2014 Candlelight Shou Mei (燭光壽眉, Zhú Guāng Shòu Méi, "Candlelight Longevity Eyebrow") - Aged Shou Mei (the leafiest grade of Fuding white tea) is one of our favorite things. The Chinese tea world has likewise fallen in love with aged white teas over the past decade and mature cakes have become more and more rare and expensive. Each year we try to secure a few cakes of good, aged Shou Mei from master Li Yanmei, whose family has been growing and processing tea in Fuding for generations. She stores her cakes in a dedicated cedar-lined room and only releases them at intervals - Usually when they turn 7 years old. This is in accordance with the adage "One year tea, three years medicine, seven years treasure" that describes the appreciation of white tea as it ages.
Due to our long and close relationship with her and her family, she gives us the opportunity each year to purchase the upcoming release before it hits 7 years - which makes it about 20% cheaper than it would be for people buying it after its birthday. We usually then hold onto them and age them until the following year, so we can always offer a fully mature cake.
Candlelight is a 2014 Shou Mei and is 8 years old at the time of this writing. Compared with its predecessor Effulgence, it has more leaf content (as opposed to buds) and therefore has a darker, sweeter taste. It is very similar to our erstwhile 2012 Shou Mei Bing, Cumulus.
As the large leaves separate and unfurl, it produces an increasingly red and date-like liquor, with notes of honey and fresh bread. After 8-9 steepings, the leaves may be boiled or long-steeped to obtain another 3-4 robust, dark infusions.
I've had white tea before, but this was my first experience of aged Shou Mei. The flavour is deep, fills the mouth, smooth and mellow, the sweetness is subtle, the aroma is comforting, reminiscent of that old Chinese medicine shop in Chinatown. Hints of red dates, damp earth, and a touch of dark honey.
I love this light and complex, subtly sweet aged white tea! Definitely going to be something that I come back to when I need to relax and take some time for myself.