Everything is Coming Up Roses : Rose Tea

In Arabic, instead of the standard “good morning,” you can wish someone a morning of light, sabah al noor, morning of cream, sabah al ashta as well as morning of sleep, sabah al noum. My favorite greeting remains a morning of roses, sabah al ward. When I say it out loud—the thorny Arabic ‘h’ softly scratching my throat — I imagine a shower of red petals and their voluptuous honeyed fragrance. The only thing that can awaken me though is the annoying beeping of my alarm clock, so I’ve resolved to creating mornings of roses by other means.

One of my favorite ways to start a day is a strong cup of tea. I love the smell of coffee, but I save the boost of caffeine for those days when I absolutely need it. On most days, a cup of tea is enough to make me feel energized and uplifted. Some people are tea purists, but I don’t mind experimenting with flavored teas from time to time. As long as the flavor is not too strong or artificial, it can be an interesting foil to the tannic richness of tea.

As I discovered, the natural lemon-honey notes of rose marry exceptionally well with black tea, whether in a perfume bottle (like Parfums de Rosine Un Zest de Rose, Rose Praline, and Eau d’Italie Paestum Rose) or in a cup. Rose tea is now essential  whenever I crave my “mornings of roses,” and I’ve settled on two commercial varieties: Le Palais des Thés Rose de Chine and Mariage Frères Rose.

Both Rose de Chine and Rose are black tea blends and are priced similarly (around $8 per 100g). Le Palais des Thés teas are among my favorites, and Rose de Chine doesn’t disappoint. The dark Chinese tea brews a full-bodied amber colored cup, and the flavor of rose is strong but perfect against the delicate smoky bitterness of Qimen tea leaf. I sometimes blend a bit of Rose de Chine with some other black tea to create a more subtle rose accent. Mariage Frères Rose is more gentle by comparison. The tea itself isn’t as dark and rich, and the flavor is softer.

These teas have been among my favorite rose scented blends over the past year, along with a zesty Jasmine Rose Green Tea from Upton, but today I’m enjoying a recipe shared by my reader Andy when we were discussing Annick Goutal rose fragrances.

Andy suggested blending a couple of drops of vanilla extract and a quarter teaspoon of rosewater into a cup of Darjeeling tea. He also brews the tea with a piece of lemon peel and sweetens it with a teaspoon of apricot jam. “It’s the closest I’ve been able to recreate a food that tastes just like a rose garden!” he added, and it was enough to make me run into the kitchen to try his recipe.

A mere whiff of rose and vanilla made me melt; a sip proved that this is summer indolence captured in a drop of liquid. Vanilla rounds out the mild bitterness of tea, and the lemon accents that tart sparkle of rosewater. This combination works with any black tea, and although I usually prefer my tea unsweetened, a bit of apricot jam makes rose fuller and richer.  But even with the flavors paired down to only rosewater and vanilla, this perfumed tea makes my mornings of roses fit closer with my fantasies.

Le Palais des Thés Rose de Chine is available from Le Palais des Thés (US boutique) . Mariage Frères teas are sold at Mariage Frères (UK boutique), deandeluca.com and markethallfoods.com.

My favorite rosewater brands are Mymouné, Heritage Products (can be found at Whole Foods and other natural food stores), and Cortas.  Mymouné is particularly worth seeking out for its rounded, honeyed perfume. It’s a Lebanese cooperative run by women who do all of the distilling and preserving by hand. I buy Mymouné floral waters and delicious jams from Kalustyan’s, and their website provides more points of sale.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved.

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44 Comments

  • Andy: Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying this tea! May 3, 2012 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Andy! It’s really a wonderful recipe, and I love the way the flavors work together. Now, if I could only find something similar in a perfume bottle. 🙂

      Do you like jasmine teas? I’m looking for any recommendations, because I’m already tired of my current Ten Ren jasmine pearl and would love to try something different. May 3, 2012 at 9:03am Reply

      • Andy: Jasmine teas are absolutely one of my favorite types of tea. I love all of the jasmine offerings from Art of Tea (www.artoftea.com). They have a jasmine oolong called Jasmine Ancient Beauty that is made from beautiful whole leaves (and has multiple infusions), and it is truly a favorite of mine. It pairs the “purple” fruity aspects of jasmine in the tea’s aroma with a smooth white floral flavor. The contrast between the fresh floral taste of the jasmine and the darker flavors of oolong makes for a truly unique experience. Art of Tea also offers a Jasmine Silver Needle white tea that is excellent. Since the flavor of white tea is so light, the predominant flavor is that of just the jasmine. It makes for a very pure, crisp jasmine flavor, very slightly underpinned with the dry peachy flavor of the white tea itself. Art of Tea also offers several jasmine green teas, which are all very good, but less unique than the jasmine oolong or jasmine white tea. Really, I think if you are looking for some new jasmine teas, it is a good idea to try the Ancient Beauty Oolong and Jasmine Silver Needle, for something new, and then try a jasmine green to see how you like theirs in comparison to the jasmine tea you had from Ten Ren. May 3, 2012 at 6:42pm Reply

        • Victoria: Andy, thank you for these recommendations! I’m tempted by every single one of them. I’ll start with the Ancient Beauty Oolong and Jasmine Silver Needle. Ten Ren jasmine pearl is a good tea, but I have a feeling that I’ve had better jasmine teas before. Or perhaps, my batch wasn’t that fresh. May 3, 2012 at 6:48pm Reply

          • Andy: Oh yes, the freshness of the tea always is so important. Since I have so many teas, just an ounce of loose leaf tea can last several months. It may be my imagination, but the tea always seems to taste better when I first get it, even with careful storage. May 3, 2012 at 6:54pm Reply

            • Victoria: I always think that same thing. I feel that the best cup is from the first couple of days of opening a tin/a packet. It must be true in a way, because the aromatics in tea leaves are volatile. May 3, 2012 at 7:07pm Reply

        • Andy: By the way, your photo is georgeous and perfectly matches the sort of visions that this rose tea conjures in my head 🙂 May 3, 2012 at 6:50pm Reply

          • Victoria: Thank you so much! I was kind of nervous posting it, as I really wanted to make sure that it captured the mood of what you’ve described. I’m still learning photography, so I have such a long long way to go. May 3, 2012 at 7:04pm Reply

    • Lynn: I’m trying to find Andy’s recipe for Rose tea. March 12, 2014 at 11:37pm Reply

      • Victoria: I describe it in this post! 🙂 March 13, 2014 at 4:28am Reply

  • behemot: Oh Victoria, it sounds so delicious… I love tea, I drink it all the time. Will have to try this recipe when I return home from my trip.
    Have a nice day (or the morning of roses)! May 3, 2012 at 8:01am Reply

    • Victoria: A morning of roses to you too! 🙂
      (A morning of cream sounds wonderful as well.)

      Like you, I drink tea from morning to evening, which my husband claims is a very Russian thing to do. We even decided to get a samovar to be completely kitsch. I found a cute little samovar on Ebay, but unfortunately it turned out to contain lead, so now it’s just a decoration. Whenever I visit my Iranian friends, I notice that they also have a samovar, except that theirs is modern and lead-free.
      Hope that you enjoy Andy’s recipe! May 3, 2012 at 9:11am Reply

      • behemot: Have you seen the Breville One Touch Teamaker at the Teavana store? I admit it is not a samovar, but maybe it could make a life of a serious tea drinker a bit easier?
        I have an old, probably Soviet, samovar, but it doesn’t work. I suspect it never did. My grandparents had it and it was probably a gift some day…
        Funny thing about tea drinking. My daughter always liked tea and still drinks a lot of it, what surprises her North American friends.. May 3, 2012 at 4:49pm Reply

        • Victoria: I just went online and checked it out. It may not have the romantic glow of a samovar, but it looks to be very useful. Maybe, something else to add to my “kitchen gadget wishlist.”

          Your daughter has Slavic blood! We must have some tea mixed in with ours. 🙂 May 3, 2012 at 5:06pm Reply

          • behemot: Definitely.. May 3, 2012 at 5:56pm Reply

  • Robin: Aha, I had no idea Heritage rosewater was even of food grade…I use it on my face. May 3, 2012 at 8:06am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s because instead of being straightforward and saying something like “food grade,” they put “can be used a gourmet seasoning” on their label. I’ve been using it on my face for a year before I noticed that. May 3, 2012 at 9:16am Reply

      • Robin: Aha — just looked. Mine is rosewater + glycerin, which is not the same thing, although it’s one of my favorite skincare products. Will have to buy some of the “plain”. May 3, 2012 at 9:20am Reply

        • Victoria: Do try it! Their plain rosewater really smells like blooming tea roses and is about $5 a bottle. My bottle says “Rosewater, certified”: Pure, Natural Essence, From European Roses, Popular Gourmet Flavoring.

          They also have Lavender and Lilac, but I didn’t try those yet. May 3, 2012 at 9:39am Reply

  • Marylizette: Gosh, I just love your blog. I can’t wait to try the rose water recipe. May 3, 2012 at 8:29am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that you will enjoy it! We have to thank Andy for sharing such an easy and wonderful tea idea. I’m having a cup right now. May 3, 2012 at 9:17am Reply

  • Suzanna: I am a tea drinker, too. I agree that rose tea is sublime both in taste and in the aroma that curls up out of a cup!

    Another lovely tea is the jasmine pearl type, to which I have sometimes added a dollop of wild rosehip jam.

    Love Andy’s suggestion of vanilla/rosewater. That’s enough to make me push aside the cup I just brewed and start over! May 3, 2012 at 9:18am Reply

    • Victoria: What jasmine pearl tea do you use? I’m always looking for new teas to try.

      Your mention of rosehip jam reminded me how I watched my grandmother make it by painstakingly seeding each berry. The results were so delicious though. May 3, 2012 at 9:56am Reply

  • MB: Today’s post is a classic example of why I love this website. I wish everyone a sabah al boisdejasmin. May 3, 2012 at 12:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. 🙂 I wonder if there’s a sabah al yasmin! May 3, 2012 at 2:26pm Reply

      • Victoria: Just as I hit “submit” comment, my Arabic teacher emailed me back that there is! You can even wish someone “sabah al noor wal yasmin”–a morning of light and jasmine. That sounds like such a beautiful idea. May 3, 2012 at 2:29pm Reply

        • Danaki: True, in fact, you can wish (especially in Egypt), ‘Sabah el full wal yasmin’, where ‘full’ refers to Jasmine sambac and yasmin refers to royal jasmine (grandiflorum). May 15, 2014 at 10:17am Reply

  • Vishishta: Wow thanks for the beautiful morning salutation and the tea recipe. Peets sells a great Darjeeling by the way.
    Indians and Iranians put rosewater in many recipes–nothing like it in a cheesecake–or the many Indian cheese delicacies.

    Love this column–it often makes my morning “full of roses”. May 3, 2012 at 12:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Vishishta! I love rose flavor in Indian sweets, and I was also surprised to discover that it used to be a common flavoring for cakes and desserts in Russia. In old pre-Soviet era recipes, it’s often listed as an alternative to vanilla.

      Now, I have to try rosewater in my cheesecake recipe! May 3, 2012 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Jessica: You have just given me a reason to visit Kalustyan’s! I haven’t been there in a while. Thank you for this post! May 3, 2012 at 1:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: I love Kalustyan’s! I try not to go there too often, because if I can resist the temptation of shoes, perfume and clothes, I can’t resist spices. And they have a huge variety! May 3, 2012 at 2:38pm Reply

  • May: Victoria, do you speak Arabic? If so, you must tell me how you pronounce the infamous “ayn”, as I have yet to pronounce it without sounding like I’m self-strangulating.

    Speaking of roses, I coincidentally spritzed myself with Dolce & Gabbana’s Rose The One today. I admit I have no idea what a rose perfume is “supposed” to smell like, but this one at least is pleasant and unoffensive. Have you sampled Rose The One? May 3, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I speak it–I’m only learning it, and at this rate, there will be some time before I can communicate anything coherent to anyone. At least, I can greet them in a couple of different ways and decipher labels at my local Lebanese grocery. 🙂

      I think that you’re pronouncing “ayn” correctly! 🙂 One of my textbooks says this, “one prominent Arabist once suggested that the best way to pronounce this letter is to gag. Do it, and you’ll feel the muscles of your throat constrict the passage of air in just the right way… It sounds rather like the bleating of a lamb, but smoother.” Needless to say, it’s something best practiced in your classroom or in complete solitude. 🙂 My throat would be sore for days after my lessons, and to this day, I need the most practice with this letter. On the other hand, all of these throaty consonants give such a wonderful flavor to the language. If your textbook comes with a CD/DVD, I highly recommend doing those assignments and listening again and again to how the native speakers pronounce simple words with “ayn”. That really helped me.

      I haven’t smelled Rose The One yet, but now I’m going to add it to my list. My Sephora was promoting it at one point, at least it would be easy to find. May 3, 2012 at 3:43pm Reply

  • carole macleod: I love the Palais de Tea tea-I was given it by a friend. I went for a swim on a hot day in a cold, dark, fast moving river, which is miles wide. I came home deliciously cool, in spite of the humid air. I wanted tea and so I brewed this, and scattered a few wild rose petals in it. The fragrance was beautiful, and it added so much joy to an already joyuos experience! I had never had a floral tea before. I love your tea reviews! May 3, 2012 at 3:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds like my idea of a paradise, Carole! Your touch of wild rose petals sounds wonderful. They have such a beautiful scent. My husband and I still talk about a wild rose bush we discovered in the Botanical Garden that smelled of raspberries. I haven’t smelled any other rose like it since. May 3, 2012 at 4:19pm Reply

      • carole macleod: There is a very common fragrant rose that grows wild here-it only has four petals, and I have only seen it in pink. It is a powerhouse of a fragrance, and smells of roses, and really really ripe raspberries. May 3, 2012 at 4:57pm Reply

        • Victoria: I suppose that you can gather a couple of handfuls of petals and mix them with sugar. I made jasmine sugar last year this way with the few blossoms that my plant produced. But surprisingly, a small handful was enough to flavor 2 cups of sugar. I used that sugar in lemonade, very delicious. May 3, 2012 at 5:09pm Reply

  • Allison: You might enjoy a black tea with vanilla and rose from a store in Austin, Texas called Zhi Tea, they have a website. There’s also a company from Manhasset called Serendipitea that has several rose infused teas. I have also enjoyed a tea from Mariage Freres called Himalayan Rose. May 3, 2012 at 9:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: I had a Himalayan Rose candle from MF, but not the tea. Did you like it, what did it taste like?

      Thank you for more rose tea recommendations! Sounds like I’ll be having more mornings of roses in the coming weeks. 🙂 May 3, 2012 at 10:53pm Reply

      • Allison: The Himalayan Rose tea is a Darjeeling with a subtle rose and fruit infusion, it’s quite lovely. May 4, 2012 at 8:02am Reply

        • Victoria: My rose tea list has grown over the past few hours! 🙂 Thank you for a recommendation; the Himalayan Rose tea sounds wonderful. May 4, 2012 at 9:26am Reply

  • Jillie: My favourite tea of all is rose, so thank you and Andy for such a brilliant post! I will now try to get hold of all your recommendations, and will make Andy’s recipe. I prefer Sri Lankan tea to China in my blends, and wonder if you have tried any? Here in the UK we have a little independent company called Brewhaha who (amongst other types) have a good rose tea made with Sri Lankan leaves. Come to think of it, I am a rose tea junkie, and my cupboards are stuffed with it! May 4, 2012 at 3:08am Reply

    • Victoria: Jillie, I also prefer Sri Lankan teas, if I have to pick a black tea blend. My favorite–having a cup as I type!–is Le Palais des Thes Pettiagala. It’s aromatic, velvety, with a hint of leather and a very subtle smoky note. Not particularly tannic, unless you oversteep it. I think that Pettiagala is sold by other tea importers, but it’s worth seeking out.

      I’m having fun browsing the description on Brewhaha’s website: “What do you get when you put rose petals and black tea together? Turkish Delight in a teacup!” Perfect! 🙂 May 4, 2012 at 9:26am Reply

  • eliabel: Thank you so much, Victoria, for the morning pleasure. This morning I’ve opened your blog and got lost in it. This is a wonderful blog and this is a wonderful post. I cannot go on writing, because I run to my kitchen to create a blooming garden in a cup of tea.
    Olga March 15, 2014 at 5:33am Reply

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