Special Grade Shou Mei White Tea (ZW60)
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From Upton Tea
This is an organic Chinese white tea. The leaves are wiry and fuzzy, and come in a diversity of colors ranging from pale reddish brown to silvery green. The unusual diversity of the leaves is due to the fact that this tea is made with some naturally withered leaves...so although it is minimally processed, some of the leaves are a bit like some Oolong teas.
Brewed as instructed, it has a deep reddish brown color but more transparent than a black tea. The aroma is similar to what I would expect from this style of white tea. It is rich and full but mellow and with a clean, cool aftertaste. There is hardly any bitterness at all: this is a very smooth tea. It is on the subtle side and I find it is best consumed without food as other flavors and aromas can easily bowl-over the subtleties.
I prefer brewing this one much longer (10+min.) and at a slightly higher temperature than recommended (only slightly--this tea scalds easily). This brings out, in my opinion, a slightly more complex aroma: particularly, there is a sharp, pungent, clean herbal quality that comes through at slightly higher temperatures, that I find makes a good addition to the warmer characteristics of this tea. Brewing it much longer makes it more richly aromatic, and unlike green or black teas, it does not add any astringency or bitterness or any unpleasant characters.
Bottom line, this is my favorite style of white tea and I think this one is well-executed, although it is not otherworldly. Slightly on the pricy side: I've had equally good white teas that I think offer better value.