In Praise of Jasmine Tea

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.

jasmine tea

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-tea1

Jasmine Green

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 White

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.

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57 Comments

  • The Perfumed Veil: I love tea of all kinds and some of the best tea I’ve ever had comes from Teavana. They have such quality that the extravagant prices almost don’t matter when you try the exotic fruit teas redolent of berries and fruits and the classics infused with bergamot and spice. Of course, I have to pay homage to my own heritage: one of the best black teas I have ever come across is Czar Nicholas. Jasmine tea also happens to be one of my favorites even though I don’t like jasmine in my perfume. March 6, 2014 at 9:14am Reply

    • Andy: I’m quite the same–I don’t usually gravitate toward jasmine fragrances, but I adore jasmine tea and other jasmine flavored foods.

      I’m a little bashful to say that I’ve never actually bought anything from Teavana, though I’ve heard many good things. I don’t know if it’s a part of their corporate model for employees, but at my local mall, the SAs are a little pushy, which has scared me away from making any purchases yet. March 6, 2014 at 9:25am Reply

      • Aisha: I’ve had the opposite experience in the Teavana at our mall. The SAs there stand behind the counter and wait for people to approach them. Very odd if you want them to come in to the store to try some teas and then buy.

        That said, I’ve only tried the white chocolate peppermint tea. It was such a treat during Christmas. :-) March 6, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

        • Andy: Truly odd! It seems I’m going to have to visit a Teavana sometime, at a different location. Without the aggressive sales pitch, I might actually be able to make it to the counter to smell a few teas and give them a fair try. March 6, 2014 at 10:06pm Reply

  • nikki: Thank you for this luscious reminder of jasmine and oolong teas! I love those teas and I go transported back to a small tea store on the main street in China Town in Chicago where you can see the skyscrapers through the red and gold dragon arch.

    Their jasmine tea was like the perles you described. I am so glad you mentioned your favorite tea and where to get them as I will get some jasmine ancient beauty tea right away. March 6, 2014 at 9:26am Reply

    • Andy: I was in Chicago this past summer, though our brief stop in Chinatown didn’t allow for a look in the shops. For next time! Can I ask, though, what tea shop that was?

      And yes, if you like a jasmine oolong, then the Ancient Beauty is fantastic. I think another company, Art of Tea, also carries a similarly named jasmine oolong. March 6, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

      • nikki: Hello Andy!

        I will gladly share the tea store, it is on the east side (towards the great lake Michigan) of the street, going towards the four story parking garage. It is the only tea store there so I hope you will find it next time. They open these huge tea boxes for you to smell the tea!

        I also love the Evergreen (I think) restaurant which is in the center of the west side of the street, further towards the dragon gate. March 6, 2014 at 9:45am Reply

        • Andy: Thank you for the tea shop (and restaurant) reccomendation! The only tea shop I remember reading about in Chicago’s Chinatown is Ten Ren. Perhaps that’s it? March 6, 2014 at 10:41am Reply

  • Lucas: Hi Andy and thank you for another inspiring tea post.

    As a tea addict (I guess that’s how I should call myself) I have to admit that I made several approaches towards jasmine tea but I wasn’t lucky with it. It tastes good but it just doesn’t convince me.

    I’m more into spiced tea blends, like black tea with almonds, cinnamon, candied orange peel, cloves. Or a green tea with rose petals and lemongrass. Yum.

    In my hometown there’s a lovely tea shop with wide variety of tea types and flavors. I visit it quite often. March 6, 2014 at 9:29am Reply

    • Andy: Well, tea is just like perfume; everybody’s tastes are a bit different! I’ll admit that though I always have jasmine teas on hand, I’m not always in the mood either. I have a lot of different spiced and flavored blends as well, and I think that they are an important part of a well-balanced tea collection.

      On a different note, I’ve been spending some time this winter working at a small local tea shop. It’s so nice to see these smaller, family-owned operations in our towns. March 6, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

  • Iodine: Now, it’s such a long time I haven’t tasted a good jasmin tea! Thanks for the suggestions, Andy.
    As a side note, I’m wearing today a fragrance by AbdesSalaam Attar, Venezia Giardini Segreti, prominently a jasmin scent, that shows an unexpected tea note to my nose- like black tea with milk and jasmin! March 6, 2014 at 9:32am Reply

    • Andy: Mmm! That fragrance sounds, shall I say, delicious! The suggestions I’ve included are just a few, because I know that there are so many different jasmine teas out there, and everyone has their favorites. March 6, 2014 at 9:43am Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, apologies for butting in. Iodine, may I please write to you with a couple of questions about Milan? :) March 6, 2014 at 9:44am Reply

      • Iodine: Please do!!! Are you coming here for Esxence?! :) March 7, 2014 at 3:11am Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: Thanks for the suggestions, Andy. I love jasmine pearl tea! It’s so relaxing to see the small balls slowly unfurling. Once, a colleague came into my office and complemented on my ‘perfume’ when I was brewing the tea! :-) I actually ran out of it last week so I need to stock up. But I’ll also try to look for jasmine white or black/oolong tea because I’ve never tried them. I don’t know about the jasmine black/oolong but the shop I usually buy my tea from seems to carry jasmine silver needle and Tai Mu Long Zhu. March 6, 2014 at 9:49am Reply

    • Andy: The story about your coworker makes me smile! I haven’t ever come across what I would truly call a jasmine “black” tea, as all of those I’ve seen or tasted seem more oolong-like to me. In any case, if you find one, the jasmine scented oolongs are really exquisite, and tend to be rolled like the pearl-shaped green teas, so they are also fun to watch unfurl. March 6, 2014 at 10:48am Reply

  • Annikky: Andy, a lovely post, as always. I’ve just finished a project of my own – drinking a different tea every day and writing a short review on Facebook. I did that for a month and it has made me more mindful of what I drink and consequently I also to enjoy my tea more. It also made me even more appreciative of people who blog: it’s a tough job.

    There is a very good tea shop in Brussels called Nong Cha and I’ve got both their jasmine pearls (Mo Li Long Zhu Imperial) and black jasmine tea (Mo Li Pu Er Cha). I cannot decide, which one I like best. I really should try Jasmine Silver Needle as well, it sounds great.

    If you enjoy things that taste like jasmine, have you tried jasmine flower jam? I’ve got one from Albert Menes and it’s very nice, not sure it’s available in US, though. A couple of weeks ago I made some scones with cream and jasmine jam to accompany jasmine tea and it all worked very well. March 6, 2014 at 9:52am Reply

    • Sylviane: Hello Annikky would you be kind enough to give me the address of the Nong Cha shop ?
      Thanks a lot in advance and thank you Andy for the inspiring post. March 6, 2014 at 10:26am Reply

      • Annikky: Yes, of course, Sylviane: it’s at 4 Rue Antoine Dansaert/Antoine Dansaertstraat 4.

        I was introduced to this shop by Austenfan, so I’m especially happy to pass the knowledge on to other BdJ readers :) March 6, 2014 at 10:39am Reply

    • Andy: Writing those tea reviews sounds like a great project. You make a good point because for me, writing articles like this one help me to become a better taster (and writer!), and to appreciate different teas more.

      Nong Cha sounds exquisite! The Mo Li Pu Er Cha sounds like nothing else I’ve tried before; is it a jasmine scented Pu erh tea?

      And for jasmine flavors, I’ve had access to the fresh blossoms from my garden in the summer, which can be added to tea or lemonade. I’ve been meaning to order some osmanthus syrup soon though (a Thai product, I think), so perhaps I’ll try something jasmine too. Also, I’m salivating right now at the mention of your scones, jam, and tea! March 6, 2014 at 10:59am Reply

      • Austenfan: Sorry for butting in. It is. It may be my favourite of all the jasmine teas I have ever tried. I have to brew carefully though as otherwise the Pu Erh takes on a life of it’s own. Nong Cha has Jasmine teas in two kinds of white tea, pearls and needles, green tea, black(red) tea and Pu Erh. I don’t know if they have a Jasmine oolong, another Brussels shop does, and I really like that tea as well.

        Another flower flavoured tea Nong Cha sells is a green tea flavoured with Grapefruit flowers. It’s gorgeous, and especially good in summer. March 6, 2014 at 2:53pm Reply

        • Austenfan: I realise the pearls are green. They are closer in taste to the white needle Jasmin than to the cheaper green Jasmin teas like Chun Hao.

          The name of the Grapefruit flower tea is: You Zi Hua Cha March 6, 2014 at 3:17pm Reply

          • Ashley Anstaett: Ohh, I am sorry for butting in, but those teas sound amazing. I want to try th Grapefruit flower! March 7, 2014 at 10:08am Reply

        • Annikky: I must try that grapefruit flower one, sounds really nice. March 6, 2014 at 4:52pm Reply

        • Andy: The jasmine pu erh sounds amazing! I’ve never found anything that sounds like it before. And the grapefruit blossom scented tea also sounds incredible. I wish I could make a trip to Brussels just to visit Nong Cha! March 6, 2014 at 7:11pm Reply

        • Lizzy: Jasmine Pu Erh and Grapefruit Flower Tea, you say? Those sound divine and I would love to taste some–will have to see if I can get any here in the US! March 6, 2014 at 7:32pm Reply

      • Annikky: Austenfan has already said it better than I ever could, but yes, it’s a Pu Erh (dark tea would have been a more accurate description) and it’s really good. If you are interested, I can send you some to sample? Victoria has my e-mail address, just drop me a line.

        Is there a magnolia flavoured tea you would recommend? It sounds like something I would enjoy, but I’ve never seen one. March 6, 2014 at 4:51pm Reply

        • Andy: That’s incredibly generous of you! I’m flattered by your kindness, but I’d hate to hassle you with international shipping and the like.

          I’ve only tried one magnolia-scented tea so far, and it was a light oolong tea from Upton Tea Imports. In general, I find Upton’s quality spotty, but this tea is very nice. It is quite delicate, but has enough magnolia scent to be enjoyable. March 6, 2014 at 7:23pm Reply

          • Annikky: Thank you for the recommendation – I looked it up on the website and it sounds lovely.

            And seriously, I’d be happy to share some tea with you – I’ve been at the receiving end of so much generosity myself that it seems only fair. Just drop me a line at [hidden]. March 7, 2014 at 4:21am Reply

            • Andy: Thank you so much, Annikky! I will send you an email, and then let Victoria know to edit your comment so she can remove the address for your security. March 7, 2014 at 9:10am Reply

              • Annikky: Thanks! March 7, 2014 at 11:03am Reply

  • key change: Great post, Andy! I do wonder–do you have a presence on steepster? It’s an online tea community where people review teas, keep a tea log, swap teas, etc.–and it’s really revolutionized my tea-drinking experience!

    And I’ve both heard and experienced horror stories regarding Teavana’s sales tactics. Coupled with the fact that you can’t purchase sample sizes from them (and can purchase comparable tea for cheaper elsewhere), I only shop there for teaware and roc sugar and the like. But hey–we like what we like, right? so the door is never completely closed on falling for a teavana tea enough to buy a whole lot of it! :) March 6, 2014 at 12:17pm Reply

    • Andy: I’ve been debating joining Steepster, but your comment makes me a lot more tempted to create an account.

      Regarding Teavana, I think that I will have to try visiting another location, because my local one is just plain scary. I’m a person who just doesn’t take well to high-pressure sales tactics, which they seem all too keen on at the store near me. I also haven’t been too impressed with the teas that some of my friends and relatives drink from there, but you’re right–it’s too soon for me to write them off completely! March 6, 2014 at 7:28pm Reply

  • maja: Hi Andy, wonderful post as usual!
    I usually pick my own jasmine flowers and add the fresh to a simple black tea. They smell amazing. I recently bought a jasmine lychee white tea (couldn’t resist the smell!) but I find I savour its aroma more when it is completely cold. March 6, 2014 at 1:18pm Reply

    • maja: *taste, sorry, not aroma March 6, 2014 at 1:20pm Reply

    • Andy: I also am in the habit of adding fresh jasmine flowers to my tea, but unfortunately I can only do that in the summer, because my sambac jasmine won’t bloom for me indoors in the winter! Jasmine and lychee sounds like a beautiful combination–can I ask where you found that tea? March 6, 2014 at 7:30pm Reply

      • maja: Oh, in a small shop here in Italy. It’s called Théophile Boutique. :) The smell of the combination is just amazing. March 7, 2014 at 2:55am Reply

        • Andy: I’ll have to search for something similar online–sounds delectable! March 7, 2014 at 9:13am Reply

  • SallyM: Lovely article Andy. Jasmine is my absolute favorite tea: either Pearls or Silver Needle. As a tea merchant I’m lucky to be able to buy at wholesale so do indulge my jasmine habit on a regular basis. Before my husband retired, he traveled to China 3 times a year and would always bring me home the best teas, Jasmine of course, being the largest pack! I was thrilled to go with him on one trip and visit a plantation where I got to experience first hand the process – fascinating!
    Also as a tea merchant who knows how much tea costs from the wholesaler, I am often appalled at how much retailers charge for their wares. Unfortunately, Teavana is a prime offender – their prices are very inflated. Its a double edged sword for me – on the one hand I accept that cost is subjective and if you like a product and can afford it, then go for it. On the other hand it bugs me to know how much retailers could lower their prices yet still make a good profit. March 6, 2014 at 2:28pm Reply

    • SallyM: I should have written “how much retailers could lower their prices yet still make a good profit but choose not to.” March 6, 2014 at 2:30pm Reply

    • Andy: I can really feel for what you have to say, Sally. I’ve been working at a local tea shop this winter, and while the prices we sell at are very reasonable (well in line with the wholesale costs), unfortunately it seems that a lot of business is lost to the bigger, fancier shops like Teavana. When I can buy an ounce of fantastic jasmine pearls at a local small business for under $10 per ounce, it makes no sense to me to spend more at a store like Teavana for a product that isn’t any better. In any case, I’m truly envious of the fantastic teas you had coming to you straight from China! March 6, 2014 at 7:36pm Reply

      • SallyM: Yes it can be frustrating. I have several friends who have tea shops and its a struggle to compete with the “big boys.” I myself do a lot of tea tastings and people are always so surprised and thrilled when they find out that superior quality tea *can* be bought at a reasonable price. March 6, 2014 at 8:50pm Reply

        • Andy: Now that I think about it, I probably send a mixed message, given that I’ve posed several recommendations from tea companies in the article. But when it comes to the bulk of what teas I buy, I do prefer to purchase from shops that are owned by passionate people, like yourself. Ultimately, it was the realization that I could afford to buy quality tea that allowed me to get hooked on tea the way I am today. March 6, 2014 at 10:13pm Reply

  • Eed: Wow Jasmine White sounds too good to be true! All my favorite things are gathered inside! I am sure it is perfect March 6, 2014 at 2:46pm Reply

    • Andy: Jasmine white teas are really beautiful. Definitely worth a try! March 6, 2014 at 7:37pm Reply

  • Aisha: This post came at the right time. I just gave up coffee for Lent, and have been using my break from java to rediscover teas.

    Jasmine and lapsang souchong are among my many favorites. (As are Earl Grey and Darjeeling.) I don’t have any jasmine tea at the moment, but now I’m really craving it. :-) March 6, 2014 at 3:19pm Reply

    • Andy: What a nice Lenten fast to make! Better you than me, because as far as food goes, my self discipline is embarrassingly weak.

      In addition to jasmine, Lapsang Souchong is a major weak spot for me. I’m having a cup right now! March 6, 2014 at 7:43pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Lovely, lovely post! Thanks, Andy. March 6, 2014 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Andy: Thank you, Austenfan! The advice you’ve dispensed above (about the teas offered by Nong Cha) was so helpful. I’m seriously hoping to visit Brussels sometime in the not-too-distant future in order to make a stop at this shop and so many others I’ve learned about since reading and writing here on Bois de Jasmin. March 6, 2014 at 7:45pm Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: I love a good jasmine tea, but it is true, they vary pretty wildly in quality. I find that a bad Jasmine tea gets better very, very fast, even if it’s not oversteeped. I want to try a jasmine white tea, and I think I will check out the Jasmine Silver Needle that you recommended! March 6, 2014 at 4:52pm Reply

    • Andy: Yes, the quality variation for jasmine teas (and teas in general) is immense. The very first time I tried a jasmine tea, many years ago, was from a teabag. Compared to the really wonderful jasmine teas I drink now, I’m sure it must have been disappointing! March 6, 2014 at 7:47pm Reply

  • Lizzy: Beautiful post, Andy–I thoroughly enjoyed it and the comments above. Jasmine tea is a favorite of mine, ever since my sister brought back some delightful little pearls from a trip to Hong Kong. She gave me a little 4 oz tin full and I hoarded that forever!

    Since then I have found, like you, that there has been a great variation in the quality of the jasmine teas I’ve tried (though the “no bad pizza” analogy applies here, IMHO–hard for me to label any jasmine tea as “bad.” Spotty, sure, sometimes even insipid. But even that can pick up a gloomy day ;) ). I have a supply of a very serviceable jasmine green pearl tea from Mountain Rose Herbs (though I’m unclear as to who exactly is their supplier) for every day drinking as well as a precious “sample” of an exquisite Yin Hao Jasmine tea from Imperial Tea Court in SF–two very different teas but carrying the same note beautifully. March 6, 2014 at 7:47pm Reply

    • Andy: I order from Mountain Rose Herbs fairly often, so I should really try some of their teas. I would assume that they probably source their teas either from a wholesaler who deals with tea plantations directly, or considering their close relationship with the producers of the botanicals they sell, perhaps MRH deals with the tea plantations themselves.

      If I ever visit San Francisco I’ll have to visit Imperial Tea Court! March 6, 2014 at 9:57pm Reply

  • Elizabeth T.: The jasmine oolong & black teas sound lovely… I’ve only tried the green, so will have so seek out some! Thanks for the article! March 6, 2014 at 11:03pm Reply

    • Andy: Yes, they are for sure worth trying if you like jasmine green teas! March 6, 2014 at 11:11pm Reply

  • mysterious_scent: Great article! Any trustworthy online website to buy jasmine tea? March 7, 2014 at 4:40am Reply

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