Jasmine Pearl Tea

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.

jasmine-pearl-tea-1

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.

jasmine-pearls

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 ÉtéBy 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

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75 Comments

  • LaDomna: Thanks for reminding me about jasmine pearl tea! It’s been a really long while since I had the pleasure of drinking it, but there is a tea shop in town that just might have some! I’ll go have a look tomorrow. Jasmine pearl tea is just such an opulent experience! January 6, 2016 at 7:39am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t keep it on hand all the time either, because as I mentioned, it’s a delicate tea. But I bought some recently and got reminded of what a beauty it is. January 6, 2016 at 8:33am Reply

  • Karen (A): Adding a dose of exquisite sounds like a good way to start the new year! Perfect timing on this article. Normally I have a latte in the morning (curled under comforters) and one later but I want to start drinking more tea and let go of the second latte. Will be searching out some nice teas, including Jasmine pearl. (I feel a bit heretical as I have not been that in to tea) January 6, 2016 at 8:04am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re in for a treat, although if you’re used to coffee or dark teas, I will warn that jasmine pearls brew to a rather light color. Since they’re made from young buds, they do give a dose of caffeine, but the jolt is not nearly as intense as that of coffee.

      Of course, there is nothing heretical not to be into tea. I grew up drinking mostly tea, although my taste for green tea came much later. That being said, as much as I love fancy teas, I won’t pass down any tea–flavored teas, teas in bags, Lipton, Ahmad. Even Lipton becomes more interesting with a few crushed pods of cardamom and a drop of rosewater. January 6, 2016 at 8:32am Reply

      • Karen (A): I will be on a Jasmine pearl tea hunt tomorrow! January 6, 2016 at 9:29am Reply

        • Victoria: Good luck and please keep me posted on how it goes! January 6, 2016 at 11:23am Reply

      • Eric: Or try your regular bagged tea with one piece of star anise. January 6, 2016 at 9:46am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you for a tip. I imagine it makes tea sweeter? January 6, 2016 at 11:22am Reply

  • Elizabeth: This is my favorite tea! I buy jasmine pearls at Pearl River in New York, which might close soon due to rising rents. 🙁 Happily, Ten Ren is not far away, so I’ll try theirs next.

    And it’s true: There is no perfume that captures its scent. January 6, 2016 at 8:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, no! Pearl River used to be one of my favorite places for tea. Very sad to hear that they might bite the dust.

      Alas… I searched and searched and came up with nothing. January 6, 2016 at 8:34am Reply

      • Elizabeth: Pearl River’s landlords raised the rent fivefold, apparently. They are in court right now, and they say they will stay open at least until February. If they lose, they say they hope to move to another space. I hope they find one because my husband lives on their Pu-erh and Da Hong Pao teas! January 6, 2016 at 11:36am Reply

        • Victoria: That’s extortionist. Visiting NYC last year I was surprised to see how many small stores I knew closed down and instead there are now the same bland chains as anywhere. I can only hope that Pearl River will stay, either at this location or another. January 6, 2016 at 11:44am Reply

  • Nick: ‘..but jasmine pearls they are not’ — and I thought By Killian Imperial tea does a good job at mimicking the jasmine pearls. It reminds me of our Saturday Dim Sum family luncheon in Hong Kong. The common choices are either these jasmine pearls or po-lay — fermented tea that gives a dark brown colour when brewed and has an earthy, slight bitterness, yet with a sweet after-taste. January 6, 2016 at 9:23am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s personal, of course. To me, Imperial Tea doesn’t quite hit the spot.

      Dim sum in Hong Kong is one of my dream list items. January 6, 2016 at 11:28am Reply

      • Nick: Do visit and have Dim Sum with either of the two. They balance out the richness of the dishes 🙂 January 6, 2016 at 2:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: We have a pretty good dim sum place in Antwerp, approved by my friend from China, but still it’s nowhere near as excellent as what you find in Hong Kong. January 6, 2016 at 3:10pm Reply

          • Victoria: But they do serve good tea! January 6, 2016 at 3:24pm Reply

            • Nick: At this point, I cannot be too choosy in Zürich, when a dish of 3 pieces of siu mai (prawn dumplings) cost 15€. And, a horrid taste! January 6, 2016 at 4:09pm Reply

              • Victoria: Yikes! There are certain cuisines on which I gave up in Belgium, and one of them is Thai. Most restaurants make the food syrupy sweet. But you can find good Chinese places, especially if you do some research. January 7, 2016 at 8:54am Reply

                • Austenfan: Out of curiosity, have you ever tried Baan Thai in Gent? It’s supposedly good. I have eaten there myself, but I’m anything but knowledgable about Asian food. January 7, 2016 at 8:59am Reply

                  • Victoria: I haven’t. I ate a highly regarded place in Leuven, and while the dishes were well-cooked, the food was too sweet. But I took a cooking class in Thailand, so I’m fully prepared to try making some of my favorites myself. We get almost all of the ingredients here, so it will be fun to try. January 7, 2016 at 9:16am Reply

                    • Austenfan: Well if you ever do try out BT, I would be very curious to hear your opinion. January 7, 2016 at 9:54am

                    • Victoria: I go to Gent often enough, so I will keep it in mind. January 7, 2016 at 10:08am

                    • Nick: If you whip up something, do write about it for us to feast! January 7, 2016 at 10:06am

                    • Victoria: I will do! I learned how to make tom yum soup, and it was the simplest, most delicious recipe I’ve tried. Waiting to get better to experiment, because I even brought some ingredients with me. January 7, 2016 at 10:11am

  • Eric: I can’t get enough of this tea so I was disappointed when my local shop stopped carrying it. They said they couldn’t get the same quality. January 6, 2016 at 9:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Le Palais des Thes didn’t have it for a very long time either, and I still don’t know if they have it in stock. January 6, 2016 at 11:22am Reply

  • Annie: May I say how much I love reading about your mom? She sounds like a lady I’d love to invite for a cup of tea. 🙂 January 6, 2016 at 9:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I miss having her far away, and yes, she’s fun, open-minded, and easy-going. Snobby Parisians? Not in her world. Even the high priestesses of the Serge Lutens boutique become all sweetness and light when they encounter her. That’s a special people’s skill. 🙂 January 6, 2016 at 11:21am Reply

  • Allison C.: I share your love of jasmine pearl tea! It never fails to pick me up, it’s such a happy tea. There is a brand called Mem Tea that offers a lovely jasmine pearl tea and I have also ordered it from a place in Austin, Texas called Zhi Tea. January 6, 2016 at 10:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy tea is such a good way to describe it. Jasmine tea in general, pearls or not, makes me happy. I also discovered a jasmine scented pu erh tea at Nong Cha, and it tastes like a mossy forest adorned with jasmine vines, a make-believe fantasy, of course, but so fetching. January 6, 2016 at 11:19am Reply

      • Nick: Pu er or po-lay can be an acquired taste that you clearly have! January 6, 2016 at 4:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: Partially. It’s still not my top favorite tea, but I’m getting used to it slowly. January 7, 2016 at 8:52am Reply

  • Edna: Wow, I did not know you could use them over a number of times. My daughter gave a present to us one year, a tea of the month club. I will have to see if jasmine pearls are among them. In another lifetime, my husband was in Forestry Management and he always took jasmine tea to work. That scent takes me back to then. January 6, 2016 at 11:07am Reply

    • Victoria: Most Chinese and Taiwanese teas can be brewed many times, and the flavor changes, but it remains strong. The first brew releases only the most volatile aromatic compounds, so you definitely want to brew your leaves again and again to experience all of the taste and aroma nuances. They’re expensive, but they definitely give you your money’s worth in terms of number of cups out of each batch. January 6, 2016 at 11:16am Reply

  • Malika: Can anyone recommend a perfume that has this particular jasmine tea scent, as opposed to a just jasmine scent?
    A couple days ago, I ordered a sample of Kilian’s Imperial Tea, but have not received it yet. January 6, 2016 at 11:12am Reply

    • Victoria: As I mentioned in the post, I haven’t found one. For Nick (see his comment above), Imperial Tea comes close, so you may be able to have more luck. January 6, 2016 at 11:14am Reply

  • Qwendy: Happy new year Victoria! I have brought Mariage Freres Chung Feng with me to LA, an afternoon favorite ….. And some Swan Lake, the most intense rose tea ever (sorry, off the subject). Thanks for the Ten Ren reminder, there is a huge shop and tea room in Monterey Park. I also love their Osmanthus tea. Your mother sounds amazing, you are a lucky daughter. Best for 2016. January 6, 2016 at 11:58am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy New Year, Wendy! You had me at Swan Lake and rose. Is it black tea? And please, don’t hesitate to go off topic, since I noticed some of the most interesting conversations happen when we go on tangents. Not that a rose scented tea is much of a tangent, of course. I will have to look for it next.

      Like all moms, mine has her quirks, but driving daughters slightly nuts is every mom’s prerogative. 🙂 January 6, 2016 at 12:51pm Reply

  • Qwendy: Swan Lake. I expected it to be black but it is green …. Perhaps that helps intentify its rosiness …. Really it scents everything around it …. Sooo uplifting! I asked for floral tea recs at Mariage et voila! January 6, 2016 at 1:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Have you tried their violet scented tea? It’s called Iskandar. If you like violet, it’s one of the best, but rose and green tea do sound wonderful. January 6, 2016 at 1:21pm Reply

      • Qwendy: Ooh must try! And I have earmarked Oenhaligon’s Violetta too …. I am always intrigued by violet but haven’t found many evocations of it that spark my interest. January 6, 2016 at 9:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: I have a tender spot for Violetta, and although you can find more interesting violets, this one is one of the most charming and elegant. January 7, 2016 at 9:04am Reply

  • epapsiou: just ordered the pearls online. Thanks for the tip Victoria January 6, 2016 at 3:55pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re in for a treat! January 7, 2016 at 8:48am Reply

  • marymary: Not jasmine tea, but my father had a chinese tea with an extremely relaxing effect, almost druglike. Sadly, I am unable to source it. January 6, 2016 at 4:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Fascinating! I wonder what it was. January 7, 2016 at 8:54am Reply

  • Austenfan: I’ve never ordered from Ten Ren. I knew they existed as Robin has mentioned them a couple of times on her blog.
    I love jasmine pearls, well any jasmine tea really. I enjoyed the Nong Cha ones although mine were probably a little past their prime by the time I finished them.
    Have you ever tried Jasmine Oolong? January 6, 2016 at 4:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ten Ren used to be the most reliable place to buy tea years before other importers started moving into the US markets. They’re still excellent, and their osmanthus oolong is superb.

      Jasmine oolong from Nong Cha? I tried an oolong scented with jasmine before, and it’s a great pairing, since oolong is already quite floral. January 7, 2016 at 8:57am Reply

      • Austenfan: I got mine from 7me Tasse ( Bailli), who no longer carry it. MF has it and I bought some last September which I still have to try. January 7, 2016 at 9:00am Reply

        • Victoria: I need to go to Nong Cha again. Not that I need more tea, but I love the store and the whole ambiance. January 7, 2016 at 9:17am Reply

          • Austenfan: Well maybe you can persuade them to add a jasmine oolong to their jasmine line up January 7, 2016 at 9:20am Reply

            • Victoria: I thought that one of their jasmine teas is oolong based. It’s not a very fancy oolong, but the jasmine flavor is excellent and goes well with the leaves. January 7, 2016 at 9:23am Reply

              • Austenfan: I never encountered it when I was there, but it may have escaped my notice. I remember their white, Pearls, black and pu erh. January 7, 2016 at 9:26am Reply

                • Victoria: I tried their white jasmine tea, but I didn’t like it. Maybe, it’s because white tea has such a delicate flavor that it was lost in jasmine, or I might be more used to the stronger, richer tea base with my flowers. January 7, 2016 at 10:09am Reply

                  • Austenfan: It’s my least favourite of their jasmine teas. I do still like it, but the others are better.
                    It needs a higher quality white tea I think. I buy mine in The Hague. January 7, 2016 at 10:24am Reply

                    • Victoria: I’m rarely excited about white tea I can find around here, because it really has to be stellar. Otherwise, it tastes like boiled hay to me, minus the delicious almondy flavor of real hay. January 7, 2016 at 10:26am

  • annemarie: How do you store the used pearls, Victoria? Should you refrigerate them? January 6, 2016 at 5:45pm Reply

    • Victoria: Do you mean once you brew them the first time? I don’t store them, but just add water until there is no more flavor left. The first cup or two is for the quite contemplation, but then I just drink the tea as I move onto my work. If I work from the outside office, I just put them into my traveling mug and keep on adding water. You can’t really store the used pearls, because they oxidize and develop a wet grass flavor. January 7, 2016 at 9:01am Reply

  • Normand: I drink a cup (or two) of jasmine pearls after lunch at work. People coming in to my office throughout the afternoon tell me that my office smells of flowers. I buy them from a specialty shop that calls them dragon pearls. I am wondering if we are talking about the same thing.

    I find By Killian’s Imperial Tea quite wonderful although it’s out of my price range and on my wrist, the lovely scent all but disappeared after an hour or two.

    My morning tea is Kamairicha which smells of corn on the cob and doesn’t have that algae note which most Japanese senchas are famous for.

    Lovely, lovely post.

    Normand January 6, 2016 at 6:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s probably the same thing. My colleagues also comment that my office smells of flowers if I have jasmine pearls in my cup. Such an incredible tea.

      Japanese teas are another obsession, although some of my favorites definitely require a whole ceremony to brew them properly. One degree too much, and the brew is too bitter. Not enough, and you don’t get the full spectrum of flavors. But once you get it right, the experience is sublime. January 7, 2016 at 9:04am Reply

      • Normand: Yesss! For my Japanese green tea, I take out my tea thermometer. A couple of degrees off one way or the other and it’s ruined. Jasmine pearls are so much more forgiving. 😉 January 7, 2016 at 12:53pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also have a whole set up for my Japanese teas–a kyusu pot, a thermometer, etc. My husband jokes that it looks like a lab experiment in progress. January 8, 2016 at 5:07am Reply

  • Laura R: Love pearl tea! My husband used to travel to China and Taiwan and bring back all sorts of wonderful green and oolong teas. BTW there is a Fragonard fragrance called Jasmine Perle de The’…never tried it though! January 7, 2016 at 8:10am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re so lucky, Laura! I haven’t had better teas than what I tried in Taiwan. It made me realize that even the high-quality tea we get in Europe are just average there. There is simply not enough of a tea culture here, and people would bulk at paying the price excellent teas fetch. Not to mention that there is such a variety in Taiwan (and China, Japan) in teas for all budgets, types and flavors. January 7, 2016 at 9:09am Reply

  • Andy: Currently drinking jasmine tea as I read, but jasmine oolong (the one I mentioned in the best of 2015 post) rather than pearls. I bought out the remaining stock of jasmine pearls when a tea shop closed down, and while I was fearful that the flavor would deteriorate before I’d finish them, I did my best to store them in a very airtight canister and have had good results. I’ve noticed that while the crisp green nuances have faded in spite of my storage efforts, the creamy, milky notes of the jasmine have become easier to notice. It’s a change, but one I don’t mind too much, and the pearls are still heavily scented for now.

    And thanks for reminding me of Ten Ren–I haven’t had any of their tea in ages, but the ones I’ve tried have been among the best.

    I believe I’ve mentioned this recently, but for now, my favorite evocation of the scent of jasmine tea comes from the bath oil form of Jo Malone White Jasmine & Mint. Sometimes I get the jasmine tea impression and sometimes not, but when I do, it’s exhilarating. January 7, 2016 at 1:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ten Ren has excellent teas every spring when some of the seasonal varieties become available. I remember trying their teas for the first time as a student and being blown away by the new flavors. No tea I knew back then came close.

      Thank you for mentioning Jo Malone. On my list to try again. January 8, 2016 at 5:09am Reply

  • Aisha: What an absolutely lovely article!

    I have a question re. jasmine oil. I had ordered food-grade peppermint oil for some baking I was going to do, but I received jasmine oil by mistake. I can’t return it because I no longer have the order form (I threw it out when I received what I thought was my order last moth). Anyway … any suggestions as to how to use the jasmine oil? January 7, 2016 at 4:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Aisha.

      You can add it to drinks or use instead of rose in your baking recipes. The problem is that jasmine flavor can be very strong, so I would dose it lightly. Another good idea is to mix it with some vanilla (or to add a little bit of vanilla extract to your recipe). Sicilian jasmine gelato is within your reach now! January 8, 2016 at 5:12am Reply

  • Iodine: Note to myself- brew that Jasmin Pearl tea sitting in my cupboard, this afternoon!! A birthday present from my loved one, so fragrant and precious I seldom drink it, but now I must!! 🙂
    Happy New Year dear V! January 8, 2016 at 1:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Happy New Year, carissima! 🙂
      Oh, do drink your pearls. My mom says that real pearls must be worn on regular basis or else they lose their luster, and the same thing with the jasmine pearls. The flavor fades too quickly. January 8, 2016 at 5:14am Reply

  • Surbhi: I am drinking this tea as well for last 2 weeks as well. Love the subtle aroma in the afternoon. January 8, 2016 at 8:32pm Reply

    • Victoria: I find it soothing too. A perfect jasmine garden fantasy in a tea cup. January 11, 2016 at 11:15am Reply

  • epapsiou: Got my first jasmine pearls. We love it. Especially the second brew. January 12, 2016 at 9:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s my favorite too, since the combination of floral and green notes at this stage is so well-balanced. January 13, 2016 at 12:11pm Reply

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