Jasmine tea is one of the most ubiquitous flavored teas, but finding a high-quality blend takes some research. Andy describes how jasmine tea is made and also how to buy a truly artisanal product.
The immense variety of gourmand perfumes make smelling good enough to eat a simple task. Between the chocolate-torte richness of Angel, the strawberry cotton candy of Pink Sugar, or the licorice and violet pastilles of Lolita Lempicka, the possibilities make for an endless dessert case of choices. But when I want to smell good enough to drink, I sometimes find myself at a loss. Instead, I brew myself a cup of jasmine tea, and I quickly forget my fragrant dilemma.
While drinking a cup of jasmine tea, the lines between food and fragrance quickly blur. As soon as the aroma of soft white petals and sweet, toasted leaves begins to fill the air, I’m left almost unsure whether I’d rather dab the tea on my skin or take a sip. In few other cases is the humble task of brewing a cup of tea elevated to this level of almost magical sensory indulgence. And perhaps the most blissful part of it all is the fact that enjoying jasmine tea can be a daily ritual, not just an experience for special occasions.
Jasmine, along with osmanthus, rose, and magnolia scented teas are traditionally produced in Southern China. The process of producing these scented teas is elaborate, and for jasmine tea starts in the springtime, when tea leaves are harvested and processed. Then, the tea is stored away until jasmine comes into bloom in late summer.
At this point the tea (which, though often green, may be white, black, or oolong) undergoes a lavish scenting process that may involve setting trays of tea over newly opened jasmine buds, layering tea and jasmine together, or simply mixing the tea and jasmine together. The jasmine is removed and replaced by hand several times, until the tea is impregnated with the sweet scent of summer petals. As tea may be scented anywhere from only a few to a dozen or more times, quality (and price) can vary greatly between jasmine scented teas.
Buying a quality jasmine tea allows you to experience a truly artisanal product, crafted laboriously and with immense care. When purchasing jasmine tea, foremost look for a rich, heady aroma, as well as leaves that appear to be tightly rolled or curled, of fairly uniform size. While a few dried jasmine flowers in the tea will not affect the flavor, higher quality teas will typically be free of any stray petals as well. Since the fragrance of the tea increases with each additional scenting, a strongly perfumed tea is one that has also been processed with the most care. Below is an overview of different kinds of jasmine teas, along with recommendations to try.
Jasmine green teas are the most commonly found, and most companies sell one or more variety. For a truly indulgent experience, try Jasmine Pearls, such as Le Palais des Thés’ exquisite Perles de Jasmin. This type, which is created by hand rolling two leaves and a bud into a unique pearl-shape, locks in a pure jasmine aroma, perfuming the air around you as the pearls unfurl in hot water.
Jasmine-scented white teas taste especially clean and refreshing, with the green banana-like sweetness of jasmine brought to the forefront. Since white teas are naturally mild in flavor, the addition of jasmine allows the jasmine flavor to shine through purely, as if carried to your tastebuds on a cloud. My favorite jasmine white tea continues to be Art of Tea’s Jasmine Silver Needle, which you can read more about here: White Teas : Perfume in Your Cup.
Jasmine Oolong & Black
These “dark” jasmine teas are among my favorites. On an oolong base, jasmine smells especially rich and sultry, with the fruity, candied nuances especially apparent. Upton Tea Imports carries an excellent Jasmine Ancient Beauty tea that is classified as black, but is more reminiscent of an oolong to me.
More on tea: Tea Primer.
Photography by Bois de Jasmin: jasmine green tea; spread on making jasmine tea from Le Palais des Thés magazine.