Have you ever brewed a cup of jasmine tea, taken the first sip and cringed? Have you ever wondered why the cup of tea you ordered at the tearoom the other day was heavenly and the cup you just made tastes bitter? One reason might be a poor grade of green tea combined with an inexpensive jasmine scenting process. Some tea merchants sell jasmine Oolong or Darjeeling scented tea using jasmine flowers, a jasmine flavoring or other inferior process. So how can you, a tea connoisseur, make that perfect cup at home? By becoming familiar with jasmine tea, following a few simple suggestions and using a few tools that can help make the process easier. So get yourself a digital timer, a tea steeper that’s large enough to allow the water to flow through the leaves, a teaspoon, and your favourite cup.
Hearing the word jasmine can invoke thoughts of exotic and fragrant places. Opening a new package of jasmine tea and inhaling its sweet aroma can almost soften a frigid heart. However, don’t let its intoxicating scent stun your other senses; it may be a camouflage for a poor quality tea. The three most important things about jasmine tea are the green tea leaves, the jasmine blossoms, and the brewing process. Because the quality of green tea varies, the finished product can be either a smooth, gentle flavor or bitter blend. Becoming familiar with even a few types of green tea and their growing regions will help you in purchasing a better quality product and not just scraps, dust or poor leaf substitute.
The following green teas are the more popular ones: Gunpowder, a high quality tea; Chun-Mee, similar to Flower Orange Pekoe; Natural Leaf or Imperial, it has a mild flavor; Matcha, used in Japanese tea ceremonies; Young Hyson, a very young leaf, and Hyson, a larger leaf. Jasmine Pearl tea is jasmine scented green tea hand rolled into small balls. In China, the five provinces well known for tea production include Yunnan, Anhui, Fujian, Jiangxi, and the Zhejian region.
Sweet and enticing, the jasmine blossom arrived on the shores of China just before the third century, and by the fifth century, tea merchants were undergoing the process of scenting green tea leaves. A simple yet delicate procedure: spreading the leaves over screens or sieves, and covering the fresh leaves with layers of jasmine flowers, while machines control the temperature and humidity as the leaves absorb the essence of the jasmine flower; the more times the leaves are scented, the better the quality of tea flavor. For example, leaves can be scented once or four times, and for an even higher quality, it can be scented up to eight times.
With the use of the internet and shopping on-line, mail-order companies, teashops, and the many styles of grocery boutiques, it is easy to get lost in the sea of tea. Labels resembling tiny works of art cover tidy packages and decorative tins instead of using informative tags, luring the unsuspecting tea drinker into the purchase. A local teashop is a great way to purchase tea. One can see, smell, and some shops even offer to make a small cup for sampling. When one is ordering from an unknown source it is difficult to examine the tea, and therefore the quality is uncertain, it is not unreasonable to request a sample first.
When shopping for a quality tea, smelling and visually examining the leaves are key components in choosing a good product. Don’t rely on leaves that have a strong jasmine scent. Artificial scented oils may be added to the leaves to enhance the fragrance. Tea containing flowers can make the brewed cup taste bitter. It’s a costly process to handpick or sift the dried flowers from the finished product therefore manufacturers do not always remove them. Knowing this you can try to choose a product that has very few dried flowers mixed in with the leaves. Some tea merchants will sell lower grades of jasmine teas at higher quality prices—so be cautious.
Now that we’re familiar with choosing a jasmine tea, it’s time to brew a cup. Plug in the kettle or turn on the stove. Measure out one teaspoon of tea. When water boils wait until it stops rolling then pour over the leaves. This will prevent scalding the leaves, which creates a bitter cup of tea. A little trick, if you have the time, is pour the water into another vessel, like a glass measuring cup, then pour it over your leaves—this cools the water down a bit. Remember eight ounces of water per one teaspoon of dried tea.
The recommended steeping time varies among tea companies anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. Although opinions vary on the temperature and steeping time, personal taste will always influence how long one actually steeps the tea. For a mellow, subtle cup, steep for a shorter time and the longer the steep, the stronger the brew, leaving it tasting a bit bitter and for some folks that is perfect.