Gong Mei is a white tea grown in the Chinese provinces of Fujian and Guangxi. It is made using a variety of Camellia Sinensis known as Da Bai. Gong Mei tea is a third-quality grade tea.
Third-quality grade tea refers to the Chinese white tea quality grading system. There are four categories into which white tea can fall. Silver Needle is the highest grade, followed by White Peony, Gong Mei, and finally Shou Mei. The grade is determined by the number of buds in the blend.
While Gong Mei is not as popular as the highest-quality Chinese white teas like Silver Needle and White Peony, it is one of the highest-yield teas in the Fujian region. Gong Mei accounts for about 50% of all Fujian white teas. The high yield also makes it one of the more budget-friendly options for those wanting to try Chinese white teas.
Gong Mei is made with a blend of young buds and mature leaves, picked later in the season that helps create the signature complexity of flavor it’s known for.
The History of Gong Mei Tea
The North Fujian province produces the majority of Gong Mei tea in regions such as Songxi, Jianyan, Jianou, and Pucheng. Gong Mei was originally produced in the Jianyang region, in the town of Zhangdun. Zhangdun has a long history of tea production dating back to the Qing Dynasty.
Legend says that Gong Mei tea was discovered when two brothers inherited a farm in Nankeng. They were supposedly so lazy that they couldn’t be bothered to pick consistent sizes for leaves or roast and roll them as is traditional. Instead, they chose to dry them in the sun. The attractive shape of the leaves and the mellow taste were so beloved it was brought to the emperor. Gong Mei tea was originally named Shou Mei but was changed as a tribute to the emperor. Now Shou Mei is used to referring to fourth-grade white tea.
The dense forestry and heavy rainfall infuse the white tea with its rich flavor and the farmers use minimal processing through withering and baking to maintain a natural freshness.
How is Gong Mei Tea Processed?
Gong Mei tea uses one young bud with two or three leaves, similar to how White Peony tea (Bai Mu Dan) is harvested. White Peony tea tends to be harvested early in the season whereas Gong Mei tea waits for the leaves to mature before gathering.
White tea has minimal processing to preserve natural freshness and as many nutrients as possible, and Gong Mei is no different. The tea is withered in the sun or an airy indoor space. This allows for light fermentation. Gong Mei tea is left to dry until there is only 10-15% water content remaining. Then, the tea leaves are baked, usually in a bamboo basket heated by charcoal.
What does Gong Mei Tea Taste Like?
Gong Mei tea has a delicate, flowery fragrance. Compared to the higher quality teas, White Peony and Silver Needle, Gong Mei tea have a deep, robust flavor. These are reminiscent of the more mature leaves in contrast to the new, early spring leaves used in White Peony and Silver Needle.
There are notes of fruit and herbs. This white tea is also known in particular for its pleasant mouthfeel and the sweet, creamy aftertaste that’s left behind. The tea is an attractive golden yellow with clarity and brightness.
Nutrition in Gong Mei Tea
Gong Mei tea contains all of the benefits generally associated with white tea. Historically, white tea was a popular treatment for colds, fevers, and skin conditions such as Chicken Pox. The minimal processing leaves the tea with most of its nutrients such as L-theanine, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories. White tea can still be used to boost health through its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Plain tea with no added sugar is often considered a zero-calorie drink although some nutrition tracking apps may label it as 3 calories and 6 carbs.
White tea does not, however, retain much of the caffeine at only 18mg. This is the lowest level of caffeine in any tea produced from the plant, Camellia Sinensis. It’s the perfect beverage for the late afternoon or can act as a tool to reduce overall caffeine consumption by swapping it for black and green tea or even coffee.
How to Properly Brew Gong Mei Tea
White tea is more delicate than black tea but not as delicate as green tea. An ideal brewing temperature is around 185 degrees Fahrenheit or 85 degrees Celsius. Use 3 to 5 grams of tea in a whole pot, about 13oz of water, and steep for 2-3 minutes.
Loose-leaf teas can handle multiple infusions. For each infusion, you’ll want to experiment with lower brewing temperatures and longer brewing times. The exact amount depends on the brand of loose-leaf white tea you buy, but you can expect to add 30 seconds to a minute for each infusion. If you want to brew at a lower temperature, you can go down to 70 degrees Celsius or 158 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tea becomes bitter when brewed for too long, so don’t brew your white tea for more than 10 minutes.
Gong Mei tea is a white tea produced in the Fujian and Guangxi provinces of China. Its primary producer, the town of Zhangdun, has been a leader in tea production since the Qing dynasty. Gong Mei tea uses young buds and mature leaves in its cultivation along with traditional drying, withering, and baking processes to create a fruity and herbaceous flavor with a soft, creamy aftertaste. This tea is low on caffeine, so you can enjoy it in the afternoon for a light refresher or a break from the hectic day.