The recent shou meis I had were from Zhenghe in Fujian. This one is from Fuding. They differ in their processing and also in their taste. In Zhenghe the tea producers tend to wither the leaves for longer which causes higher oxidation compared to Fuding teas. The result is that they have a more bodied flavour and aroma.
When it comes to shou mei, which is considered the lowest grade for white teas, they are withered and oxidised both in Fuding and Zhenghe. Shou Mei consists of the mature leaves of the tea plant, and as they are oxidised, they resemble lightly oxidised oolong teas. Actually, this shou mei reminded me of a black tea. It was offered to me in a tea shop, and its liquor colour suggests that it was boiled for a while. The taste was not astringent at all, despite the boiling and I once heard somewhere that this is because it has no buds. I am not sure how accurate this info, but the lack of astringency was shocking.
Joseph Wesley, in his book “The Art and Craft of Tea”, mentions that Shou Mei has been a “peasant tea” historically and used to be sold to peasants for low costs. This is because it is picked late in the season, and also it had no buds. He argues that due to its growing popularity, the tea farmers have been selling ‘shou mei’ from previous years. Wesley does not seem to be convinced that the value of aged shou mei increases with the taste, but to me, it does not seem to be a fad. Fujian people have been ageing white tea, especially shou mei for at least centuries.
Source: Joseph Wesley Uhl. “The Art and Craft of Tea
Origin: Zhenghe, Fujian
Harvest time: 2014
Leaf colour: Tones of brown and green
Liquor colour: Dark yellow (depending on the steeping/boiling time)
Tea Aroma: Deep floral scent
Tea taste: Slightly sweet with jujube and gluten flavours
Place 5 g of this tea in a teapot or gaiwan and add about 100 ml water at around 100°C.
Rinse after 5 sec.
Steep for 10 seconds for the second time and increase the consecutive steeping time by 5 seconds each time. You can steep this tea up to five or six times.
Shelf life: Can be aged