By William I. Lengeman III
For some tea lovers (present company included) a cup of high-quality plain tea - be it black, green, white, yellow, oolong or puerh - is sufficient as it is and does not require any kind of adulteration or improvement. The ancient Chinese tea master Lu Yu, who was one of the first people to write about tea, did not mince words when it came to flavored teas, dismissing them in no uncertain terms as “the swill of gutters and ditches.”
That said, there are no shortage of tea fans who believe that tea can be enhanced with the addition of some kind of flavoring agent, whether it be fruits, flowers, spices or even the smoke from a pine wood fire, as in the case of the Lapsang Souchong variety.
Jasmine tea is one of the more popular varieties of flavored tea and is one that is most commonly made from a base of one of the lighter, more delicate varieties such as green or sometimes white. Because of its subtle nature, more robust and full-flavored teas are not generally considered to be appropriate for making jasmine tea.
What gives jasmine tea its unique flavor is the jasmine flower, a distinctive and pleasantly scented bloom that only opens at night. While some lower quality jasmine varieties may use some sort of a jasmine essence as their flavoring agent, only the varieties that are made using the actual flowers are considered worthy of the name.
Jasmine flowers used to make this tea are blended in during evening hours when they have reached their aromatic peak and are left in with the tea for as much as several hours. This process may be repeated up to several times depending on the desired strength of the end product. The end result is a delicately flavored tea with a light and pleasant taste and aroma that’s not unlike a nighttime stroll through an exotic garden.