Popular in the East as well as in the West, jasmine tea is unquestionably the most famous scented tea, but...
...IS JASMINE TEA WHAT I DRINK?
Green tea leaves are repeatedly scented with jasmine flowers and baked to absorb and keep the sweet fragrance of the flowers. But only extremely fine productions are scented purely with jasmine. To cut the process short, the use of more intense yet less pure and less sweet flowers is widespread. Even worst, additives are not uncommon to boost the fragrance and some producers just pack tea leaves with jasmine petals and label the package "jasmine tea." Not Mr. Weng!
Mr. Weng's family has been producing traditional jasmine tea in Fuzhou, the capital of China's Fujian province, for over two centuries.
Mr. Weng in the photo on the right and his coworkers.
Thanks to its subtropical climate, mild and with abundant rainfall, Fuzhou's jasmine flowers rank first in China; and so does the tea scented with them. Mr. Weng cultivates jasmine flowers on a river island south of Fuzhou. No bridge connects it to the dry land; thus the island is car-free and its land completely covered by jasmine plantations. Think about the scent when all those flowers bloom!
HOW IS HIGH-END JASMINE TEA PRODUCED?
Jasmine buds are picked in the morning, unfold during the afternoon and after sunset the handwork starts. Layers of tea leaves and jasmine flowers are piled up in wooden boxes in a sandwich-like fashion. The leaves absorb the fragrance overnight, then are sieved to separate the flowers, backed to fix the aroma and cooled for several days. Mr. Weng repeats the cycle with fresh flowers at least three times but, for topmost qualities, up to thirteen times; for a total of more than 200 steps! The whole process is handmade and supervised by the tea master. And only early-spring green tea picked before the Qing Ming festival is used!
Jasmine flowers and green tea leaves piled in wooden box for overnight scenting.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE TASTE?
The jasmine tea of Mr. Weng is fresh, sweet and pure. Extremely intense and nonetheless so natural. Being a tea purist, I never thought I could appreciated scented tea! They always had a somewhat artificial taste to me.
Just two grams of leaves in a glass, hot water and the aroma of jasmine permeates the air. A sip and my taste buds, accustomed to the subtle taste of unscented tea, are easily saturated.
Two grams of jasmine tea in a glass. To be steeped several times.
Early January 2016:
Tea tasting in Fuzhou. I drink a tea scented three times and one scented five times. The difference was clear; the latter being richer and clearer in taste. So I ask for a better one. Mr. Weng give me a tea double the price of the one scented five times but, this time, I notice no improvement. Maybe jasmine tea is too intense for me. ;-)
Written by Gabriele