Weekday mornings are frequently humdrum and rarely exciting. To take them to the level of exquisite takes an imaginative mind. Such as that of my mother. One of her solutions is to set aside time at the start of each day for tea or coffee in her favorite cup, and so devoted is she to this tradition that every member of the family, including the cats, now has a designated “favorite cup.” I don’t have a single favorite, because whenever I pass by one of the dusty antique stores in Sablon, I come away with yet another mismatched vessel bearing a green chinoiserie pattern, garlands of tiny roses or a faded landscape of windmills and meadows. But I too am a believer in adding a dose of exquisite to every morning. Since jasmine pearl tea is one of the most perfect things in the world, it’s my panacea for the monotony.
Everything is beautiful about jasmine pearls–the shape of the fuzzy tea buds rolled by hand into neat pebbles, the gold amber of the liquid in the cup, the sunlit aroma of flowers. The latter is the reason why I prefer this jasmine tea variety to any other. Think of your most blossom festooned fantasies, and here you have them–in a cup. The richness of flavor and aroma comes from the complex process that approximates the ancient technique of enfleurage. Tea leaves and jasmine flowers are arranged in alternating layers and the blossoms are replaced every four to six hours. The scenting is repeated up to seven times for the highest quality of jasmine pearls, which are made with young tea buds.
Jasmine pearls are relatively uncomplicated to brew. Not that I’m averse to juggling thermometers and several tea accouterments to make a perfect cup, but my idea of a relaxing morning avoids anything convoluted. About 1/2 teaspoon of jasmine pearls per each cup is good, and the water should be simmering, not boiling (around 88C/190F). Three minutes of brewing is plenty, and while jasmine pearls are expensive, they can be brewed up to seven times. The flavor changes with each brewing, becoming greener and crisper as the leaves are spent.
Most tea importers carry jasmine pearls, although my favorites are from Ten Ren. They have a rich apricot jam perfume and a clear liquor with a sweet, green aftertaste. The Brussels based Nong Cha I wrote about in The Silk Route also carries an excellent jasmine pearl variety. Jasmine pearls are a seasonal product, becoming available at the end of the summer and disappearing sometime around early spring, but like the blossoms perfuming them, they are delicate and don’t stand well to storage. I buy them in small quantities and anticipate a series of jasmine colored mornings.
But don’t ask me about a perfume that captures this experience. There is none. L’Artisan Thé pour un Été, By Kilian Imperial Tea and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert are attractive, but jasmine pearls they are not.
Extra: Andy on his favorite jasmine teas
Photography by Bois de Jasmin