Tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Because it is so popular worldwide, there are a lot of different types of tea. Black tea and green tea are both commonly found in most stores and are widely loved. But did you know there are also white teas? One particular white tea that is worth taking a closer look at is Shou Mei tea from China.
What is Shou Mei Tea?
Shou Mei tea, pronounced “show may”, is a white tea grown in China. More specifically, this tea is grown in Fujan province in China.
The name Shou Mei translates to Long Noble Life Eyebrow, which at first glance might not make a lot of sense. The reason for this name is due to the shape of the tea leaves, which apparently resembles eyebrows.
This tea is specifically grown in Fuding county in the Taimu Mountain area. It is a heavily forested area with high levels of humidity and rainfall. The region makes for the perfect tea growing climate.
What Does it Taste Like?
Shou Mei tea has a sweet, delicate flavor. It is floral and fruity with a trace of thyme. This is accompanied by a strong but pleasant floral aroma. It is also described as being highly refreshing.
Part of the reason that this tea is so fragrant and refreshing is the way that it is prepared. With other teas there is a processing step that doesn’t happen naturally.
For example, most green teas from China are pan-fired. Shou Mei tea has a much more natural method of processing. The leaves are left in the sun until they start to naturally wilt.
What About Caffeine Content?
There is a common misconception that white tea, on average, contains less caffeine than other teas. The reason behind this train of thought is the color and flavor of the tea. It is so light and so fruity, it is easy to see why some people might think there wouldn’t be much caffeine in this tea.
Teas have a wide range of caffeine content. On average, white teas like Shou Mei tea have about the same amount of caffeine as other teas. White teas have a range of 6 mg – 75 mg of caffeine per cup. For reference, green tea averages 12 mg – 75 mg per cup and black tea averages 40 mg – 120 mg per cup.
How to Brew Shou Mei Tea
There are actually a few different ways to brew Shou Mei tea. Each method has its own benefits and challenges. They are all very different from each other and have a range of difficulty.
For the cup method simply add 3g of tea leaves to a cup and pour hot water directly into the cup. Once the tea leaves steep for one minute you can start drinking it. It is very important that this tea is close to boiling, but not actually boiling. Using water that is too hot will cause your tea to brew bitter. This tea is good for a single serving, so if you have guests you will have to repeat this process for each person’s cup.
The Gaiwan method is the most popular and can be used to make a good amount of tea. Because of this it is good if you are hosting a handful of friends. For this method add 5 g of tea leaves to your Gaiwan then pour hot water that is just shy of boiling directly over the leaves. Cover the Gaiwan and pour the wastewater out right away. Refill the Gaiwan with hot water, cover it, and allow the tea to steep for 10 seconds.
While it is very popular, the Gaiwan method is extremely sensitive to brew times and can be a little intimidating for those who haven’t used one.
One more very important thing to keep in mind when brewing Shou Mei tea is to never use tea bags. White teas like Shou Mei should always be brewed using loose leafs. If you stumble upon a white tea in a tea bag it is likely made from the ground up dust of leaves and won’t contain any tea buds. Those tea buds are integral to the flavor and aroma of Shou Mei tea.
The Difference Between White Tea and Green Tea
White teas like Shou Mei are not commonly found and are often compared to green tea. Part of the reason for this is that white tea, while grown in some different regions in the world, originates from China. In fact, tea purists consider white tea that isn’t grown in the Fujan province of China to be illegitimate.
While white tea and green tea are very different, there are a few similarities as well. Both teas are made from the same plant, both are light, and both are great sources of antioxidants.
They do have very different flavors though, and the way they are processed is also different.
White tea is processed in a much simpler, much more organic way than green tea. The leaves are allowed to naturally wilt in the sun then they are dried indoors.
Green teas have a few different ways they can be processed. In China they are often pan-fired then rolled. While some green teas are also allowed to naturally wilt like white teas, not all of them are.
Flavor is one of the areas that these two teas are the most different. They do share some characteristics, both teas are fresh tasting and a little sweet. However, white teas like Shou Mei tea are also a little spicy and have a bit of a hay flavor to them. Green teas tend to have more of a vegetal flavor and can be a little nutty and toasty.
Shou Mei tea is a special white tea traditionally grown in the Fujan province of China. It has become more popular as white teas have recently grown in popularity, but it is still relatively uncommon.
This tea is well loved for its delicate, fresh, fruity flavor and floral aroma. It is also a fair source of caffeine and a strong source of antioxidants. While this tea may not be easy to find, we highly recommend it if you can get a hand on a cup of it!