Shou Mei 壽眉 (Longevity Eyebrow)
This is a “new style” leafy white tea from Fujian, China. It is composed of a heterogeneous, multi-hued mix of mature leaves and stems and a small proportion of silver-green, long and flossy tips. The result is a fragile, fluffy and voluminous mix.
After the pluck, there are just two steps to the processing: withering and drying. After a long withering period to reduce humidity (2-3 days indoors and outdoors), they are air-dried and sometimes finished by baking over a charcoal fire or in a drying oven to further reduce moisture content (giving the tea a faint toastiness) before being very slightly oxidized. The drying process makes the vegetal flavours milder than in green tea.
The pluck for shou mei does not usually contain the bud because it is made after the plucking for Bai Hao Yin Zhen (bud only) and Bai Mu Dan (bud and first leaf). Shou mei is typically a configuration of large leaves plucked with the branch, which is later discarded, with the classic “eyebrow” curve of the leaves remaining. This particular product has some silver tips mixed in.
The flavour is stronger than other white teas, and strikes an agreeable balance between the savoury notes of green tea and the sweetness of traditional white tea. The dry leaf has the wonderful scent of wicker and mown hay. It is known as a great thirst-quencher that is popular especially in dim sum houses in Guangdong and Hong Kong.