than its white tea siblings. While Silver Needle is normally harvested in mid-March, Shou Mei is harvested in mid-April. The longer growing time allows Shou Mei to acquire more nutrients.
Shou Mei leaves have a thicker and glossy layer of waxy cuticle. Under this layer, Shou Mei leaves develop more fragrance essences. In its strong stems and broad leaves, Shou Mei accumulates more sugar and pectic substances.
Therefore, fresh Shou Mei tea leaves have some fragrances that are often found in aged white teas. To tea lovers who are new to white tea, Shou Mei’s thick and smooth mouthfeel is a great introduction to the world of white tea.
Since Shou Mei has a high output, choosing a good Shou Mei can be like finding a fish in the sea. As far as Shou Mei is concerned, it has 3 varieties: fresh or aged; loose leaf or tea brick; spring harvest or autumn harvest.
Here, we suggest tea lovers to choose a fresh, spring harvest Shou Mei.
Starting with a fresh Shou Mei is the best way to experience the aging journey of a white tea (please see your previous Blog for details). A spring harvest Shou Mei also best captures the refreshing taste of white teas.
In terms of choosing loose leaf or tea brick, it’s entirely up to your personal preference. A loose-leaf Shou Mei has the note of a green tea. A Shou Mei tea brick tastes “mellower” and carries more “white tea taste”. A carefully stored Shou Mei tea brick can even develop a “jujube aroma” which is unique to aged white tea.
Although white tea has a simpler tea-making process (please see Blog for details), the world of white tea is still profound and worth exploring. To experienced tea drinkers, Shou Mei is an amiable old friend. Shou Mei has an approachable price, rich and authentic white tea experience.
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