Nothing could make the simple processing of white tea clearer than the first glance at the leaves of this Shou Mei: long, flat, many completely whole and opened, with scattered downy buds, they resemble nothing so much as the floor of a wild, distant forest. And yet the fabulous, richly-fruity aroma wafting off of them makes equally clear how specially cultivated they must be. Despite this scent and the visible oxidation, this Shou Mei is still quite young, and its flavour is fresh and clean, evoking clear rocky brooks in the mountains where it was harvested; with subsequent steepings, as well as increasingly with age, the fruity sweetness of its aroma comes through, tantalizing the palate with apricot or quince.
Among the six tea classes, white tea is the easiest to described, but not the least difficult to produce. The fresh leaves are withered outdoor in the shadow and indoor in rooms with good air circulation. The leaves usually air-dry naturally, although sometimes baking is required to completely remove the moisture. Especially in the Yunnan province, some white teas are sun-dried instead.
Green tea is different than white tea. Green tea is scalded right after the harvest to prevent oxidation. White tea oxidizes during withering and is not heat-treated to stop oxidation. The different processing of white tea results in a delicate liquor, with none of the astringency and grassy undertones typical of green tea.