Trying a tea for the first time is a true adventure. There’s an excitement in the air that’s hard to describe, accompanied by a dozen questions running through your mind. How do you properly brew it? Is it good quality? Will you like it? It costs how much? They’re kidding, right? And so on. Thus was my mind whirling as I sat down to try, for the first time ever, an exotic flowering tea.
The first step, though, before embarking on this tea adventure, is to get an answer to the question: “What is flowering tea?” According to my research, it’s a bunch of hand-picked tea leaves and flower petals sewn together with delicate string (more like thick thread). Flowers commonly used in the designs are chrysanthemum, jasmine, globe amaranth, hibiscus, osmanthus, and lily. Teas used are fine whites, greens, and blacks, such as Lily Fairy Black, Jasmine Pu-Erh, and Lychee Nut flower.
The flower petals are an important part of the tea. They add scent and flavor — the tea flavor dances in your nose and on your palate along with the floral notes. But that’s not why it’s called flowering tea. The explanation is in the brewing, as my tea adventure was about to show.
Armed with at least this modicum of knowledge, I confidently headed out, hubby by my side, to a local restaurant with the goal of having a true tea adventure. My level of expectation was high and, once we were seated at our table, I focused on the task at hand.
Step one in the process of preparing a flowering tea is selecting one (okay, so that’s obvious!). Taking extra care in making this selection will make your tea adventure truly special. The best method to me seemed to be smelling the teaballs when they were still dry. The server was very understanding and brought the two I requested:
- “Spirituality” — White Tea and Tea Tree Flower (on the left in the photo)
- “Loyalty” — White Tea and Jasmine (on the right in the photo)
The first one was in the shape of a mushroom and the second one in the shape of a ball, the two typical shapes used. I chose “Loyalty” — jasmine is a flower that has always enthralled (but not overwhelmed) me with its intoxicating scent. The flavor of white tea was so delicate as to be a perfect accompaniment with that floral fragrance.
Step two is the actual steeping. An essential tool in this step is a glass teapot, for the experience is highly visual. The best method is to put the water, heated to the proper temperature, in the teapot first, and then add the teaball.
Step three is the most important: enjoying the show! The teaball will start to open shortly after being put in the water. In a couple of minutes (three, at most), the “flower” will be blooming. The tugging of those tiny water molecules at the tea leaves and then the flower petals will be relentless until the goal is achieved. At this point, you can pour the tea and decide if you want to leave the “bloom” in the teapot and add more water, or remove it. If you don’t do one or the other, the tea could get overly strong, even bitter. I know this first hand, having chosen to leave the “bloom” in place. (The tea was still great. I just added some more warmed water to it.) To me, this is the one drawback. You lose that visual experience by having to remove the bloom once it has reached peak brewing.
Don’t forget the finger foods to go with your tea. Surprisingly, despite their size, they can be quite filling.
Having had a truly adventurous teatime, hubby and I sat back awhile, waiting for our meal to settle and enjoying the architectural splendor of our surroundings, luxurious yet comfortable and showing a strong Art Deco influence, especially in the furnishings. Finally, we roused ourselves and, with some reluctance, headed home.
Of course, now I must have a glass teapot and some flowering teaballs. Santa, are you listening? Enjoy your own tea adventure soon!
If you’re interested in going on the greatest “tea adventure” of them all – that of living what A.C. calls the “tea life” – make sure to visit her blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, today!