Tea and Chrysanthemums

Awhile back I wrote a whole slew of poems about tea and other things such as chrysanthemums. These wonderful flowering plants are particular favorites, especially during Autumn, for inspiring my inner Muse. And they go nice with tea time!

‘Mums add a lovely Autumn touch to tea time! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
‘Mums add a lovely Autumn touch to tea time! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

Chrysanthemums have been cultivated in China since the 15th century B.C. They regarded this flowering herb as an important part of their medicines. (Chrysanthemum tisane is said to have numerous health benefits, but I will leave that for you to discuss with your doctor.) In Chinese symbology, the chrysanthemum is known as Autumn, one of the Four Gentlemen (the four seasons). It also signifies the 10th month of the lunar calendar (roughly equivalent to October) as well as longevity and eternity. In Japan, the Festival of Happiness celebrates the chrysanthemum, which is the symbol of the Emperor there. Australians, whose seasons are reversed from those here in the U.S., present chrysanthemums to mothers on their Mother’s Day (in May which is their Autumn). The chrysanthemum is also the flower of November. It has been cultivated here in the U.S. since 1798 when a variety called “Dark Purple” was imported from England.

Tea with Chrysanthemum vs. “Chrysanthemum Tea”

In parts of Asia, including China, yellow and white chrysanthemum flowers (species C. morifolium) are boiled to make a sweet drink called “chrysanthemum tea” (菊花茶, júhuā chá). This is not really a tea. The term chá covers any liquid where plant matter is infused or is boiled to make a decoction. In English, many have adopted the term “tisane” (from the French) or call these beverages by the term “infusions.” This distinguishes them from tea with chrysanthemum. Many versions of “chrysanthemum tea” are available, including one in the Chanakara Assortment (Chakra #7: White Lotus – a pale golden infusion of white lotus, chamomile, chrysanthemum, and linden).

Tea with chrysanthemum, on the other hand, has true tea in it. True tea is the kind made from the leaves of the family of plants under the name Camellia sinensis. There are several varietals and many cultivars. They have a variety of aromas and flavors, depending on where grown, when harvested, and how processed. Some are so wonderful that it’s a shame to add anything to them, but maybe it’s like adding some spices to your stew. Chrysanthemum petals are one such “spice,” adding their unique qualities to those of the tea leaves.

Sprucing Up Tea Time with Chrysanthemums

“Mums,” as they are often called, are very popular in Fall. A nice vase full or a potted plant gracing your tea table will add a great atmosphere. White, yellow, rust, etc., add their beauty and aroma (which, incidentally, help deter insects from ‘bugging’ you!). If you don’t want the actual flowers, go with some teawares or table linens with chrysanthemum designs on them. Whatever your choice, you’ll have a very festive tea time!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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