The Tea Tree Mushroom (Agrocybe Aegerita) is also known as the willow mushroom and velvet pioppini. It is called 茶树菇 (cha shu gu) in China and yanagi matsutake in Japan. The mushroom has a small, soft cap, around 0.5 to 2 centimeters (0.2 to 0.8 inches) in diameter. It has a thin, long, and tough stem, 10 to 20 centimeters (4 to 8 inches) in length. The mushroom has a concentrated woody and earthy flavor and a firm, meaty texture.
In Chinese cooking, both fresh and dried (rehydrated) tea tree mushrooms are used in various dishes, including stir-fry, soup, stew, and hot pot. Since the stems are quite tough, the mushrooms are usually either boiled and then stir-fried, or braised. Tea tree mushrooms have a very intense flavor that is almost as strong as shiitake, but more delicate. It adds a very nice flavor to stews and soups, as well as the classic braised chicken and mushrooms.
Fresh tea tree mushrooms are very delicate, especially the soft caps. They can be stored in a loosely sealed bag in the fridge for up to 4 days. Place the bag in a container and don’t place any other items of top of it, to avoid crushing the mushrooms. The white stems will turn pale brown after a few days. They will still be edible at this point, but the flavor and texture are always better when the mushrooms are fresh.
Dried tea tree mushrooms can be stored in a sealed bag in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.