Gong Mei is one of the Chinese white teas. Though it is not so famous as Silver Needle and White Peony, Gong Mei has the biggest yield among the Fujian white teas. The yield of Gong Mei contributes around 50% of the total Fujian white teas.
Gong Mei is produced in the North Fujian area including Songxi, Jianyang, Jianou and Pucheng. The original place is the Zhangdun Town of Jianyang County. Zhangdun Town used to be a tea producing center in Qing Dynasty, and white tea had been produced here for long history. Here the geography is featured by lots of mountains and streams, the rainfall is rich and the mountain has dense forestry covering. The farmers here pluck tea leaves from the mountain and use the most ‘primitive’ processing to produce the white tea, which just subject to withering and baking. According to the Chiense medicine theory, the white tea processed by this way is ‘cold’ in nature, which can cool down body heat, thus can cure fever, toothache and detoxin. In the old time before the invention of antibiotics, this is very important tisane for medical purpose. Now in China and some Southeast Asian countires eg. Vietnam and Thailand, some people still use Gong Mei white tea as traditional therapy for above illness.
The material for Gong Mei is one bud two leaves or three leaves, which is similar to White Peony (Bai Mu Dan). But it is speical in that the Gong Mei requires the materail from Xiao Cai Cha, which has been a tradtitioanl mixed tea cultivar wideply planted in North Fujian for thousand of years. As comparison, White Peony only adopts material from Fuding Da Bai and Zhenghe Dabai tea cultivars. The Xiao Cai Cha tea leaf is smaller than Fuding Da Bai and Zhenghe Dabai. Because of this character, the Gong Mei white tea was called as Xiao Bai Cha (Small White Tea) in history (Xiao is ‘small’ in Chinese), while the Silver Needle and Bai Mu Dan made by Fuding Da Bai and Zhenghe Dabai cultivars were called as Da Bai Cha (Da is ‘big’ in Chinese). Till in 1984, the Xiao Bai Cha was awarded Gold Medal in the National Tea Competetion held in Hefei, the tea named was formerly changed Gong Mei. Because it had ever been tributed to the emperor in Qing Danasty. (Gong 贡 is Tribute, and Mei, Mee is generally used after good tea name).
The processing of Gong Mei follows the typical white tea processing, withering and baking dry. The withering is conducted under the Sun, or indoor with good air ventilation. During the withering there will be light fermentation. The mechanism is that after the tea cells lose much water content, the cell membrance will lost its function, thus the components in the tea cells will flow and produce reaction by enzymes alive, which is the fermentation. But the extent is far lower than those of Black Tea and Oolong tea, both of which are subject to fiercely phisical damage (Rolling and Shaking) of tea celles, and consequently produce viloent reaction. In the rainy days or high humidity, the withering needs to be conducted indoor with warm-up by heating to enhance the witheirng. It is generally belived that the quality by this way is not so good as all natural withering. The tea color is not bright and the white hair is less vivid. After the tea leaves is nealry dry when around 10%-15% water content left, the tea will be sent for baking dry. The traditional baking is conducted on bamboo basket heated by charcoal. Proper baking does not produce any burning and smoky flavor, but pleasant flower fragrance.
How does it taste? The tea has very pleasant flowery fragrance, the taste is brick mellow and aftertaste is deep. It is more preferred than white peony by experienced tea drinkers.
What’s the health benefits of Gong Mei?