Friday, August 22, 2014

Teavivre, Fuding Shou Mei White Tea Cake 2013

Sample Pack
Teavivre Description:
Shou Mei tea cake is a kind of white tea. Handpicking fresh tea leaves (one bud with two or three leaves) from Da Bai Cha species as material, the finished tea cakes are graded according to their quality. From high to low, white tea has four grades: Silver Needle – White Peony – Gong Mei or Shou Mei – new technique white tea.

Sample provided by Teavivre.

My Review:
Today's tea is kind of a "what is it?", for me. Apparently, it is common in China to press white tea into cakes. That is not so common in my experience. Another bit of confusion comes when I pull the leaf out of the pouch. It doesn't look like white tea.

Dry Leaf
The leaf has a fall leaf smell. Like raking up a big pile of freshly fallen leaf on a damp cool October morning. It is a wonderful aroma full of visual memories.

The appearance is dark and not at all white tea like. There is some cinnamon and hints of green but it is more bark chips looking than leaf. I find that interesting.

The next issue is what to do with it. The sample label says to use boiling water (212 F) and steep for 6 - 10 minutes. What? That doesn't feel right to me.

I decided to venture off on my own and brew this freestyle. I'm going with my gut here. I used half the 10g sample. I did use boiling water (10 oz). I only steeped for two minutes. Had the leaf been loose, I probably would have used cooler water. My gut seems to think it knows what it is doing. We'll see.
A Cup Of Yum
The brew is an amber color, somewhere between honey and ale. It is clear and bright. I am not sure how well that shows up in my picture.

The wet leaf pile is huge. This really swelled with brewing. The leaf aroma still reminds me of fall leaves.

Onward to the tasting. I think this may be my first Shou Mei. I really don't know what to expect. This may not have resembled white tea at any point so far, but one taste and I become convinced. The flavor to me is stronger than Silver Needle or White Peony. Those teas are far more subtle but make up for it in layers of complexity.

This one has a strong hay like flavor with grassy notes mixed in along with those fall leaves. It is around 90 today. With the humidity it feels like 100 F. So just maybe the fall leaf smell is me trying to cope but I don't think so. There is also a nice fruity bouquet late in the sip. Sometimes I thought it was grape and other times apricot, so lets just stick with fruit. A time or two I thought I caught malt and once a brief moment of leather.

I am getting zero bitterness and zero astringency.  It is crisp and clean with a fresh spring water, slightly mineral, flavor under the hay and fruit. This is by no means a simple tea but it is easy to grasp. I like this one.

A Lot Of Wet Leaf
For the second 10 oz mug, I steeped either two minutes or three. The puppy and I were having a battle to decide alpha status. I am not convinced she thinks I won. Anyway, I am not certain of the time. The mug is darker and almost orange.

The second cup is more muted than the first. It isn't really mushroom but leans that direction. It is good but not as great as the first cup.

From reading other reviews I learned that if you follow Teavivre's long steep time you get a really nice honey sweet tea with many of the same notes I caught but amplified. Others reported brewing this in a gong fu style (short steeps, small amount of water) and getting 6 or so very consistent cups. Every review I have seen really liked this one no matter how they chose to brew it.

You can find Fuding Shou Mei White Tea Cake 2013 here.

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