Jasmine teas fall into what the tea experts call “scented” teas. I just call them “flavored” teas, since items used to create the scents usually affect both aroma and flavor.
Whether you call it “flavored” or “scented,” jasmine tea has been around a long while, starting some time during the Song Dynasty in China (960-1279). The best grade is supposed to be from the Fujian Province, but versions are also available from Guangdong, Guangxi, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang provinces.
Tea leaves are harvested in Spring and stored until the jasmine flowers are in bloom in early Summer. The flowers are then picked when the petals are tightly closed (usually in the early morning) and kept cool until night when they begin to open. It is at this time that the tea leaves and those little white flowers are combined and stored overnight while the tea gets infused with the scent of the blooms, a four-hour process that may get repeated as many as seven times.
Jasmine teas come in a bunch of forms, including:
- Pearls (full leaves hand-rolled into little pearl shapes), also called “tears”
- Needles (full leaves processed into long, thin shapes)
- Blooming (full leaves and often flower petals sewn together in a “bud” that opens up as it steeps like a flower blooming)
- Full leaf (often this is the two-leaves-and-a-bud picking from the very end of the tea bush branches)
- Broken leaf (leaves from further down on the branch or that have been machine harvested and processed either by hand or machine and possibly further broken)
- Fannings (machine processed tea leaves ground to smaller pieces but larger than dust)
- Dust (machine processed tea leaves ground down really fine for easier bagging and/or steeping and usually flavored with jasmine oil instead of real blooms)
- Compressed shapes such as hearts
Black, green, white, and oolong teas are all used as the tea base, although green tea is by far the most common. Expect to pay a bit more for the better quality jasmines from vendors with a good reputation like Golden Moon, Harrisons & Crosfield, and Harney & Sons.
My favorite jasmine is dragon tears (or pearls). For one thing, it’s easy to measure out the right amount. I just count the pearls (2-3 per 8 ounces of water) and toss them in a cup of hot water, watching them unfold as they steep. Blooming jasmines are alright, but I find they are more fun to watch than to drink and can often be overly strong on the jasmine. Which brings me to another issue…
The floral aroma of jasmines can be quite overwhelming to those of us with sensitive sniffers. While I enjoy the flavor, which is often much milder than the fragrance, I have to be careful not to inhale too deeply when preparing the tea so that my nose doesn’t go into overload mode. Of course, this also means that jasmine teas need to be stored properly, that is, in air tight containers away from your other teas, or you could end up with a whole cupboard or tea pantry full of jasmines, whether you intend it or not.
Jasmine tea is said to have numerous health benefits, including:
- destroys free radicals and helps to slow aging
- lowers the risks of developing cancer
- helps keep bad cholesterol levels down
- is effective for dysentery, influenza and cholera, and in preventing colds
- stimulates the body to burn calories which encourages weight-loss
- has a calming and soothing effect
Give jasmine tea a try and you could get a very pleasant surprise!
Disclaimer: This is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your physician for your particular needs.
Review — Jasmine with Flowers Green Tea
Jasmine Dragon Tears and Michael Williams’ “Trajan’s Arch” — Magical Realism and Real Magic
Review — Golden Moon Jasmine Pearls
Jasmine Tea Choices
The Tea Provinces of China, Part I
The Tea Provinces of China, Part II
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