Updated: Mar 25, 2020
It is not much of a coincidence that I am writing Shou Mei 2012 for the second time. Obviously, I’m not trying to cheat you and the first one I wrote about was in the form of a ball. This one was a mini cake and its price was considerably higher. The reason was the quality of the leaves which were softer and there were fewer stems and petioles. I need to add, I bought of these teas in the same store, so it is likely that they were sourced from the same trader in Fuding. This one being the higher grade one.
Aged white teas have been enjoyed in Fujian and other parts of China at least over decades. Some families keep white teas as medicine. There is a famous Chinese saying that year one is a tea, year three is a medicine, and year seven a treasure. I was lucky to have this tea when it was at its best and I treasured it.
Talking about the science of it, a study conducted by Dr Zhou from the Fujian Agriculture University in 2014 and compared some the components of fresh, 1 year, 3 year and 20-year-old white teas. I could not find the research itself, but a reference to it was here. Accordingly, the level of polyphenols decreased over the years. However, the level of flavonoids which are polyphenols parts and are associated with teas anti-oxidant, anti-virus and anti-bacterial properties were highest in 20-year-old white tea.
Another finding of this research also explained the sweetness that aged teas entail over younger ones. Accordingly, over time the amount of catechin (part of polyphenols responsible for the bitter taste of the tea) convert into flavonoids which gives the tea liquid its yellow colour and brightness.
This aged tea had a date sweetness, which got more intense as I kept steeping. But it is definitely not as refreshing as fresh white teas. Dr Zhou’s research explains this phenomenon by the dropping level of amino acids as the tea ages.
Origin: Fuding county, Fujian province
Harvest time: 2012
Leave colour: Green and brown leaves and stems
Liquor colour: Light amber
Tea aroma: Fruity
Tea taste: Date-like sweetness with some earthy notes
Steeping/brewing: You can use around 100°C water temperature (yes don’t be afraid) and brew for up to one minute in gongfu style or up to three minutes in Western-style. You can brew the leaves many times (until the taste is lost). To each infusion add additional time. Experiment for a result that suits your taste.
Shelf life: Up to 10 years or more if aged appropriately.